Cannabis: a complex plant used for more than 2,500 years with multiple health benefits and discoveries that still challenge scientists. You already know the two most well-known compounds of the plant, THC and CBD. Still, the plant also produces a wide range of additional compounds that appear to contribute to the overall effects of a particular strain.

The “entourage effect” refers to the idea that multiple cannabis compounds interact with each other to provide unique effects and health benefits. In other words, chemical compounds can act synergistically when consumed together, to provide an entirely different, more potent effect.

New research from the University of Arizona Health Sciences (UAHS) has provided additional evidence about the existence of the entourage effect and its properties.

What is the Entourage Effect?

In addition to the more than 100 plant terpenes that can be produced by diverse strains of cannabis and other plants, scientists have so far identified over 100 cannabinoids that the cannabis plant produces.

Scientists have wondered whether these compounds interact with one another in the body and whether these interactions are potent enough to control the physical effects experienced by cannabis users. This theory of interaction is called the entourage effect and has been validated by several pre-clinical studies. 

However, the effect is still controversial, with other research claiming no conclusive evidence for this action in the body.

The entourage effect was first theorized in the late 1990s after a group of scientists found that a number of fatty acids can boost the activity of endogenous cannabinoids. These compounds do not influence cannabinoid receptors on their own, but they can amplify receptor activation when combined with naturally occurring cannabinoids.

The entourage effect theory has gained much attention in the cannabis industry, as advocates claim that whole-plant extracts are more potent than isolating specific cannabinoids like THC or CBD.

What does the New Research say about the Entourage Effect?

The research suggests that terpenes, molecules that offer cannabis flavor and aroma could be a promising new target for pain-relieving therapies, requiring lower doses and having fewer adverse effects. 

A 2020 study revealed that terpenes combined with cannabinoids could actively aid in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.

The 2021 research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, discovered that terpenes mimic the effects of cannabinoids, which can reduce pain. The researchers found that terpenes can increase the pain-relieving effects and therapeutic properties of cannabinoids without additional side effects when combined in mice models. These terpenes also proved to have some cannabis-like effects when used alone.

The study focused on the terpenes alpha-humulene, geraniol, linalool, and beta-pinene and evaluated each terpene individually and in combination with a synthetic cannabinoid, WIN55,212-2, using both in vitro cell tests and in vivo mice models. Just like THC, all four terpenes tested activated CB1R in lab tests, which is the most prevalent cannabinoid receptor in the human body.

The scientists hope that this line of research will eventually result in the creation of new cannabis medications that maximize the therapeutic advantages of cannabis while minimizing the number of psychoactive cannabinoids like THC. 

The Major Role of Terpenes and Cannabinoids in Cannabis

The hypothesis of the entourage effect is clearly explained in a review that analyzes the advantages of some cannabis compounds and, based on their pharmacology, describes their possible synergistic effects. 

For example, THC combined with the cannabinoid CBN may have stronger sedative effects. Moreover, THC, myrcene, and caryophyllene can also help treat chronic pain and inflammation while assisting with insomnia. 

And that’s why many users prefer bud over extracts because of the variety of cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis flowers. Because there are so many different compounds with unique properties, when combined, the results appear to be beneficial for numerous conditions.

Again, the entourage effect is still just a theory. But as terpenes and new cannabinoids attract consumers’ and scientists’ interest, more discoveries are still to be revealed.