Present-day science is in the early stages of confirming that the positive effects of marijuana are a product of complex interactions. Recent research reveals there is multitude of chemicals in cannabis that have a positive effect. Other research also shows that the chemical components in the marijuana plant may provide a more beneficial impact when they are all used together.
This effect was first termed “the entourage effect” by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli scientist, in a co-authored paper of the same name. Against difficult legal systems, Mechoulam managed to study and identify the compounds THC and CBD in the 60s, subsequently studying many other cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid components. His work continues to be at the forefront of cannabis research.
Marijuana contains around 66 identified cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are what are considered the active cannabis-specific chemical compounds in the plant.
Overall, there are around 480 different components that contribute to the make-up of the herb as a plant. The most well-known and talked about of these are delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, whereas CBD reduces some of the adverse effects of THC. The two chemicals are complementary.
Aside from THC and CBD, several other cannabinoids being studied, such as CBG, CBN, and THCV, have shown positive medicinal effects. Scientists are likewise discovering that non-cannabinoid compounds, such as terpenes and linalool, have potential beneficial reactions when combined with cannabinoids. These effects include improved absorption and reduced side effects.
What Is the Entourage Effect?
The entourage effect described by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam is the observed mechanism by which multiple ingredients in cannabis work together in an entourage or ensemble. Mechoulam and his associates strongly believed in the undiscovered power of various components of the herb.
The entourage effect can be explained rather effectively by comparison with the idea that it is better to eat whole fruits and vegetables instead of taking a pill with all the required nutrients. We can never match the effect of the multitude of basic compounds found in nature, and the experience is far less enjoyable. Ongoing studies continue to discover complementary compounds that prove whole plants are more beneficial than chemical extractions, the same way whole foods have been proven far more beneficial than processed ones.
Practitioners of phytotherapy believe that the compounds found together in plants with medicinal value have a complementary purpose for co-existence. Herbal science is gaining ground, as patient evidence and scientific study confirm the theory. This effect is particularly evident in apparent heal-all compounds such as curcumin (turmeric), which, like marijuana, has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Herbalists and users have known the entourage effect holds true for marijuana plants, but legislators are still tying the hands of scientists who want to follow up on proof. The opponents to the entourage effect often merely say, “We don’t have the resources to test the theory, so we can’t conclusively support it.” This is a weak argument, and it is only a matter of time before science, no matter how slowly it progresses, catches up to invalidate such arguments.
Benefits of Whole Plant Interactions
The entourage effect is proposed to have four basic positive impacts:
- Improved absorption
- Reduction in adverse side effects
- Ability to combat bacterial defenses
- Multiple benefits rather than a single targeted effect
These effects are a result of interactions between cannabinoid and non-cannabinoid compounds and from the interplay of different cannabinoids with each other. The interactive effects are providing a new horizon for research on the plant’s medicinal effects.
The best part is that with vaping technology advancing at a fast pace, you can control which compounds in the plant get released through the different boiling points of the different compounds.
In that way, your vapor will consist of your own fine-tuned chemical cocktail of beneficial marijuana compounds. At Herbonaut you can read comprehensive guides on the matter.
Proven Interactions of Marijuana Components
Despite a lack of availability of whole-plant resources to test, some dedicated scientists and medical researchers have cut through the red tape to prove some incredible effects of combination extracts:
- Whole Plant Cannabis Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
The combined application of CBD and THC has been proven more effective than THC alone in the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Sativex, a drug which combines CBD and THC, has been found highly effective for treating multiple sclerosis symptoms where CBD or THC alone has failed. Its effectiveness is attributed primarily due to the complementary effects of the two compounds.
- Epilepsy Relief with Cannabis Combinations
A new cannabis-based combination drug, Epidolex, was recently approved by the FDA for prescription use in the U.S. The manufacturers have not disclosed which cannabinoids are contained in the drug. While it is predominantly CBD, it also contains several other extracts from the plant, which are reportedly responsible for its success.
The drug was developed through strict scientific testing and proven in double-blind clinical trials. The combination (entourage) effect leveraged by the drug is reportedly responsible for its success in significantly reducing epilepsy seizures.
Epidolex and Sativex were developed by the same company, GW Pharmaceuticals, which believes strongly in the merits of the under-utilized components of the plant.
- Improved Pain Relief from Whole Plant Use
A 2015 medical study compared pure cannabidiol to a standardized plant extract from Cannabis sativa. It found that pain relief was superior when whole plant extracts were used. CBD alone had a bell-curve-like drop-off, whereas the combined whole plant extract did not exhibit the same performance failure.
- Positive Interaction of THC with Terpenes
Ethan Russo, a biomedical researcher in Washington State, published a paper in 2011 linking the effects of a terpenoid with THC, providing more confirmation of the entourage effect. His paper provides molecular proof that a terpenoid molecule, alpha-pinene, found in cannabis is active in counteracting the effects of short-term memory impairment, a known side effect of excessive amounts of THC.
The Proof in Whole-Plant Strain Variations
For years participants in marijuana growth and use, both legally and illegally, have known that various strains of the plant create different effects. In fact, marijuana producers have been cross-breeding different strains for their effects for years. This, combined with the fact that it took so long to isolate the plant’s specific active ingredients, compounds the realization that there are multiple active ingredients at play in marijuana.
Why Limit the Entourage Effect?
The research into the different effects of various combinations of marijuana compounds is only just beginning due to the drugs remaining illegal in many jurisdictions. The diversity of the reactions and positive effects are as numerous as the different components found in the plant – and the number of different strains of the plant itself.
Science may eventually catch up to the intuitive understanding shared by enthusiasts, professionals in the industry, and naturopaths who have seen the entourage effect in action. However, in the meantime, thanks to spreading legalization, most folks won’t have to wait.
Since the entourage effect is affected by randomization, generalization, and individualization, the best way to benefit from it right now is to experience it firsthand. Do your own research for your specific need and give it a go. The negative effects of whole-plant use are short-lived and less harmful than most pharmaceutical drugs. If your current medication is not working for you, personal experience is all the proof you need to confirm that the entourage effect works.
The Entourage Effect in Medical Marijuana
Is the widespread paranoid view of recreational abuse preventing us from accessing the full potential of medical marijuana? Perhaps, but only time – and more research – can tell what the truth of the matter really is. Until then, we cannot ignore the tens of thousands of patients’ and users’ testimonies that support the presence of the entourage effect. We also cannot deny there has been limited success in the use of individual components and new clinical trials are discovering more and more evidence of the prevalence of the entourage effect.
Science only needs to provide the required documentation to validate what many users know is true: While different components can treat individual ailments, the whole, in most cases, has a greater benefit than the sum of its parts.
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