Cannabis is an infinitely complex plant.
It contains more than 400 chemical compounds, only a fraction of which have been studied. These compounds give cannabis its flavor, potency, aroma, and appearance.
They determine the experience of each unique strain, and when they come together, they create something known as the entourage effect.
The basic concept is that the chemical compounds found in cannabis plants work together to maximize their therapeutic potential.
But how does that work? Let’s take a deep dive into this naturally occurring weed phenomenon.
Photography by Georgia Love for Herb
Some argue that consuming the whole plant is better for a patient than taking an extract of a single chemical from that same plant.
The term entourage effect was first introduced into the cannabis dictionary in a paper published in 1999 by Rafael Mechoulam, the Israeli chemist. He first discovered THC as the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
In his study, Mechoulam and fellow chemist Shimon Ben-Shabat examined the interactions between compounds in the cannabis plant. They found that certain cannabinoids could help other cannabinoids in the plant work more effectively.
To put it simply, when speaking with Scientific American in 2017, Chris Emerson, a chemist for Level Brands, described the entourage effect as “the sum of all the parts that leads to the magic or power of cannabis.”
In cannabis terms, this means full-spectrum products do not isolate a single component but instead use all of the plant’s components to provide a more balanced and complete result.
Triggering the entourage effect, then, will not depend on you. It will happen naturally as different terpenes and cannabinoids, all-natural to the plant, mingle and complement each other. Going for a brand with a reputation for natural ingredients and interesting blends, like DazeD8, can get you to understand the entourage effect in no time.
Take a look at this DazeD8 Cross White Runtz disposable. You have the certifiably single source, sweet natural White Runtz extract, there for you to combine with either a hybrid Gelato strain or an Indica Zkittlez strain.
You’ve got a positively loaded mix of terpenes there, but the punch is ought to be the THC-O + THCv + HHC-O live resin that’s the secret sauce to this 3 hit combo. Hit one chamber at a time or both chambers to cross-breed the strains, get to toy with the recipe to your liking, that’s what the entourage effect is all about.
For your peace of mind, full-spectrum doesn’t necessarily mean that a product has intoxicating properties just because it carries THC.
Let’s remember that cannabis products in the United States must not exceed 0.3% THC. This trace amount of THC is not enough to get you high but provides that precious entourage effect to help you reach your desired experience.
At the most basic level, the benefits of the entourage effect can be understood in terms of the most well-known compounds: THC and CBD.
These compounds have an inverse relationship, meaning the higher the concentration of THC in a given strain, the lower the levels of CBD will be.
But THC and CBD also have another effect on each other which plays out after they’re consumed. THC will cause a head high that may lead to anxiety and paranoia; CBD helps mitigate that anxiety with its mellow body effects.
The reason for this lies in how these chemicals react on a molecular level.
Researchers discovered that the terpene linalool combined with CBD could be an effective anti-anxiety medication. On the other hand, combining linalool with THC makes for a potent sedative.
In contrast, the alpha-pinene terpene combined with THC helps retain acetylcholine, a molecule that aids in memory retention and could help reduce short-term memory loss caused by THC.
In a sense, isolated cannabinoids can be thought of as medicine with a list of fine-print side effects. These effects could be reduced or enhanced when paired with other chemical compounds that naturally appear in cannabis plants.
While these studies show promise for the future of the entourage effect, far more research is needed before we can say anything for sure. Especially the kind of research that involves clinical trials–in which medicines are tested on human patients, something that researchers have been unable to do because of prohibition.