The Entourage Effect | CBD and Synergies with other Cannabinoids
The entourage effect. Understand how cannabinoids and terpenes work together to produce maximum results.
Entourage: A group attending or surrounding an important person. That’s the dictionary definition of entourage, a word that’s fast becoming closely associated with CBD. In our context, CBD is the “important person”, and the attending group is the wealth of supportive cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes and other phytochemicals found within the cannabis plant. But what is the CBD entourage effect? And how do you achieve it?
What is the Entourage Effect
The entourage effect happens when CBD is taken with other compounds from the cannabis plant, rather than in isolation. The theory is that by using the whole plant rather than only one aspect, this boosts the health benefits of cannabinoids. The effects of CBD are boosted by working in synergy with other compounds like terpenes.
What are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are generally the first chemical you learn about when dipping a toe into the exciting pool of CBD knowledge. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid, and is one of only many found in the cannabis plant.
Cannabinoids are found naturally within the human body and can also be created synthetically. A cannabinoid describes any chemical that has a direct impact on the endocannabinoid system, a neurotransmission network within all mammals. Neurotransmission simply means the passing of messages between body and brain, and cannabinoids aid this by sending the right signals to the brain to regulate various other systems within the body.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are plant chemicals that give plants a certain smell or taste. There are plenty of terpenes that you come in contact with on a regular basis. Some common ones include:
- Limonene, found in citrus fruit peel
- Pinene, from pine resin
- Eucalyptol, from eucalyptus and tea tree
- Nerolidol, found in ginger and lemongrass
So, that sharp and pleasant smell that hits you as you peel an orange, that’s caused by terpenes. The tea tree oil in your facial cleanser, that’s got terpenes in too. The interesting thing is, though, all the terpenes named above are also found in the cannabis plant, along with over 100 other compounds.
Each strain of cannabis has evolved to have differing amounts of terpenes, which is why various species of cannabis have their own unique aroma. Many of these compounds work to protect the plant from fungus and bacteria, and even attract pollinators. In fact, every terpene has its own special use, both by the plant and by the human body. When combined with CBD oil these terpenes can also have synergistic effects. Here are a few of the beneficial effects of terpenes that have been studied so far:
- Limonene: elevates mood
- Pinene: increases alertness
- Eucalyptol: anti-bacterial
- Nerolidol: may enhance the effects of other compounds
Each of these cannabis terpenes have many potential beneficial effects individually, but the entourage effect is what happens when they are used together, and in conjunction with cannabinoids such as CBD. Although research is still ongoing into how effective many of these terpenes are, the theory of the entourage effect has been around for many years.
Over 20 Years of Research
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and Dr. Shimon Ben-Shabat are the two scientists credited with understanding what would later become known as the entourage effect. Dr. Mechoulam had previously discovered that the human body produces cannabinoids, which work with cannabinoid receptors in what we now refer to as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS deals with achieving homeostasis,or a state of balance within the body and many other therapeutic effects. The ECS is particularly associated with:
In 1998, Ben-Shabat and Mechoulam theorized that cannabinoids would bind better to our CBD receptors when used in synergy with the fatty acids also found in cannabis. Research into this has been ongoing, and in 2009 Dr. Gudrun Ulrich-Merzenich and Professor Hildebert Wagner expanded upon the entourage effect theory to describe exactly what it meant:
- A synergistic effect which works on many different areas within the body
- Improving the body’s ability to absorb beneficial chemicals through the blood-brain barrier
- Helps to overcome bacterial defense mechanisms
- Minimizing unwanted side-effects.
To simplify, they discovered that by using a range of phytochemicals (chemicals from plants) together, they worked in synergy to create a more positive effect for the user.
Terpenes vs Cannabinoids
Unlike terpenes, cannabinoids work directly on the cannabinoid receptors in the human body. The brain, the nervous system, immune system and various other key areas within the body contain these receptors. Cannabinoids, whether artificial or organic, bind to the receptors which instruct the body to either produce more or less of specific chemicals. This helps achieve therapeutic effects such as: balance and general wellbeing, and keeps many of the human body’s systems in good working order.
Terpenes may work to enhance the effect cannabinoids have on the cannabinoid receptors, plus each has its own unique impact on the human body even when taken individually. However, using these compounds in synergy with one another produces the biggest impact aka the entourage effect.
Terpenes vs Terpenoids
You may have heard the term terpenoids as well as terpenes when discussing the health benefits of CBD. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, however they actually have slightly different meanings.
Cannabis terpenes are organic hydrocarbons found naturally within the cannabis plant. A hydrocarbon simply means a chemical that only contains hydrogen and carbon molecules, although these can be bonded together in vastly different ways.
Altering terpenes (usually in a drying process) creates Terpenoids. While drying out, terpenes undergo oxidization, which alters the chemical structure.
How do I Experience the Entourage Effect?
When you take CBD products like CBD oil, avoid anything that purports to be CBD isolate or “pure” CBD oil if you are seeking the entourage effect. Most high-quality CBD oil will claim to be full spectrum or broad spectrum CBD oil.
Broad Spectrum CBD Oil
This is CBD oil which has some of the additional cannabis compounds included. This will usually include many beneficial terpenes and possibly other cannabinoids like CBG (considered a minor cannabinoid however may still be a beneficial component of the entourage effect) or CBC (cannabichromene), an abundant cannabinoid within the cannabis plant. There is generally zero THC in broad spectrum CBD oil.
Full Spectrum CBD Oil
The best full spectrum CBD oil is one that contains all the compounds from within the cannabis plant. As long as it’s hemp-derived the THC will be less than 0.3%. This ensures that it can have no psychoactive effect on the person taking the product, whilst boosting the potential for the entourage effect. Full spectrum CBD oil will contain:
- Other cannabinoids
- Fatty acids
All of which contribute towards the entourage effect.
It’s really fascinating that every strain of cannabis is subtly different thanks to terpenes, from the aroma and taste to the actual effect it has on the body. CBD oil is mixed with additional terpenes to create specific effects like increasing the amount of limonene to help reduce stress levels or raise your mood. As further research is completed, we will only discover more about cannabis’ compound benefits.
What are your favorite terpenes? Have you experienced the entourage effect? Tell us all about it!