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Cannabis plants contain over 400 chemical components, many of which work together to produce synergistic effects, known as “the entourage effect.” Cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds work together to maximize health benefits and minimize adverse effects.

What Is the Entourage Effect?

Clinical research suggests that the interaction between cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemical compounds in the cannabis plant can produce a more beneficial effect than taking one compound alone. Many consumers are now focusing less on high THC content and more on a full spectrum of minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and other medicinal compounds.

Cannabis Compounds – Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids

Cannabis is a complex plant with hundreds of different compounds, some more medicinally active than others. While much of the focus is on THC and CBD, many other cannabis compounds can work with THC and CBD as a team to provide greater health benefits.

Cannabinoids

Phytocannabinoids, also known as cannabinoids, are naturally produced chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS regulates various functions, including sleep, memory, mood, and appetite.

THC and CBD are the most well-known cannabinoids and most commonly found in the plant. Minor cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabichromene (CBC), among others, make up a small concentration of the plant but can provide beneficial effects when paired with other cannabis plant compounds.

Terpenes

Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds found in plants, fruit, and herbs. They are responsible for a plant’s aroma and flavor. In cannabis strains, terpenes produce the plant’s complex smell and taste.

Flavonoids

Over 20 different flavonoids have been identified in cannabis plants. They are responsible for the colors and flavors of plants, including cannabis. Flavonoids also play a part in protecting plants from UV rays, diseases, and pests. Research has also shown that flavonoids may provide medicinal benefits. 

Types of CBD Products

three oil tinctures next to cannabis leaves, entourage effect

Cannabidiol (CBD) products have become wildly popular due to their non-intoxicating nature. However, there are several types of CBD oil products available. Each offers a different set of compounds. Depending on whether you want to feel high or not and experience the entourage effect, you will have a few options.

Broad-Spectrum

Broad-spectrum cannabis products contain all of the components in cannabis, except for THC. Broad-spectrum CBD is ideal for users who want to get the most out of cannabis without the intoxication or risk of failing a drug test.

Full-Spectrum

Full-spectrum CBD products contain the entire range of cannabis compounds, including THC and all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. 

Isolate

Cannabinoid isolates contain just one cannabinoid. Cannabinoid isolates can contain up to 99 percent of a cannabinoid. Isolate products usually come in a powder or crystalline form.

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Research on the Entourage Effect

The entourage effect was first discovered by researchers Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat in 1998. They found that inactive compounds improved the therapeutic ability of the body’s primary endocannabinoids (naturally-produced compounds): 2-AG and anandamide. THC and CBD work just like these compounds.

In 2001, Ethan Russo and John McPartland published the paper, “Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts.” This research supported the “entourage effect” hypothesis.

Their research found that “secondary compounds in cannabis may enhance the beneficial effects of THC” and “may reduce THC-induced anxiety, cholinergic deficits, and immunosuppression.” 

Researchers also stated that “cannabis terpenoids and flavonoids may also increase cerebral blood flow, enhance cortical activity, kill respiratory pathogens, and provide anti-inflammatory activity.”

In a 2011 review of studies, titled “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,” researchers found that consuming terpenes and cannabinoids together may be helpful for:

  • Cancer
  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Inflammation
  • Fungal infection 

In a 2015 study, CBD isolate effects were compared against effects from full-spectrum extracts. In the study, researchers found that mice treated with full-spectrum products experienced significantly more relief than those who only took CBD isolate. In addition, researchers found that full-spectrum CBD did not lose efficiency with higher doses, while CBD isolate did.

Benefits of THC

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Low appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Glaucoma
  • Muscle spasticity

Benefits of CBD

  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Inflammation
  • Migraine
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • Pain

Can You Take CBD or THC alone?

CBD and THC can be taken alone or together for medical and recreational purposes. However, research shows that taking CBD and THC together, along with all of the plant’s other active compounds, may be more beneficial than taking THC or CBD alone.

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CBD has helped some people offset the adverse effects of high doses of THC like sleepiness, anxiety, and the “munchies.” The 2011 review also concluded that CBD might reduce THC’s side effects.

Learn More About Cannabis at Cannabis Training University

While more research is needed into the entourage effect, studies find that full-spectrum products are better than isolates. However, isolates can help several others who can’t consume THC but still want the plant’s medical benefits.

For the latest information about cannabis’ medicinal properties, cannabinoids and terpenes, and the endocannabinoid system, enroll in Cannabis Training University’s online industry training program today.

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