The Entourage Effect
What is the Entourage Effect?
Just like that elliptical in your basement, the entourage effect is often ignored when new cannabis consumers are making purchasing decisions. Too often the purchase comes down to the highest THC for the lowest price, we call this bang for your buck. Cannabis is made up of hundreds of different phytocannabinoids and terpenes that not only play a role in the flavour, smell, and taste of the strain but can also influence the psychoactive and medicinal properties of that strain. Walking into a cannabis shop and picking the highest THC strain is like walking into a doughnut shop and picking the one with the most sugar on it. Your pick should instead be influenced by smell, taste, and desired effects. Only picking your strain based on THC content – which is coincidentally also the anxiety causing cannabinoid – is doing yourself a disservice. You deserve that bubbly, laugh your ass off stoned, and that will likely come from a variety of different cannabinoids and terpenes working together.
The two main active cannabinoids that most people know are THC and CBD, THC is like the obnoxious cool kid in class while CBD is a little lower key but has some great thoughts when you get a conversation going. Both cannabinoids are almost identical in chemical structure, only differing in the arrangement of a single atom; however, they have vastly different effects. Both THC and CBD interact with your body through your endocannabinoid system, a chemical communication system that regulates homeostasis. THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis but that’s not to say that CBD and the supporting cast of secondary cannabinoids don’t play a valuable role in the recreational and medicinal effects of cannabis. There is a growing body of research showing that CBD and THC are more effective together than either are on their own - just like an entourage of sorts…
Have you ever noticed a citrus aroma on your cannabis? Or perhaps a hint of pine or pepper? The chemicals responsible for much of the smell and taste associated with your favorite strains are naturally occurring volatile hydrocarbon molecules known as terpenes. The practice of aromatherapy is based on terpenes and the physiological and psychological effects they can have. There are more than 200 different terpenes found in cannabis and in good quality bud approximately 2-5% of its weight should be made up by terpenes. These terpenes not only make your cannabis more appealing but can also offer a ton of medicinal benefits, and when combined with other terpenes and cannabinoids can work together in conjunction to increase potency of each cannabinoid and terpene.
The theory of the entourage effect states that cannabinoids and terpenes interact to create enhanced efficacy in the body. The concept to understand here is synergistic stacking, this means that these chemicals do not interact on a simple 1 + 1 = 2 equation. Rather the cannabinoids and terpenes interact in symphony to amplify the effects of each other in addition to providing their own unique benefits. This means that the teamwork of all the compounds working together is greater than the sum of the individual parts. This begs the question, what specific combination of cannabinoids and terpenes is perfect for my unique needs? Unfortunately, due to decades of prohibition very little research has been completed on this topic. That said, there is also a ton of opportunity for learning within the industry as research catches up.
On a more recreational level, the entourage effect can be used to combat some of the less desirable effects associated with cannabis use to maximise the enjoyment of your cannabis sessions. Consumers commonly report anxiety, lethargy, and memory loss as the negative side effects of cannabis use.
While you may not be as concerned about the medicinal benefit of combining your cannabinoids there is growing evidence that these secondary cannabinoids and terpenes play a vital role influencing your high. Cannabis-induced anxiety appears to be the main reason early cannabis consumers get turned off the product. THC is the main anxiety causing cannabinoid so one could deduce that choosing a lower THC strain that also contains some anxiety reducing terpenes could potentially improve to experience. Examples of anxiety reducing terpenes are beta-caryophyllene, limonene, linalool, myrcene. In addition to seeking out these anxiety reducing terpenes in your favorite strains, it’s important to note that all these terpenes can be found in common household, spices, herbs, and fruit. If you ever feel a cannabis-induced anxiety creeping up, it is said that fresh ground pepper (beta-caryophyllene) or lemon (limonene) can be an effective treatment. CBD has also been known to reduce anxiety, so if you’ve been dealing with cannabis-induced anxiety you may want to pick out a lower THC, higher CBD strain in order to improve your experience.
Another common concern with recreational cannabis is the laziness that can follow consumption. Sometimes after a hard day of work there is nothing better than sinking into the couch and having a nap; however, if you’re doing this midday on a Wednesday it can be a different story. Those looking to avoid the siesta for a more productive high may want to avoid combining the terpene myrcene and high THC, as this is often associated with the “couch-lock” phenomena. Limonene is thought to provide a more uplifting active high and could be a terpene to seek out in your next strain.
Ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there? Although the amnesia associated with cannabis use has been anecdotally understood since our first stoner ancestors forgot dinner over the fire, we now have scientific proof that THC does, in fact, inhibit short-term memory. The good news is that strains high in the terpene pinene can help mitigate the short-term memory loss related to your THC habits.
Now I’m no expert on the matter and before trying Cannabis for any medical condition, you should always consult a physician. Medical applications involving the entourage effect have been studied for the following conditions:
This is just to name a few of the potential applications where it has been shown to be advantageous to apply a “whole-flower” approach to treating conditions rather than on an individual cannabinoid/terpenoid level.
In closing, the entourage theory states that multiple different cannabinoids and terpenes working together is more effective (medically and recreationally) than each as an individual. There is currently an education disconnect in the cannabis industry where consumers still assume that THC is the most important component to guide purchasing decisions with regards to cannabis. We need to judge the quality of cannabis based on the desired effects rather that a single cannabinoid. There is so much left to discover with regards to the entourage effect and the role that terpenes play. For all your cannabis related news, check out the Instaleaf.ca platform. In the meantime, keep an open mind, be kind, and stay lifted.