What Is the Entourage Effect & How Does It Work?

June 07, 2023

There’s a reason we talk about all our favorite cannabinoids in our cannabis glossary—they each have their own individual effects when they enter our body. The same is true for the terpenes and flavonoids found in marijuana. While these little compounds are powerful on their own, they are even more powerful together, which is why it’s important to understand the entourage effect. In this guide, we’re going to cover what it is, what it means, how it works, and more.

What Is the Entourage Effect & What Does It Mean?

When you consume marijuana, you’re doing more than consuming THC (as long as you’re consuming a full-spectrum product and not a distillate). There are hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes and more than 20 flavonoids in marijuana, and each one has its own unique chemical properties that have the potential to create a unique effect. 

When those compounds are consumed, their chemical properties are released in our body, and they interact with our body’s systems, including the endocannabinoid system. The combination of all those different interactions create the effect we attribute to our favorite marijuana strain, and it’s called the entourage effect.

How Does the Entourage Effect Work?

Here’s what we know—the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids all have their own unique properties. When you consume marijuana, those properties are absorbed into your body and begin affecting the endocannabinoid system. This system contains a series of our body’s own cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids) and receptors. 

Those receptors, which are designed for our endocannabinoids, also connect with the phytocannabinoids (cannabis cannabinoids) and terpenes. Flavonoids interact with the cannabinoids and terpenes, and the result of these connections between the compounds and our endocannabinoid system is how researchers surmise the entourage effect works. 

Understanding the Entourage Effect & THC

THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that creates that elevated effect we feel when we consume marijuana, but it’s not alone. There are plenty more compounds in the plant, including additional cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. The industry as a whole used to think that the feelings we get when consuming marijuana came solely from THC—but then how could different strains allegedly create different effects? That question has led researchers to look into just how all those other compounds in cannabis work with THC and your body’s composition to create a holistic experience or entourage effect. 

In 2010, a study was performed on patients experiencing cancer pain. One group was given a THC extract—just THC—and the other group was given a 50/50 combination of THC and CBD. The patients who received the half-and-half combo reported less pain. While more clinical research needs to be performed to really understand the entourage effect and THC, what we have seen is keeping scientists interested enough to continue their studies.

Understanding the Entourage Effect & CBD

While CBD doesn’t have the psychoactive effects that THC has, it does seem to interact with our endocannabinoid systems in unique ways. We already know that CBD can bind with receptors in our bodies and change THC’s ability to affect us—a perfect example of CBD’s role in the entourage effect. But researchers are trying to understand if there’s more to this phytocannabinoid than that. 

For example, if CBD is combined with limonene, it may help with some of the symptoms of anxiety. It’s possible that CBD could work with other compounds found in marijuana, creating a plethora of unique responses in our bodies that we call the entourage effect.

Answering FAQs About the Entourage Effect

If you’ve got more questions about the entourage effect, you aren’t alone. We answer them all the time when cannabis enthusiasts shop for marijuana! Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions and our answers:

What are the benefits of the entourage effect?
Scientists have long hypothesized that the entourage effect from the compounds found in marijuana may have therapeutic benefits. For example, terpenes and cannabinoids may work together to decrease inflammation. Certain terpene combinations may have a relaxing effect, which could, in theory, help with symptoms of anxiety. 

The problem with these hypotheses is just that—we haven’t done enough research to prove that the entourage effect can, in fact, work like that. Because of this, any entourage effect you may feel may be simply particular to your body, and it’s best to purchase products based on what you feel rather than what anyone tells you you will feel.

What is an example of the entourage effect?
The simplest example of the entourage effect is when THC and CBD are combined, CBD seems to affect how the body reacts to the THC. In 2011, the British Journal of Pharmacology also found that the combination of terpenes and cannabinoids may have therapeutic potential in the treatment of pain, inflammation, and more. 

Is the entourage effect scientifically proven?
While we have some anecdotal evidence that indicates the entourage effect is real, we do not yet have definitive scientific proof. To get it, double-blind clinical trials would need to be performed to explore the effects of terpenes or cannabinoids (or both) compared to THC alone. 

Learning More About the Entourage Effect

Because the entourage effect is entirely based on your body’s response to the compounds in cannabis, the best way to experience it is by consuming your favorite marijuana product (assuming it’s not just THC distillate). If you want to experience different cannabis strains and products, find a dispensary near you and check out what they have in stock. Of course, if you have any questions, ask one of our budtenders.

Please consume responsibly. This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.  State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.

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