When you hear the word entourage, your mind might veer towards that cable TV show from the 2000s.
That’s not what we’re talking about that here, today. We’re going on a deep dive into all things entourage effect. This is a phenomenon that’s special to some forms of cannabis.
The entourage effect can be incredibly helpful, so it’s a good thing to fully understand basics like:
- What is the entourage effect
- How to get the entourage effect
- What are the benefits of the entourage effect
The entourage effect is synergy. It’s what happens when the sum is greater than the total of its parts.
In terms of cannabis, it’s the bonus you may get from consuming a product with a comprehensive profile of cannabinoids and other plant compounds.
There are several hundred known chemical substances in cannabis. At least 140 of them are cannabinoids. The balance are terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, etc.
Each phytocompound — be it a cannabinoid like CBD or THC or some other constituent — features its own unique therapeutic and nutritional profile. Each component packs its particular menu of wellness-boosting potential.
You might think, “Wow! Those plant compounds are awesome!” And they just may be. But, they may have even more impact bundled than as separate entities.
Researchers found that, when consumed together, the various cannabis molecules conspire. As a group, they exhibit significantly more activity. Even inactive constituents can be coaxed into motion.(1)
Interestingly, the entourage effect doesn’t necessarily mean that the results of your cannabis are increased (though they certainly may be). The entourage effect can:
- Amplify or enhance the effects of your cannabis. This is the multiplier effect that naturally comes to mind. For example, instead of just taking the edge off, you might feel super relaxed.
- Extend or expand the effects of your cannabis. This is when you reap additional desirable results. For example, instead of just lulling you into a state of calm, you might also be able to sleep better.
- Moderate the effects of your cannabis. This is a show of cannabis’s many compounds balancing each other out in pursuit of homeostasis. For example, CBD’s properties may counteract some of the side effects (like anxiety or paranoia) that are common to THC.(2)
- Alter the effects of your cannabis. This one’s a bit of a wildcard or miscellany. It’s simply to acknowledge that sometimes when you combine substances (like different cannabinoids), the resulting concoction may have some attributes and effects that neither of the primary inputs had. We see examples of this everyday — like mustard or egg emulsifying your vinaigrette or slipping a Mentos into a soda erupting into a shower of foam.
Currently, the entourage effect is technically a working theory. Consumers, clinicians, and researchers alike were seeing evidence of some X factor when cannabinoids were jointly taken with other cannabinoids and plant compounds. Enter the entourage effect, a means of encapsulating and explaining what was going on.
Much of the data indicates that it’s mostly the coupling of cannabinoids and terpenes that yields the entourage effect. Flavonoids are also helpful and likely play a supporting role.
Several studies and research reviews express that the case for there being an entourage effect is strong and backed by some data.(1) However, because marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, studying the entourage effect is difficult. Access to THC-rich forms of cannabis is tightly restricted — making it nearly impossible to run high-quality, large-scale clinical trials that truly investigate the range of cannabinoids.
Experts agree that more research is needed and are hopeful that will happen in coming years.
This is where the rubber meets the road. The entourage effect sounds great — but what’s important is how it could help you, in meaningful ways, in real life, right now.
Among other things, the entourage effect may help with:(2,3)
- Easing anxiety
- Supporting brain health
- Combatting cancer
- Managing epilepsy
- Fighting fungal infection
- Reducing inflammation
- Enhance mood stability
- Relieving pain
With personalized medicine coming down the pike, cannabis researchers and breeders are busy researching the characteristics of individual strains of cannabis. They’re leveraging tons of data to determine which genetic markers, chemical combos, etc. yield specific results.
The goal here is to create customized varieties of cannabis — with equally bespoke entourage effects — to address the health concerns of any given patient or consumer.(4) In the future, you might be able to tailor your cannabis to (potentially) get the precise entourage effect and outcomes you’re after.
The entourage effect can also influence your cannabis experience. It can help:
- Make your cannabis more effective and efficient
- Mitigate unwanted effects of specific cannabinoids
Now that you know what it is and why it can be a good thing, you probably want to enjoy the entourage effect yourself. We don’t blame you!
