The Entourage Effect: Cannabinoids Working Better Together

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We’re not talking about the popular tv show here (although they do consume their fair share of cannabis in it). The entourage effect, in relation to CBD, is a phenomenon that results when hundreds of natural components within a plant interact together and with the human body to produce a stronger influence than any one of those components used alone.

The cannabis plant is a complex and chemically diverse plant that contains hundreds of compounds, including cannabinoids (like CBD and THC), terpenes (essential oils) and others. These three cannabinoids, CBD, THC and terpenes, have been subjects of numerous studies because of their therapeutic properties. Collectively, they have been found to improve many health concerns including pain tolerance, metabolism, immune function, mood, appetite, sleep and mental health.

Aside from working individually to benefit the body, CBD, THC and terpenes also work in tandem (as well as with other compounds) to enhance the effectiveness of cannabis as a healing agent. This cooperation between compounds is known as the entourage effect.

Here is an easier way of understanding this proposed concept:

An “entourage” refers to a group of people surrounding and supporting one or more people in symphony and cohesion (like Vince’s buddies proudly supporting Vince’s afamed acting career and celebrity status).

The term is appropriate for describing the combined effects of CBD, THC, terpenes and other cannabis compounds because it’s the exact same notion. While each of these compounds perform their own health-enhancement duties, they also support each other to produce an effect that is greater than the sum of all parts.

The entourage effects is also referred to whole-plant medicine, and is the key to unlocking the true healing potential of the cannabis plant.

This post provides an overview of how the entourage effect is made possible, including the CBD-THC tag team notion and the CBD-Terpene buddy system working collectively as the fascinating effect is created.

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3 Ways The Entourage Effect Can Happen

Combining cannabinoids (like CBD and THC) and terpenes can produce different effects than when taken individually. Here, we describe three different ways this can happen pertaining to what we call the “CBD-THC tag team” (although there may be more than three ways).

The three ways the entourage effect is made possible include (1) Pharmacokinetic Interactions (2) Direct Pharmacodynamic Interactions (3) Indirect Pharmacodynamic Interactions

Pharmacokinetic Interactions

Pharmacokinetic activities of the entourage effect include the absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination of chemical compounds within the body. There are instances where one compound can interfere with another compound’s pharmacokinetic processes.

For example: Research found CBD has the ability to inhibit the CYP2C9 enzyme, one of the main enzymes for metabolizing THC. When this happens, CBD can reduce the intensity and duration of the psychoactive effects of THC. Great news for health enthusiasts only wanting the benefits from CBD.

Direct Pharmacodynamic Interactions

A direct pharmacodynamic interaction occurs when two compounds from the cannabis plant are simultaneously interacting at the same receptor, coming in three different forms: (1) Antagonistic Interaction (2) Additive Interaction and (3) Synergistic Interaction.

  • Antagonistic Interaction:

    One compound inhibits the effects of another compound through an antagonistic interaction. For example, CBD acts as an antagonist to turn down the activation of the CB1 receptor (responsible for regulating the nervous system) by THC. CBD also blocks THC activities at the CB2 (found in the immune system) and GPR55 receptors (playing a role in gastrointestinal functions).

  • Additive Interaction:

    CBD and THC can also perform the same function at a certain target in the body, like combatting anxiety, for instance. When this happens, the compounds typically are at the same potency level at the target (in this case, the nervous system, if we’re talking about anxiety).

    • This means the effect of 10 mg of CBD is equal to that of 10 mg of THC (which is also equal to five mg of CBD plus five mg of THC). Since both cannabinoids add to each other with equal effect, the interaction is considered additive. However, the CBD-THC tag team will not do something either compound couldn’t perform on their own.
  • Synergistic Interaction:

    A synergistic interaction produces a greater than additive effect when two compounds combine. According to a study, CBD can actually prolong the therapeutic effects of THC by slowing down its breakdown process in the liver.

Indirect Pharmacodynamic Interactions

While pharmacokinetic interactions happen when another molecule in cannabis impacts the levels of THC (either in the blood or in the brain), and direct pharmacodynamic interactions happen when another molecule in cannabis modulates the effects of THC by binding to the same receptor, indirect pharmacodynamic interactions occur when another molecule in cannabis modulates the effects of THC by binding to a different receptor.

Instead of just activating or deactivating the CB1 receptor, this type of interaction can tweak the downstream effects of its activation. It does this by enabling CBD to modulate specific THC effects in a particular neurotransmitter system, such as reducing THC-induced anxiety through the serotonin system and psychoactive effects through the dopamine system (both systems associated with pleasure, good moods and positive sense of well-being).

The CBD-Terpene Combo

You’ve gotten an overview of how CBD and THC work with one another to produce an entourage effect, and here, we’ll show you how CBD and terpenes work as a combat squad to produce the same effect.

Terpenes (read all about them here) are oils found in the cannabis plant responsible for cannabis’ distinctive smell. Besides processing healing properties of their own, terpenes also enhance the health effects of CBD.

When CBD and terpenes combine, they produce synergy for improving all sorts of amazing things like the treatment of inflammation, bacterial infection, pain, anxiety, depression, epilepsy and other conditions.

Researchers have even discovered that a specific terpene called “myrcene” can loosen the blood-brain barrier to facilitate easy absorption of CBD. In other words, CBD gets into your bloodstream quicker with terpenes by its side. Other terpenes “linalool” and “limonene” work with CBD to fight acne, while “pinene” helps CBD further reduce the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

Now that we’ve discussed the power in numbers phenom, it’s worth taking a brief look at what these killer compounds can do on their own.

Isolated vs Whole-Plant CBD: What’s Better?

Advocates of the entourage effect feel that CBD should be consumed as part of the cannabis plant instead of an isolated compound. This notion was proven right in a study conducted by researchers from the Hebrew University in Israel, where it was found that the consumption of pure CBD produced a “bell-shaped dose response curve”; aka the therapeutic impact of the cannabinoid declined dramatically after the amount taken exceeded a certain point.

On the other hand, a whole-plant extract containing 17.9 percent CBD plus 1.1 percent THC plus other cannabis compounds resulted in a crystal clear and direct correlation between pain-inhibition and anti-inflammatory responses. Also, when the amount consumed was increased, the responses increased too, making the extract suitable for clinical uses.

*Important note: The level of the entourage effect provided by a CBD product depends on the types and amounts of other cannabis compounds included. The way the product is manufactured also plays an important role. For instance, if cannabis materials are processed with high temperatures, they will lose more heat-sensitive terpenes, leading to a weaker entourage effect.

That said, it is essential users choose CBD products that have undergone proper manufacturing processes.

Conclusion

While the insight on the entourage effect is indeed fascinating, it’s important to note that researchers agree this concept is not yet fully understood.

Further studies on exactly how THC, CBD, terpenes and other important cannabis compounds work together will allow scientists and medical professionals to make more informed recommendations on how to use cannabis compounds to treat various diseases, ailments and conditions.

With close to 500 different cannabis components left to explore, the field of whole-plant medicine is wide open for not-yet-discovered developments. Exciting times we are in!

Combining terpenes and cannabinoids can give different effects than taking each individually

Takeaways

  • The entourage effect is the cooperation of multiple cannabis compounds working together to produce a greater benefit-enhancing effect
  • Combining CBD, THC and terpenes can produce different effects for users than when taken individually
  • The full potential of the entourage effect has yet to be tapped
Terpenes: The Essential Oils You Haven’t Heard of
The Endocannabinoid System: How Does It Work With CBD?

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