The cannabis industry is young and growing, meaning that all sorts of different terms, buzzwords, and innovations are popping up daily; this can leave newcomers to the sector feeling confused. Companies who are looking to set themselves apart in a crowded marketplace will try their best to develop branding terms like “cold-pressed” and “single source” to help their products stand out.
CANNABIS, THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT, AND SYNERGY
One term that you may have heard in cannabis and CBD spaces is the “entourage effect.” This term is often heard alongside the phrase “full-spectrum,” referring to full-spectrum oil that is often manufactured from cannabis to be used in a variety of products such as tinctures. Full-spectrum refers to a cannabis product that maintains the full therapeutic benefits of cannabis by keeping all bioactive components intact, giving an extract its full potential. Cannabinoids like THC or CBD are often credited for the therapeutic effects of cannabis, but combinations of terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids, and other plant matter will work together to bring out the entourage effect. The whole plant is used synergistically in a full-spectrum product rather than a distillate of its individual parts, in theory, making it more effective.
CNN’s Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta made a case for the entourage effect in 2014, stating that existing pharmaceuticals that isolated certain compounds of the cannabis plant were frequently not an effective treatment in comparison to those which harnessed multiple compounds of the plant. This statement was mostly in response to Marinol, a pure synthetic THC product produced in the ’80s. However, that was many years ago, and technology has since evolved when it comes to cannabis growth, breeding, and extraction.
As time passed, Dr. Gupta further supported his previous research with an assessment of the Multiple Sclerosis drug Sativex, which contains extracts of both CBD and THC, isolated into an oral spray. Over a decade of experiments, Dr. Gupta concluded that “…Whole plant extract, bred to contain roughly the same amounts of THC and CBD in addition to other components in the plant, was more effective in reducing the pain and spasms of MS than a medication made of a single compound.” Whether due to interactions that happen within the body or due to multiple compounds playing a role together, it’s clear that full-spectrum extracts or distillates should utilize as many natural parts of the cannabis plant as possible to take advantage of the entourage effect.
CANNABINOIDS: CBG, CBN, AND MORE
Although THC and CBD grab most headlines when it comes to cannabis, other cannabinoids are at work within the entourage effect such as CBG, CBN, terpenes, and essential oils also present within the plant. Research about other cannabinoids like CBN is still underway, but many are looking towards CBN for its sedative properties in hopes of its potential use in treating insomnia and creating an alternative to medications like Ambien and diazepam. CBN can be produced naturally through aging THC or degrading with heat.
Terpenes, or terpenoids, are the aromatic molecules within cannabis that are noticeable when we take a whiff of the dried buds. They are not only present within cannabis, though, as terpenes also form the basis of aromatherapy and essential oils. Depending on the strain, some predominant terpenes will stand out with their compelling fragrance and flavor, but of the 200 found in cannabis, only a few of these have a unique scent. Terpenes have been undergoing more testing and research leading to some interesting theories that suggest that the difference between Indica and Sativa is not due to the plant itself, but rather the differing terpene ratios. The “differences” between these two are thought to be attributed to the body undergoing slightly different entourage effects, amplifying the benefits of cannabis, and allowing the body to go through the varying experiences.
When we take in cannabis, whether it is through smoke, vapor, or other forms, our bodies take in a variety of plant compounds that all have their unique effects and benefits. These effects can also change when in the presence of other plant compounds, creating the basis for what is the entourage effect. The individual effects of each component, whether it is a terpene, flavonoid, or cannabinoid, work in tandem to create a more beneficial effect on the body. In an industry where for so many years the focus was on increasing THC for greater highs, the entourage effect encourages interest in other parts of the plant and will ultimately bring a more diverse product and industry.