Probably the main element of the equation is the product you’re using. The entourage effect requires an ensemble of phytocompounds — cannabinoids, terpenes, and so on.
If you’re taking a CBD isolate product, you’re getting a solitary cannabinoid. There’s nothing else there for the cannabidiol to synergize with.
So, what sorts of cannabis products should you be stocking up on if you want to bring on the entourage effect? Opt for:
- Full-spectrum CBD products
- Broad-spectrum CBD products
- Full- or broad-spectrum THC products
- CBD or THC products that feature fellow cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, etc.
There’s a reason you often see these multi-cannabinoid products being touted. These lines of products have more than one cannabinoid, plus all the goodness of the cannabis’s terpenoids, flavonoids, and other nutrients. The makings of an entourage effect are all in there!
Bioavailability of the cannabis compounds can impact the presence, nature, and magnitude of the entourage effect.
Bioavailability simply refers to how easily and efficiently your body can absorb, assimilate, and utilize a substance. Something with better bioavailability can be introduced into your system more quickly, will likely be faster-acting, and may facilitate an entourage effect.
And because your body’s able to use the substance more readily, you can use less. More bang for your hard-earned buck! Bioavailability lets you wring more value out of your cannabis products.
You can boost bioavailability of your cannabis by selecting products that are:
- Nanotized. Nano-cannabinoids are the secret to bioavailable cannabis. Nano just means small. When the cannabinoid molecules are made tiny, they can pass into your body more quickly and easily. They retain their structural integrity better than regular cannabinoid molecules. Plus, they have a greater surface area. All these characteristics help your body better use the cannabinoids.
- More natural. The closer your products (and their ingredients) are to the Earth, the more bioavailable they tend to be. (And, of course, any CBD products you buy should always be made using organic American hemp.) The more natural your cannabis product are, the lower the chances of impurities — artificial additives, toxins, etc. — blocking your body from optimally absorbing and processing the cannabis compounds.
There’s also a chance that you won’t experience the entourage effect.
Outcomes of cannabis consumption can be highly personalized. So many factors — the type of cannabis used, the regimen you follow, your metabolism, etc. — play a role.(5)
But, if you aren’t noticing an entourage effect now — tinkering with one or more variables might flip that switch for you. It often takes time, patience, and experimentation to find the cannabis regime that works best for your needs and preferences.
The entourage effect is when cannabis compounds — like cannabinoids and terpenes — behave synergistically to enhance results. The belief is that compounds work better as an ensemble rather than a bunch of solo acts.
To experience the entourage effect, choose cannabis products with an array of phytocompounds. Using ones that are natural and nanotized for better bioavailability may also help you realize the entourage effect.
Still, though, not everyone feels the entourage effect every time with every cannabis product. It may take time and experimentation to find what works for you.
The entourage effect occurs when you experience extra or different — better — effects from your cannabis due to the mix of individual cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant compounds. It’s a desirable synergistic phenomenon in which the “whole” is greater than the sum of the “parts.”
You need to use full- or broad-spectrum CBD products, or other cannabis products that feature multiple cannabinoids and other phytocompounds. Note, though, that some people may not experience the entourage effect no matter what they do or what cannabis products they consume.
The entourage effect is favorable because it can increase or expand the positive wellness results from using cannabis. It can also instigate wholly different responses in your body than any single cannabis substance can on its own. Lastly, the entourage effect can modulate the impact of certain cannabinoids — e.g., CBD may mellow THC’s intoxicating effects.
- Russo, E. B. (2019). The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Frontiers in Plant Science, 9.
- Chander, R. (2019). The Entourage Effect: How CBD and THC Work Together. Healthline.
- Ferber, SG, et al. (2020). The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Current Neuropharmacology.
- Chen, A. (2017). Some of the Parts: Is Marijuana’s “Entourage Effect” Scientifically Valid? Scientific American.
- Simon, M. (2018). The Entourage Effect: How THC and Other Weed Compounds Mix. WIRED.