There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the ‘entourage effect’ in the cannabis industry.
But is there solid evidence to support it? In this article, we’ll take a look at the evidence for the entourage effect and how it could shape the legal cannabis industry.
What is the Entourage Effect?
The entourage effect describes a phenomenon in which all of the compounds in cannabis, including cannabinoids and terpenes, act in synergy to produce a specific psychoactive or therapeutic effect. It’s why different strains have different effects—because each strain produces a slightly different combination of compounds.
The entourage effect was first described by European researchers in a 1998 paper. However, the term was popularized by Dr. Ethan Russo—a neurology physician who has spent his career conducting medical research with cannabis—and his 2011 paper, “Taming THC.”
Is the Entourage Effect Real?
One study showed that cannabis extract—a concentrated blend of all the cannabinoids and terpenes that a particular strain has to offer—is superior to isolated THC as a preclinical breast cancer treatment. There is also a convincing amount of data suggesting that terpenes found in cannabis can modulate the effect of certain cannabinoids.
But there is still some debate as to whether the entourage effect is real. Much of the doubt comes from the fact that there simply isn’t enough clinical evidence to make clear recommendations for specific combinations of compounds.
Double-blind clinical trials are considered the gold standard for medical research. These types of studies are important for ruling out the placebo effect. If you expect a specific strain to increase your appetite or relieve your anxiety, then you’re likely to experience just that.
To date, there aren’t any such studies looking at the effects of specific cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids other than THC and CBD. But according to Dr. Ethan Russo, “Cannabis synergy via the ‘entourage effect’ is currently sufficiently strong as to suggest that one molecule is unlikely to match the therapeutic and even industrial potential of Cannabis itself as a phytochemical factory.”
Looking Towards the Future: Customized Cannabis
As more research emerges in the future, growers and producers will be able to tweak cannabinoid and terpene mixtures to target increasingly more specific desired effects.
Currently, most people view full-spectrum extracts as superior, especially for medicinal use. But not all synergies are created equal. While one compound might enhance another, another compound might dampen its effect. In that sense, whole-plant extracts are like throwing a jumble of compounds at your body’s cannabinoid receptors and hoping for the best.
With more research, scientists will be able to identify specific combinations of purified cannabinoids and terpenes that give reliable and consistent effects. The future of cannabis consumption, both recreational and medicinal, could be customized formulations.
The Importance of Cannabinoid and Terpene Testing
The entourage effect highlights the importance of cannabinoid and terpene testing for cannabis growers and producers. Consumers are increasingly interested in the identity of their cannabis strains. That means they’re looking for detailed information about cannabinoid and terpene profiles which can only be obtained by comprehensive cannabis testing.
The entourage effect could change the way people think about cannabis. As more evidence emerges for this phenomenon, detailed cannabinoid and terpene testing will become even more important for the cannabis industry.