Dec 07, 2023

The Entourage Effect

What is the entourage effect?

Through preliminary scientific study and a growing tide of anecdotal evidence from patients, we now understand that the active compounds in cannabis appear to work together in a very synergistic way. The concept of the whole being bigger than the sum of its parts seems to be particularity relevant to cannabis.

The idea behind the entourage effect is that cannabinoids present in both cannabis and hemp work synergistically together, including all the other phytochemicals naturally present, like terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and lactones.

By working together, these compounds produce stronger medicinal effects than when isolated. The molecules within the plant complement one another’s strengths. This explains why the “entourage effect” is the reason choosing “full-spectrum” or “whole-plant extract” matters when it comes to using cannabis for medicinal and health-enhancing benefits. In fact, the entourage effect is the subject underlying most conversations you may hear on hemp vs CBD extracts.

A common example of the entourage effect in action is in the relationship between CBD with THC. Like hot fudge and vanilla ice cream, they work better together. THC increases the general efficacy of CBD’s therapeutic properties for many people. Studies also suggest that the whole-plant medicine has a much wider range for a therapeutic dosage, whereas CBD-only medicines have a relatively small dosage range where it provides relief.

Not only do these active compounds work better as a team, but also in the unique way that they come together in a particular strain can determine the therapeutic effect. Research is ongoing to help understand exactly how these complex relationships work. However, this is not to say people don’t derive benefit from hemp-only derived CBD. I’ll still eat ice cream without the fudge.

Using medicinal cannabis and the entourage effect is like the way we can compare whole foods versus processed foods. When you eat fragmented food versus whole food — your body is out of balance, searching for the rest of it.

Whole foods

Whole foods are unprocessed or minimally processed foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Examples of whole foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, nuts, and eggs (foods nature provides). Whole foods are rich in nutrients and free from additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.

Grape soda and potato chips

Fragmented foods, on the other hand, are missing some of their original parts. For example, processed foods contain ingredients that are isolated from the original food source. Foods like flavored yogurt, commercially baked goods, cereals, frozen dinners, fast food, and soda. Nutrients in these foods (if present at all) can vary drastically.

We can think about cannabis much in the same manner. Yes, there can be some benefits from the use of isolated molecules from the cannabis plant, but studies point to whole plant extracts having a more significant effect than a single molecule alone.

Wrapping up: unraveling the ECS system.

The endocannabinoid system is a testament to the ingenuity of our bodies. Our ECS in action involves regulating vital bodily functions. These include pain perception by helping manage pain signals, influencing mood and emotional responses, maintaining a healthy immune system, and regulating sleep patterns.

As science continues to unravel the mysteries of the ECS, we gain a deeper understanding of how it can be harnessed to support overall well-being. Whether it's through lifestyle choices or potential therapies, the ESC represents a world of promise in the pursuit of balance and health.