The Theory of The Entourage Effect

We have discovered that the use of the cannabis plant has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of medical conditions, with proof dating all the way back to around 1700 BC.  With such a wide range of uses, it begs to ask … is it solely because of the isolated CBD molecule working within our endocannabinoid system?  Or is there more to this complex plant family that offers an “entourage effect”?

Or both?

Cannabis is known for its complicated molecular profile containing phytocannabinoids, more than 200 terpenoids and over 100 related molecules.  The purposes of all these molecules for the plant are not fully understand … kind of like the complexity of the human body and all of its constituents aren’t fully understood. 

The “entourage effect” is a term coined by Professor Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat who isolated and synthesized THC and also the endocannabinoids we all talk about today (anandamide and 2-AG).   Their theory is that cannabinoids work better in synergy together than they do in isolation … both within our body and within the plant.

When speaking about the entourage effect with hemp in today’s terms, this includes the positive contribution found with terpenes and terpenoids in addition to the cannabinoids.  FYI … terpenes and terpenoids are the components of cannabis and other plants that give it their aroma and are also the primary constituents found in essential oils.

Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist and pharmacologist who has been extensively studying cannabis for many years, also published a review highlighting the entourage effect in regards to marijuana and revealed that the combination of CBD with the THC helps reduce the intoxicating “high” that comes with higher concentrations of THC.

In his article, “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects”, Dr. Russo goes deep into the pharmacology of different compounds found in cannabis to further support the potential synergistic effects they may offer to a variety of conditions from MRSA to acne, sleep, depression and addiction and so much more.  From acne to MRSA, sleep and depression, even addiction … he makes some pretty amazing connections.

The research by Mechoulam and his group concluded that cannabis compounds work better when together, improving the overall effect of cannabinoids. With this broader perspective, research continues to seek ways of enhancing cannabinoid activity for many areas of use, like psychiatric symptoms associated with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorders.  

However, all this research on the entourage effect remains a theory for now.

I’ve always taken the mindset that our bodies are too incredibly complex for us to probably ever fully understand.  It’s part of the joy and the frustration that this area of study offers … the mystery excites us to continue to learn more but we are always humbled in some way that we will probably never fully understand all of it’s mysteries.  I think this can apply to many areas of life, don’t you?

I happen to think that hemp is no different in this logic.  For whatever reason, nature produces this complex plant that has been found to produce amazing healing benefits when it interacts with our endocannabinoid system.

Was I there in the lab with Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat in their 1998 research study ( to say with certainty that this is the absolute truth and accurate fact?  No, I was only 15 … I was just beginning to learn what vitamins were and how they work within our body.

Do I think there is likely truth that there is greater benefit when working with the whole plant constitution rather than pulling one piece out?  I do.

I often view this plant with a similar mindset of our own body.

A cardiologist can understand heart disease better when they look beyond the heart alone.  The blood vessels, the immune system and inflammatory response, the gut, even the mouth can give rise to the bigger picture than simply having a narrow view of one part of our complex body.

There is written records of therapeutic use of cannabis found in Egyptian medical papyri over 3700 years ago and continued benefits and uses have since been traced around the world.

Cannabis extracts have been used to increase survival from tetanus in India.  A supply of Indian hemp tincture known as “Squire’s Extract” was brought to England from Calcutta.  Cannabis preparations have been used in Britain as muscle relaxants and anti-spasmodics.  The boom in America started again recently when a young girl with “treatment-resistant” seizures found tremendous relief in cannabis.

It’s positive impacts on health challenges and dis-ease states today is undeniable.  Even though we have major advancements in technology and medicine now than ever before, I believe the wisdom within the entire plant should be left as intact as we can possibly leave it to minimize any risks that may be associated with altering it further AND to maximize the benefits that it was intended to offer us.