Let’s Talk about the Entourage Effect (Again)

We’ve written about the entourage effect before, but it’s a subject worthy of further discussion. The idea that medicinal substances are more effective in their whole, natural state is nothing new. That’s the very premise of whole plant medicine, which has been around for centuries. But breaking through the clever marketing spin and jargon surrounding the whole-plant-versus-isolates debate isn’t always easy. So let’s talk about the entourage effect.

The Concept

If you’ve read any of the posts on our blog or done any kind of dive into the world of cannabis at all, you already know this is one complex little plant. There are hundreds upon hundreds of chemical compounds that we know of, and many hundreds more that we don’t. It’s these compounds that give cannabis its unique appearance, aromas, flavors, and effects. And the combination of these different compounds creates what’s known as the entourage effect. It’s a term used to describe the theory that a plant’s chemical compounds work better together to promote healing.

The term itself is credited to Rafael Mechoulam, an Israeli chemist who identified THC as the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. He conducted a study that looked at interactions between different cannabis compounds, and he found that some cannabinoids created no effect on their own. But they could influence and enhance the effects of other cannabinoids.

In other words, the effects of terpenes and cannabinoids and other compounds that are consumed together are greater together because of their unique multiplying effect. And while anecdotal evidence and isolated studies supports this, clinical trials are still needed. It’s true that patients tend to opt for medicines that are created with the whole plant, but there are skeptics who maintain the entourage effect is nothing more than a sales ploy.

The Issue

If you’re choosing full-spectrum cannabis products, you’re avoiding the potential issue that arises with CBD and THC-isolate products, which is no entourage effect. Isolating to a single chemical in a plant is a standard practice in modern medicine, and some of that stems from rigid regulations and standards. After all, it’s easier to measure, dose, and track a single compound. When it happens with cannabis, you’ll still enjoy the benefits of the isolated compound – usually CBD or THC – but there are no complementary compounds that enhance the medical or recreational effects. It’s believed that whole plant medicine is superior to isolates for four reasons:

  • It can reach multiple targets in the body, making it a multipurpose medicine
  • It can help improve absorption of key active ingredients, improving efficacy
  • It can penetrate the defense mechanisms of certain kinds of bacteria
  • It can help minimize negative side effects like anxiety or paranoia

Full-spectrum products also tend to be more flavorful and aromatic.

The Full-Spectrum Approach

Until those clinical studies are underway, the entourage effect will stay somewhat controversial. Some people are hearty believers, and others remain skeptics. At this point, the most effective thing cultivators can do is be very clear about the chemical breakdown of their products. KYND creates an array of full-spectrum cannabis products, and we use cannabis analysis as a tool to understand the precise composition of everything we make. Every batch is tested at multiple points, and our expert laboratory team has years of experience creating formulas that account for the inherent variability of cannabis plants.

Making the decision for full spectrum or isolated products is personal. As with all cannabis products, a little experimentation may be in order to decide what works best for your needs. Understanding the differences and knowing a little bit about the entourage effect is a good place to start your research. And, as always, don’t hesitate to ask a budtender for guidance.