Whether your interest in the cannabis plant is recreational, medicinal, or resulting from pure curiosity, you have more than likely stumbled upon the term entourage effect. The importance of this phenomenon cannot possibly be understated in any plant species, especially medicinal cannabis. Cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids – the fundamental building blocks of cannabis – are vital to the entourage effect and to the overall biological makeup of the plant. In this article, we discuss the essential parts of the cannabis plant, as well as the entourage effect.
The Building Blocks of Cannabis
The cannabis plant consists of many chemical entities, most prominently cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
A distinct class of chemical compounds that interacts with and influences highly-specialized receptors within the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabinoids produced within plants are termed phytocannabinoids. Alternatively, cannabinoids produced within the human body are referred to as endocannabinoids.
A diverse class of organic compounds produced by cannabis, conifers, and certain insects. Terpenes generate unique odors that are believed to help protect plants from herbivores and other environmental stressors. Cannabis, for instance, boasts a pungent fragrance that is widely dependent upon myrcene, a terpene accredited with an earthy or herbal aroma.
Produced by various fruits, plants, and vegetables. Flavonoids help provide plants and flowers with color pigmentation and, in part, odor and taste. They are thought to additionally help defend against environmental stressors such as pests and disease. Certain flavonoids exist only in cannabis plants, and are frequently referred to as “cannflavins.”
What is the Entourage Effect?
The “entourage effect,” a phrase coined by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat
in 1998, describes the synergistic relationship shared between all chemical compounds within the cannabis plant. In short, when several different plant-based components are administered simultaneously (i.e., cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc.), the therapeutic results are far superior compared to single compounds consumed on their own. The study of the entourage effect has led to some pretty incredible results regarding whole-plant medicine – a term used to describe how all plant-based compounds work in unison to provide symptomatic relief in a broad range of medical conditions and disorders.
The Entourage Effect: Research and Findings
A prominent neurologist, Dr. Ethan Russo, published his findings in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2010. He studied the far-reaching benefits of the entourage effect by combining various terpenes and cannabinoids. Different combinations utilized by Dr. Russo include:
- Individual: Allowing the terpene to produce effects on its own. For example, the terpene myrcene demonstrates a potential ability to help reduce resistance in the brain/blood barrier, thereby allowing for better chemical absorption.
- Combined with other terpenes: Utilizing a combination of terpenes that yield similar individual effects to increase overall effectiveness. It was found that certain combinations of myrcene, caryophyllene, and pinene could potentially combat anxiety effectively.
- Combined with other cannabinoids: Combining terpenes with cannabinoids such as CBD or THC could help amplify desired effects. For example, when the cannabinoid cannabigerol (CBG) and terpenes such as limonene and linalool are combined, it demonstrates a potentially effective therapy for treatment-resistant staph infections.
Whole Plant Medicine
The entourage effect conclusively demonstrates why whole-plant medicine is superior to isolates. As researchers continue to study the many potential benefits of the entourage effect and how cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids exist and perform at a molecular level, we will be better equipped to discover its full medicinal value and impact upon the endocannabinoid system.