If you’ve ever watched a major event like the Oscars, you’ll notice celebrities rarely roll up without a posse. Also known as an “entourage,” this group is kind of like a support network, helping the star look and perform their best on the red carpet and get to the venue safely. The same concept applies to CBD in a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect.”
In this context, CBD is the VIP, and its assistants are the various flavonoids, terpenes, cannabinoids, and other phytochemicals found in the cannabis plant. Basically, you get more benefits from CBD when you ingest it along with other cannabis compounds. This is because CBD and its squad work better as a team rather than on their own.
CBD & the Holistic Approach
CBD and other nutraceuticals are usually associated with holistic medicine. This approach considers how different systems and parts of the body and brain affect one another. Essentially, it’s about treating the whole person, rather than a specific disease or ailment, to help the patient achieve optimal wellbeing.
Practitioners typically seek to harness nature’s power and use plant-based solutions, rather than relying on lab-created pharmaceuticals. Like the holistic concept of focusing on the whole person, nature-based medicine usually involves using plants in their pure natural form, rather than isolating specific elements. Cultures around the world have utilized plant-based alternative medicine for thousands of years.
While there’s still much debate regarding the validity of many nature-based health solutions, science has confirmed cannabis’ efficacy in various applications. Research has also proven it’s not just the plant’s most famous compounds, CBD and THC, that can provide health benefits. Other cannabis compounds, of which there are hundreds, have perks too.
The Components of Cannabis
The cannabis plant contains about 500 different compounds, of which the most prominent are phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. These compounds and enzymes, and fatty acids have a synergistic physiological effect, meaning they work in sync to produce various benefits.
There are more than 100 phytocannabinoids in cannabis, including Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and Cannabinol (CBN). Cannabinoids occur naturally in the body, as well as in plants (phyto=plant in Latin). These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a neurotransmission network responsible for regulating various functions and processes in the body.
As for terpenes, we know of at least 100 in the cannabis plant, although there are thousands in nature. These aromatic molecules come from the molecule isoprene and are largely responsible for cannabis’ smell and taste. Different strains have particular terpene bouquets. Terpenes, like phytocannabinoids, have unique assets. Some can reduce inflammation, for instance, while others have anti-fungal or antiviral properties.
Then there are flavonoids, which include catechins and quercetin. These can have antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. These phytonutrients also create vivid non-green colors in many plants. The deep purple hue of blueberries or bright yellow of a banana is a result of flavonoids.
Discovery of the Entourage Effect
Israeli doctors Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat first suggested an “entourage effect” may be at play in the ECS. In the late 1990s, noticed that various inactive molecules appeared to increase primary endogenous cannabinoids, especially 2-AG and anandamide.
Basically, they realized individual compounds aren’t working alone. Instead, cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds are working together to “amplify” others’ effects.
In 2011, the term “entourage effect” was popularized when Dr. Ethan Russo published a paper called Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects.
One of the most significant ways the entourage effect plays out is the relationship between CBD and THC. Research shows both compounds have unique health benefits as well as complementary qualities. Researchers have also found CBD can help to tame some of THC’s less desirable side effects, like brain fog and nausea.
Another significant finding is the role of terpenes. It’s not entirely accurate to suggest one type of cannabis compound is more important than another. However, along with cannabinoids, terpenes are undoubtedly among the leading actors. Some recent studies indicate terpenes may be just as essential as cannabinoids in producing cannabis’ effects.
How to Reap the Benefits of the Entourage Effect
Cannabis products, including CBD oils and tinctures, can impact the body differently depending on their particular blend of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds.
To suggest that “more is better” would be an oversimplification. That being said, generally speaking, CBD is most effective when it’s rolling with its squad. To get the full benefits of CBD, it’s usually best to get a full-spectrum product containing all of the naturally-available compounds in the cannabis plant or a broad-spectrum product. Broad-spectrum CBD contains all of the good stuff besides THC. As we’ve discussed, THC has beneficial qualities, but some people prefer their CBD THC-free. Fortunately, you can still enjoy the balancing benefits of CBD without its cousin cannabinoid.
The ideal product for you will depend on your needs and goals. If you’re not sure what to try, a reliable CBD retailer should be happy to answer your questions and help you out. You can also refer to our buying guide for useful tips.