CBD Rolls with a Crew: Understanding the Entourage Effect

When you’re browsing CBD products, you may have come across the idea that using the whole plant is essential to receive all the benefits.

Is this holistic approach hippy-dippy stuff or the real deal?

Well, the Entourage Effect is a scientific idea that the compounds in the cannabis plant (the cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, fatty acids, etc.) are most effective when consumed together.

Based on what we’ve read – it’s legit.

Read on to learn about this interesting phenomenon and how it might change which CBD products you prefer.

The Entourage Effect – 101

The Entourage effect is the idea that when plant compounds are consumed together, they intensify each other’s chemistry. The result is a stronger and improved effect than if you consumed any of those components alone.

Confused? Think about it like music.

Imagine you’re listening to a violinist. Sure, he’s great on his own, and you gain some “benefit” by listening to him. But now imagine a flute musician joins. And a pianist. Maybe even a trumpet. Next thing you know, you’re really enjoying it. Heck, you’ve got a symphony!

That’s the proposed difference between consuming one compound (i.e., CBD isolate), vs. consuming additional plant compounds. The compounds work together (as an entourage), and their effects are enhanced by reacting with each other.

This, of course, means enhanced health benefits: better sleep, memory, pain relief, and more.


The Research

The phrase “Entourage Effect” was coined in the cannabis context in the ‘90s by a group of scientists. One of these scientists is considered the “father of cannabis research,” Israeli biochemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.

Fun Fact: He discovered the endocannabinoid system and was the first to isolate the THC and CBD compounds from cannabis.

In describing the Entourage Effect, he said, “We saw quite early in the game that while cannabinoids have activity, the activity is frequently modified by additional compounds that may not have any activity at that time.”

Dr. Ethan Russo: Taming THC

The most recent info on the topic is from Dr. Ethan Russo’s 2011 research titled, Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects. In this paper, he set out to understand the interactions between cannabinoids and terpenes.

He was looking for cannabinoid synergies that could treat pain, inflammation, depression, infections, and other ailments.

His results? Overwhelmingly positive.

One positive example showed that the Entourage Effect could help create a new therapeutic approach to acne treatment.  The study showed that CBD worked together with limonene, linalool, and pinene to have an enhanced anti-inflammatory effect and decrease skin’s sebum (oily gunk) production.

A combination of cannabinoids and terpenes also showed to have positive effects on depression, anxiety, as well as improved cognitive and memory function in dementia and Alzheimer patients.

His 2008 research titled Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts: Greater than the sum of their parts? stated, “Cannabis terpenoids and flavonoids may also increase cerebral blood flow, enhance cortical activity, kill respiratory pathogens, and provide anti-inflammatory activity.”

In this chart, you can see the different terpenes in the plant and its paired synergistic cannabinoid. Common cannabinoids mentioned are CBD, THC, as well as CBG, CBN, and others.

Other Evidence of the Entourage Effect

Although Dr. Russo’s research is recent, he’s noticed the Entourage Effect anecdotally for much longer. In the ‘80s, THC pills became available under the name Marinol.

Dr. Russo says that people frequently discontinued using Marinol due to adverse side effects. He believes this is in part due to the absence of the other cannabinoids.

Additionally, in 2014, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta visited GW Pharmaceuticals. At the time, GW Pharmaceuticals was working on a cannabis-based drug to treat multiple sclerosis. In their research, they found that the whole plant extract was more effective in reducing the pain and spasms of MS than a medication made of a single compound.

Pretty compelling, right?

Which CBD Product Is Best for Getting the Entourage Effect?

When deciding between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate – your decision boils down to whether you want THC and/or other cannabinoids to be present in your product.

If you’d like to take advantage of the Entourage Effect, choose full or broad-spectrum CBD products rich with cannabinoids and terpenes. Take a look at the Certificate of Analysis (COA) before purchasing to know exactly what’s in your product.

CBD isolate is 100% pure CBD and won’t have these other hard-working compounds that can enhance the product’s effects. However, there are other significant reasons you might still prefer CBD.

Why Don’t We Hear More About Using the Whole Plant?

Even with the evidence we have, the Entourage Effect still needs additional research to determine exactly how it works and the potential benefits. At this time, no double-blind clinical trial (the highest test for something to be considered fact) has been run on this effect.

Unfortunately, this is likely because cannabis is still categorized as “Schedule I” – a government-designated drug category defined as “no currently accepted medical use.” Scientists have a hard time securing funding for research for drugs in this category.

Clearly, medical marijuana and cannabis works wonders and deserves research that helps its users maximize its potential. At Appa, we continue to push our representatives and industry partners for more research.

Eating an entire fruit is better than consuming a supplement of one specific nutrient. It shouldn’t be surprising if the same turns out to be true for CBD products.