The Entourage Effect: How Can Cannabis Compounds Work together?

10th September 2020

Imagine that the cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) is a knight whose versatility makes him an effective and efficient protector of your physical kingdom. Yet even a knight is often only as good as his entourage allows him to be…

The two best-known cannabinoids are the psychoactive THC and the non-psychoactive CBD. However, these two are not the only active substances contained in hemp that can have an effect on our body. There are diseases as well as unpleasant physical conditions, which CBD alone cannot alleviate. Often, only the interaction with other ingredients extracted from the hemp plant unfolds the healing effects.

In many studies it has been proven that CBD has inhibitory properties regarding the perception of pain and that it has an anti-inflammatory effect. The rate of side effects which can occur when taking pharmaceutical drugs is also reduced through the use of CBD. According to the latest findings, all these effects also work as a result of the interaction of CBD with other hemp substances – experts speak of the entourage effect. Due to the numerous positive effects of cannabidiol the number of products in this sector is constantly growing and consumers are looking for reliable CBD tests and reviews. Those are hard to find though, due to the pharmaceutical advertising law.

The interaction of cannabinoids and terpenes

The entourage effect of cannabinoids includes terpenes. These are not only a component of hemp, but of more than 2,000 other plant species – including fruits. Terpenes are the reason why plants smell the way they do. With regard to flora, they have the task of keeping away enemies by producing a bad smell and attracting pollinators like bees with scents that smell good. We humans perceive terpenes, for example, when we bite into a juicy and perfectly ripe mango.

Terpenes are extracted from the resin glands of the cannabis plant. They are there in the form of essential oils. Like fine perfumes, terpenes are obtained by hot or cold pressing, by extraction or even by steam distillation.

As diverse as the positive effects of CBD oil and other products of such kind on the body are, so varied are the terpenes that have so far been discovered in cannabis plants – current figures are around 200 different varieties. Although researchers do not expect many of these different terpenes to have a relevant effect on the body due to their small amount in the hemp plant, the interaction between them produces measurable and positive synergy or entourage effects.

Researchers explain the interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes by the fact that the hemp-inherent mixture of substances produces higher bioactivity than one ingredient alone is able to do. It turned out that the harmonious combination of cannabidiol and terpenes not only determines the actual effectiveness but can also enhance these and other effects. The entourage effect ensures that CBD triggers the desired effects even in very small doses.

Advantages and disadvantages of full-spectrum extracts

As explained above, terpenes among other things, influence the effectiveness of CBD – the same naturally applies to other cannabinoids. Many manufacturers of hemp products isolate CBD and consciously or unconsciously neglect the demonstrably effective entourage effect. After all, it must also be said quite clearly: full-spectrum extracts are not automatically “better”, but simply work better in some areas. There are, however, cases of application where isolated CBDs are used intentionally.

In the meantime, however, more and more producers have recognised that full-spectrum extracts are often an excellent choice and are bringing them to the market. In addition to the main components (especially CBD), they also contain numerous other active ingredients (cannabinoids) found in the cannabis plant.

entourage effect

The advantage of full-spectrum extracts is that all the positive effects and “side effects” that lie dormant in the cannabis plant can act on the body. But there is also a disadvantage buried in this interaction. Active ingredients that have been studied and sold in isolation can be calibrated precisely for their effects in advance. Although people often react differently to the same CBD dose, the direction is usually the same. If terpenes and other cannabinoids are added, other effects can occur.

Studies on the entourage effect

Laboratory tests to isolate active ingredients are common practice, especially in the case of pharmaceutical products. The aim is to test the active ingredient at a high degree of purity. Until a few years ago, this was also considered a paradigm in cannabidiol research. The discovery of the entourage effect, however, also led to a trend-setting paradigm shift in studies and their parameters.

Decades ago, some researchers were already working with the entourage effect. In 1976, a study was published by Dalton and others who tested the effects of THC and CBD in high doses on 15 subjects by administering them. At the time, 73 percent of the participants said that the feeling of being high was very strong when taking almost pure THC. Although the general validity of the study in a group of 15 people may still be doubted, the results do allow the conclusion to be drawn that the interaction of THC and CBD alone does not cause the high feeling to degenerate. This was ultimately the first evidence of the entourage effect.

Five years later the effect was confirmed in a study by the Fairbairn/Pickens team. In their study [1] published in 1981, they concluded that the total plant extract of hemp influences the psychoactive effect of pure THC.

Many years later, more precisely in a study presented to the public in 2013 [2], patients who consumed marijuana on a medicinal basis were examined. The group surveyed included 953 people. One of the questions asked was whether the patients would prefer medical marijuana or the pharmaceutical drug Marinol. 98 percent of the respondents preferred marijuana. When evaluating the results, one point is particularly interesting – people preferred to use the drug that participates positively in the entourage effect rather than the drug that suppresses this effect.


[1] – 29.07.2020

[2] – 29.07.2020

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