Author – Jon Russell
Edited by Noah Persin
Thank you for joining us for the final installment of the GreenSea “Understanding Cannabinoids” series. During this series we have discussed the Endocannabinoid System and the “Big-6” cannabinoids: CBGa & CBG, THC, CBD, CBC, THCV & CBDv as well as a couple minor ones: CBN, Δ8-THC and CBL. We learned the medicinal benefits of each of these cannabinoids, but how does it all tie together?
We will be discussing the phenomena known as the “Entourage Effect” in this final piece in our series. The term Entourage Effect is commonly know to describe how the medicinal parts of the plant combine to work together. Let’s begin with a brief overview of the Endocannabinoid System.
The Endocannabinoid System
The primary function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis; the ability to maintain the essential internal balance to sustain life no matter what outside influences are there. At the risk of repeating ourselves, let’s go over how the cannabinoids bind to the CB1 & CB2 receptors.
THC binds to the CB1 receptor and is responsible for the psychoactive “high” experienced from consuming cannabis. THC can provide pain relief. Not by lowering the pain itself, but by lowering the body’s physiological responses to the pain.
CBN (or Cannabinol) bind to the CB2 receptor and are responsible for the anti-inflammatory and sleep inducing effects. CBN is also an antibacterial and has shown to be efficient in treating MRSA. Research also shows CBN helps promotes bone growth.
Unlike THC or CBN, CBD fits “between” these two receptors and binds to a third receptor, TRPV-1. CBD is a direct agonist, or stimulant, to this receptor and is thought to be one of the reasons that it’s effective against neuropathic pain. Capsaicin also activates the TRPV-1 receptor.
These cannabinoids (and others), along with the terpenes, amino acids, and other compounds combine to create what is known as the “Entourage Effect”.
Before the discovery of the Entourage Effect there were a few pharmaceutical breakthroughs in terms of cannabis treatments. Marinol was the first, released in 1985, used to treat or prevent nausea and vomiting caused by cancer medications when other medications didn’t help. A few others were developed but didn’t hit the market until later, such as Cesamet. Released for public use in 2006, Cesamet is used for neuroprotective measures after surgeries and to combat nausea after chemotherapy treatments. These drugs are created with a single, synthesized cannabinoid. They were lab created and do not use any natural cannabinoids in their manufacture.
There was (and still is) a common belief that these medications didn’t stack up against naturally derived THC and cannabinoids. They don’t seem to alleviate the symptoms as well, or for as long. Research has now shown that cannabinoids have a synergistic, symbiotic relationship with each other and together are better able to treat ailments that single cannabinoids don’t affect. Natural cannabinoids have less side effects as well. One study found that the side effects of Marinol (the typical drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, clumsiness and trouble thinking clearly caused by THC) were much stronger without having the same medicinal benefits.
What is the Entourage Effect?
So what is the Entourage Effect? It is the theory that all of the compounds and cannabinoids in the cannabis plant work together to create a more powerful effect than just a single, isolated cannabinoid. We were introduced to the Entourage Effect by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in 1999. Dr. Mechoulam, along other prominent scientists, found that THC worked better combined with CBD than when just used alone in research studies.
What they found is that many of the cannabinoids, terpenes and terpenoids in cannabis work better when paired with the other compounds than when used alone. This was strongly observed in a study from the United Kingdom where a reporter consumed THC alone and then a blend of THC and CBD.
The THC made her feel sad and unable to function, stating that she felt as if she were at a funeral. On the other hand, when given the blend of THC/CBD she was almost unable to control her laughter and was very elated. This demonstrated how the compounds work differently when combined than when used separately.
Another example of the Entourage Effect comes from fruit. Mangos contain the terpene myrcene. Eating a mango approximately 30 minutes to an hour before consuming cannabis can increase the strength of your cannabis experience. This is because myrcene allows THC to cross the Blood Brain Barrier faster and more efficiently.
Currently 16 states have CBD only medications available. CBD only medications boast a wide variety of benefits. They’ve been used for a couple of years now to effectively treat and manage the symptoms of epilepsy and the nauseous feeling after chemotherapy treatments. Sometimes though, taking CBD alone is not enough.
Many are finding out that a full spectrum of cannabinoids is needed to treat issues such as Dravet Syndrome. Patients have to find their own unique blend but more and more we are finding that THC and the other cannabinoids and terpenes are necessary to create new treatments. Cannabinoids such as CBC help the others work more efficiently and THC itself has medicinal benefits that shouldn’t be ignored.
The Entourage Effect is the ability for cannabinoids and terpenes to work together for greater results. This isn’t unique to cannabis and can be found in other plants. Cannabinoids and terpenes are found in many plants and we utilize the Entourage Effect every day. For example, black pepper has the terpene piperine. Piperine helps your body absorb the curcumin in turmeric by up to 2000%! Just adding a bit of black pepper to your turmeric will provide this effect.
Thank you for joining us as we traveled the Cannabinoid Map and explored the cannabis plant. We hope you learned something from this series.
From the well known THC to the lesser known terpenes and the Entourage Effect, we’ve discovered that cannabis has so many uses but still requires much more research to uncover its full potential.