The increasing legalization of both recreational and medical cannabis have even skeptics turning their heads. What’s the deal with cannabis? Doesn’t it only make you lazy and spaced out? If so, I don’t think that’s why pharma has synthesized its most popular compounds, THC, and CBD. THC is responsible for the euphoric and psychedelic experience of cannabis, while CBD relaxes and relieves inflammation.
Scientific studies show that it’s not THC and CBD alone that create the powerful therapeutic effects of cannabis, in fact, there are 500 compounds in cannabis that come together to create what we know as the entourage effect. >
The entourage effect is the idea that the unique mixture of compounds found in cannabis —cannabinoids and terpenoids—work synergistically to deliver the unique power of the strain. In the future, as science continues to explore the mechanisms of the entourage effect, cultivation and chemical profiling will continue to advance, improving the way consumers evaluate cannabis for the right experience, every time they smoke.
The Meaning of the Entourage Effect
Introduced in 1998 by two scientist S. Ben Shabat and by Raphael Mechouleum, the entourage effect is the idea that cannabis’s compounds together create the overall power of cannabis. These compounds are, primarily, cannabinoids and terpenoids.
Cannabinoids are the compounds in cannabis that give it its therapeutic and recreational properties. The most popular cannabinoids in cannabis are THC and CBD, however, there are 113 known cannabinoids in cannabis and each one has a different effect.
Terpenes and Terpenoids are the compounds that are responsible for flavors and aromas. There are over 100 different types of terpenes in cannabis and they are built for adaptive purposes such as repelling bugs and attracting pollinators. Hence, the factors that affect terpene varieties are largely environmental, changes in climate and soil.
How Terpenoids and Cannabinoids Work Together
Cannabis can offer five “high” experiences which include inducing sleep, reducing pain, optimizing creativity, reducing anxiety, and giving energy. These experiences are dependent on the synergistic elements in cannabis. CBD has a well-researched synergy with THC and works by reducing THC’s negative effects. CBD works by blocking THC so that it can’t bind to CB1 receptors. A study done by Ethan Russo found that 10 mg of THC caused toxic psychosis in about 40% of people. However, in a study where people were given equal parts of CBD and THC (48 mg of each) only 1.6% of people had psychosis, alluding to the synergistic effects of CBD and THC. In addition to CBD’s ability to reduce psychoactive effects, it also is known to reduce tachycardia, intoxication, hunger, and sedation effects of THC. Furthermore, pharmaceutical industries have tried to replicate the positive effects of THC by crafting THC-only drug called Marinol. In 2011, cannabis users were surveyed on their experience using Marinol versus natural cannabis. The results showed that 98.2% of users preferred natural cannabis over the synthesized THC. These findings suggest a strong synergy between THC and CBD. Due to the fact we know more about CBD and THC, we use their levels to predict the “high” of strains. We know that the best strains for pain management, reducing anxiety, and inducing sleep are low in THC and high in CBD. The strains for optimizing creativity and giving energy are high in THC and low in CBD. However, there are 111 other cannabinoids that have yet to be researched and understood, making it a long way to go before we truly understand what synergies create consistent experiences. Luckily, research is underway. The cannabis community has had a major breakthrough with an article by Ethan Russo, published in British Journal of Pharmacology, it uncovers findings on how cannabinoids and terpenoids interact. For example, the cannabinoid, CBN, was inactive when tested alone, however, when combined with THC it had greater sedative effects. Another finding showed that alpha-pinene, a terpene, can help preserve acetylcholine which has been helpful for memory formation, which buffers the memory impairment effects of THC. Moreover, we are closer to learning how other compounds play role in the entourage effect.
The Future of Evaluating Cannabis
In the future, as science continues to uncover the mechanisms of the entourage effect, this information will apply to the way cannabis is cultivated, as well as, how it is chemically profiled for consumer information. The levels and types of cannabinoids produced in a strain are largely affected by the genetics of the plant. As a pioneer in creating a consistent experience with cannabis, Grown Rogue has cultivated hybrids that contain certain ratios THC and CBD for desired effects. They test and provide this information in their strain portfolios. Furthermore, as we learn more about terpenoids, which are largely affected by the environment, we may see more measures to control the cultivation process to produce terpenoids capable of crafting a unique cannabis experience. In the case of alpha-pinene, one possible unique experience is one that allows you to get high without losing your memory to THC. In the future, consumers will not only evaluate cannabis for THC and CBD ratios but also for the ratios of over 200 cannabinoids and terpenoids that play a role in the entourage effect. Like the way we evaluate wines or beers for the flavors and experience they offer, the future of evaluating cannabis is in crafting the right experience, every time.