By now, most cannabis curious people have at least heard the term “entourage effect” but what does it really mean and where did it come from? Does it play a role when using CBDa? We believe so, but the science is yet unsettled, despite many indicators it does play a major role. There is an amazing paper that was published very recently that indicates just that, especially as it relates to CBDa. We will attempt to discuss that paper in a later blog post but for now, I think it’s worth touching back upon the term entourage effect, itself.
To begin, where did the term entourage effect come from? Mostly we hear it as an umbrella term for the pronounced difference in effects most people experience when consuming a full or broad spectrum cannabis product versus a singular cannabinoid in isolation. In anecdotal reports, the difference is stark and most often, the full or broad spectrum experience is preferred by consumers for various reasons. Entourage effect is an extremely important topic for further study and I’m happy to say that it is more often being included in cannabinoid research projects… but, surprising to many, it is not exactly what the term entourage effect was first used to describe.
In the second half of the 20th century, most would argue the beginning of modern scientific understanding of cannabis, Dr. Vincenzo di Marzo and Dr. Raphael Mechoulam were just starting to identify and study the endogenous cannabinoid system (often referred to as the ECS, it is the system within our body that makes its own and receives cannabinoids from plants). They saw large groups of endogenous cannabinoid-like compounds that would always travel with the primary endogenous cannabinoids they had already identified. They speculated that these other compounds, although they couldn’t identify their specific activity, had some additive value to the primary endogenous cannabinoids. Further study did yield some specific activity for these “entourage” compounds which lead to some detraction from the original use of the term.
So, although the term “entourage effect” lost some of its original context, it was picked up by many people in the medical cannabis space as a way to describe the effects of full/broad spectrum products and extracts. It seemed to fit. There were these key players (THCa and CBDa), which occur consistently in high concentrations in modern cannabis, and then there are all these other cannabinoids (CBC, THCv, CBDv, CBG, etc.) that are usually present in the plant, but in much lower concentrations than CBDa and THCa. It just made sense that these “minor” cannabinoids played a roll in the observed and experienced effects of full/broad spectrum products and extracts, despite these roles not being clearly defined. As cannabis research progressed, nearing the end of the 20th century and into the 21st, we see more and more experiments designed to identify and record the differences in activity and effect of minor plant-based cannabinoids when present with the major phytocannabinoids.
There is so much more to learn and we look forward to exploring it here with you, so keep your eyes out for more posts on this topic and all that goes with it.