If you have ever considered buying any kind of CBD products you may well have heard of the entourage effect. CBD – or cannabidiol – is a compound that is prevalent in the cannabis plant, that can hold significant health benefits for people and animals.

Scientists have relatively recently been able to separate out the different compounds in the cannabis plant. This allows them to examine how each compound affects the body. They have discovered that CBD is beneficial to our general health and well-being but doesn’t give you the high that’s commonly associated with cannabis.

What is the Entourage Effect?

The entourage effect is a phenomenon in the cannabis plant whereby the effectiveness of CBD is enhanced when you take in conjunction with the other compounds that are found naturally in the plant.

The concept of the entourage effect is the same as your favourite band. If you have four excellent musicians playing separately, you can hear some great music. If you put them all together, that’s when the magic happens!

Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System

There are hundreds of compounds in the cannabis plant, and over a hundred of these are known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids that are found in cannabis have a specific structure that is similar to those produced naturally by the body.

Cannabinoids that are produced by the body are known as endocannabinoids, and these interact with the endocannabinoid system. This is a system in the body that keeps it regulated, balanced, and in tip-top condition, to be able to function properly.

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for several factors in the body, such as:

  • Regulation of the central nervous system, including pain
  • Certain aspects of the immune system including inflammation
  • Parts of the digestive system
  • Regulating mood and sleep

Some of the cannabinoids that are found naturally in cannabis can also interact with the endocannabinoid system, giving it a boost and helping it to work well.

What Cannabinoids are Found in Cannabis?

The endocannabinoid system was only discovered when scientists were looking into the medicinal potential of cannabis – hence the name.

Scientists have identified many different cannabinoids that make up the plant. Two of the most prominent are CBD – cannabidiol, and THC – delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol.

Although these two are the two cannabinoids that are best understood, there is also a great deal of research being carried out into the effects of some of the other more prominent cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

Some of the other cannabinoids that are usually present in the cannabis plant include:

Scientists have discovered that it is the THC in the cannabis plant that has the effect of making you high. The fact that they have been able to identify this means that governments are now able to regulate cannabis products. Many now allow products with lower levels of THC present – meaning that you don’t get high when it is used.

Those who produce cannabis products will now often use specific strains of cannabis that are low in THC and rich is CBD. This will give the best effect for their customers as well as ensure that their products are legal in as many places as possible around the world. These varieties of cannabis are known as hemp or industrial hemp.

How does CBD Work?

The endocannabinoid system is made up of a set of cannabinoid receptors that interact with the endocannabinoids produced by the body. These interact to help to control the messages that are sent to the brain and also regulate chemicals that are released into the body. The endocannabinoids are then broken down by enzymes once that they have been ‘used’.

CB1 and CB2

Scientists have identified at least two types of cannabinoid receptors in the human body – imaginatively named, CB1 and CB2 receptors.

These receptors are located in different places around the body and help to control various aspects of the endocannabinoid system.

CB1 receptors are proteins that are mainly activated by THC. They are predominantly found in the central nervous system. CB1 receptors can affect aspects such as pain management as well as giving users the feeling of a high.

CB2 receptors are proteins that are mainly associated with the immune system – especially the body’s management of inflammation, and this is the receptor that CBD will predominantly interact with.

What are Terpenes and Flavonoids?

The entourage effect works on the concept that the sum of the parts is greater than each individual part added together separately. This concept not only applies to the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, however. There are also other compounds present in cannabis – and some of these are known as terpenes and flavonoids.

The terpenes and flavonoids have specific roles in a plant, but in essence, they are there to help to protect it from pests and predators whilst helping to attract pollinators. It is the terpenes and flavonoids that give a plant it’s characteristics such as colour, taste, and fragrance.

Terpenes are used commonly in aromatherapy, comprising of the essential oils in a plant.

Flavonoids are linked more to the visual impact of the plant.

Both the terpenes and flavonoids, however, help to contribute towards the entourage effect, helping the cannabinoids to be more effective than they would be if they are taken on their own.

The Difference between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and CBD Isolate

When you are thinking about buying CBD products, you will usually be given the choice of getting full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate. The difference between these different types of cannabis extract relates to the presence of the entourage effect.

Full-spectrum CBD refers to CBD cannabis extract that includes all of the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that are present in the plant. This means that you can take full advantage of the entourage effect, giving you the most effective CBD possible. It should be remembered, however, that this extract will usually contain some THC (although, of course, at legal levels).

Broad-spectrum CBD refers to CBD cannabis extract that contains CBD with most of the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. However, it usually has the THC excluded. This means that you can take advantage of some of the benefits of the entourage effect, but this is useful for those who must avoid THC.

CBD Isolate refers to the extract, which is almost 100% pure CBD. There should be only minuscule levels of the other compounds that are present in the plant. Although this will give you no benefits from the entourage effect, it is ideal for people who must avoid any traces of THC at all costs.

Which Type of CBD Should You Buy?

When you are thinking about buying CBD products, there are two factors that you should consider:

  • The entourage effect, and
  • The delivery method

CBD products can come in several different forms, including hemp flowers to smoke, CBD oil, vaping, edibles, and topical balms and gels.

You can buy CBD hemp flowers which you can then roll and smoke with or without tobacco. People like this method because it allows them to enjoy the taste of the hemp, with the effect of the full spectrum CBD coming in quickly as it is absorbed through the lungs.

CBD oil is normally absorbed through the lining of the mouth and will come into effect quickly (roughly 15 minutes) whereas CBD taken through capsules or edibles will take up to about two hours to come into effect.

Evidence of the Entourage Effect

We still need to do a lot more research to be able to understand the CBD entourage effect better. There are many people, however who have personal experience in the heightened effectiveness of CBD when it is taken alongside the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

Scientists have primarily led research into the effects of cannabis on the human body in Israel. Dr Raphael Mechoula is one of the leading scientists in this field. It was he who first introduced the term ‘entourage effect’ into the world of CBD.

There have been few studies into the entourage effect, however. Those such as the clinical trials of Sativex in 2010 (by GW Pharmaceuticals) suggest that it is important in the effectiveness of a cannabis product.

The trials found that pain-relieving qualities of THC were found to be more effective when taken with CBD that when it was taken without it.

In another study in 2018 (Pamploma, da Silva & Coan), researchers found that in people living with epilepsy, 71% of them found cannabinoid-rich CBD to be effective in reducing the number of seizures that they were experiencing. This compared to 46% of those who had been given a ‘pure’ form of CBD.

Conclusion

The entourage effect is an essential concept in the world of CBD. It is one that plays an important role in helping to decide which CBD products you would choose to buy and use.

The idea that CBD can be made more effective when it is taken together with the other cannabinoids means that you have more options to choose from when you are looking to buy it.

Although there is a degree of preliminary scientific evidence to prove its existence, there is an array of anecdotal evidence. More research is still needed for us to be able to understand how the CBD entourage effect works fully.

By understanding what it is, and how it works, you can make the best choices to get the best CBD products for you.

Jessica Shaw
Author

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