Anyone who has used medical cannabis for a significant length of time has probably heard about the entourage effect. It is often stated that the entourage affect makes whole-plant cannabis more effective as a medicine than cannabis extracts and isolated cannabinoids. But is that true?
There is a lot about the entourage effect that we do not understand. In fact, there are credible scientists who don’t accept it as being real. They should not be faulted for their position. We know so little about the entourage effect that a healthy dose of speculation is good.
Based on the little information we currently have, here are five things you need to know about the entourage effect:
1. Its Basic Mechanism
The entourage affect is explained as the ability of whole-plant medicines to be more effective than isolated compounds due to all the parts of the plant working together. It was first proposed by Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat in the late 1990s, according to an excellent article published by the Leafly website. The article explains the entourage effect in detail.
At any rate, proponents of the entourage effect propose that most of the other cannabinoids found in cannabis plants can enhance the effects of both THC and CBD. There is some evidence of THC enhancing CBD, so applying the same principle to other cannabinoids seems reasonable.
2. It Is Probably Real
Despite objections among some medical professionals, the limited evidence we have thus far suggests that the entourage effect probably is real. Again, limited studies have shown that THC, in small amounts, can enhance the effects of CBD. So if nothing else, the entourage effect’s basic principles are demonstrated with these two cannabinoids.
Unfortunately, we cannot say for sure that the effect occurs with all the cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Remember, there are more than a hundred of them. Some of them may contribute to the entourage affect, others may not. We just do not know.
3. It Is Terribly Over-Hyped
Even if we assume the entourage affect is legit, there is reason to believe that its usefulness as a medical benefit has been over hyped. Cannabis proponents eager to change minds have latched on to the entourage effect and passed it off as almost a modern-day miracle attributable only to cannabis. That is unfortunate because they often make promises that cannabis cannot keep.
4. Terpenes May Play No Role
Hand-in-hand with over hyping the entourage effect are claims that certain terpene profiles can enhance it even further. Once again, there is little to no scientific data backing up such claims. No doubt the claims are worth investigating at some point down the road. But making general assumptions to that effect does a disservice to medical cannabis patients who just want to find a medicine that makes them feel better.
5. Your Pharmacist Can Advise You
When it comes to feeling better, Brigham City, UT’s Beehive Farmacy encourages medical cannabis patients to speak with their pharmacists about the entourage effect. A cannabis pharmacist is the most qualified individual to offer advice on whether the entourage effect is applicable to a patient’s condition.
Is the entourage effect real? Probably. The limited amount of data we currently possess suggests that it is a legitimate phenomenon of whole-plant medicines. But in the arena of medical cannabis, the entourage effect is over hyped. We do not know as much about it as medical cannabis proponents would claim. As a patient, take everything you hear about it with a grain of salt. That is the main lesson here.