Entourage Effect
5 min

What Is The Entourage Effect?

5 min

Experts credit the entourage effect as one of the key players behind CBD's potential benefits. If you're not familiar with this concept, allow us to walk you through so you can utilise CBD or cannabis to the fullest.

Try doing a Google search on CBD oil and its potential benefits. You’ll likely come across articles claiming that the full-spectrum variant is the best way to go.

Among the three types of cannabidiol extracts, full-spectrum CBD is the only one that contains THC, cannabis’ psychotropic compound. However, it carries no more than 0.2 or 0.3% THC, which is unable to cause a high.

But why is full-spectrum CBD oil the most recommended variant? Experts credit the entourage effect.

If you’re hearing about this for the first time and scratching your head, fret not. This article will take you on a deep dive into what the entourage effect is, its potential benefits, and how to achieve it with CBD oil and cannabis.

The Entourage Effect: One of Cannabis’ Great Mysteries

The Entourage Effect

The entourage effect is a theory of chemical synergy. It suggests that cannabinoids, terpenes, and other cannabis plant chemicals work together to produce more pronounced effects. For example, THC and CBD are thought to be more effective when taken together in certain circumstances.

The entourage effect theory came into existence in 1998, courtesy of Israeli cannabis chemist Dr Raphael Mechoulam. It basically states that cannabis’ perceived benefits result from the full cannabis plant phytocomplex, aka the full range of active chemical compounds within.

Now, for CBD oil users, the idea of taking THC along with their cannabidiol might cause concern. Does this mean you will have to experience psychotropic effects? In what way does it benefit CBD?

What Is the Entourage Effect?

Let’s delve deeper into the nitty-gritty details of the entourage effect as it relates to both cannabinoids and terpenes.

Entourage Effect and Cannabinoids

Entourage Effect and Cannabinoids

Individual cannabinoids produce unique effects. However, when combined, the full suite of outcomes is thought to be more comprehensive than with a simple compound.

Let’s take THC and CBD for example. A study (Johnson et al., 2010) focusing on various human conditions has compared the effects of these cannabinoids in isolation versus in combination, finding the THC-CBD combo to be more effective.

This is even reflected in the creation of Sativex, an FDA-approved drug containing both THC and CBD that is available in over 25 countries. Sativex is one of very few approved cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals, and has been studied extensively.

A 2018 study (Cuttler et al., 2018) on cannabis and negative affect tested both THC and CBD for their perceived impact on mood. Ultimately, the participants perceived the greatest mood-related improvements when puffing on a strain with a high-CBD (>9.5%), Low-THC (<5.5%) content.

These are but a few examples of possible cannabinoid synergy in scientific settings, and current findings have made multiple-cannabinoid preparations more popular than ever before.

Related article

Understanding The Importance Of Different CBD:THC Ratios

Entourage Effect and Terpenes

Entourage Effect and Terpenes

Apart from cannabinoids, cannabis terpenes are responsible for fuelling the entourage effect. This is evident by sampling different strains. Why else would two strains with the same cannabinoid content produce totally unique effects? Terpenes are responsible for weed’s dynamic flavour profile, but they display physiological effects of their own as well.

Let's take a look at the association between marijuana and sleep. Over the decades, experts have established a pretty strong connection between the two. As far back as 1972 (Pivik et al., 1972), researchers found that acute exposure to THC potentially helped people fall asleep faster. Other findings include decreased waking after sleep onset and increased slow-wave sleep (aka deep sleep).

But is it only THC that’s at work in promoting sleep? Other studies suggest otherwise.

Dr Ethan Russo’s oft-cited “Taming THC” review (Russo, 2011), published in 2011, highlights the sleep-inducing potential of myrcene, a cannabis terpene found in hops and other plants. Russo credits this terpene as the potential culprit behind the “couch-lock” phenomenon associated with marijuana.

Another terpene that’s said to play a role in the entourage effect is caryophyllene. It’s the reason cannabis has a distinct spicy and musky aroma, and, as studies suggest, it possesses soothing and protective qualities that make it ideal for holistic users.

Related article

How To Use Cannabis To Improve Sleep

What Does the Entourage Effect Feel Like?

What Does the Entourage Effect Feel Like?

The entourage effect will, of course, make you feel different depending on the compounds in question. With that said, the objective is either to enhance the effects of the primary compound, or to temper its side effects or adverse outcomes.

A classic example of this can be seen in the interaction between CBD and THC. Multiple studies, including one from 2013 (Niesink & van Laar, 2013), reference CBD’s potential to limit the negative effects of THC. In general, CBD is thought to curb THC's psychoactivity when taken in combination, making for a smoother and more enjoyable high. However, not all findings support this.

A study from 2019 (Solowij et al., 2019) on 36 individuals found a high-THC, low-CBD combination to result in greater perceived intoxication than with THC alone. This isn’t confirmation that this is true, but it suggests that dose and concentration play major roles in how one experiences the entourage effect. Not only that, but this study utilised vaporization as the intake method, which could also potentially affect results.

Does the Entourage Effect Get You High?

Does the Entourage Effect Get You High?

Again, it depends on the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes.

As mentioned earlier, THC when combined with the terpene myrcene may be responsible for the couch-lock effect that many recreational users enjoy. In that case, you could very well enjoy the plant’s psychotropic effects in full swing.

On the other hand, a CBD product with just a small amount of THC (no more than 0.3%) will not get you high. Instead, you’ll mostly feel cannabidiol’s perceived effects.

How To Achieve the Entourage Effect

There are several ways to achieve the entourage effect, but we’ll focus on two. The first involves the use of full-spectrum CBD products, and the second involves traditional cannabis flower.

Full-Spectrum CBD Oil

Full-Spectrum CBD Oil

We briefly touched on full-spectrum CBD in our intro. As mentioned, this CBD oil variant harnesses a small amount of THC (well below the intoxicating threshold), allowing it to subtly support CBD without getting users high. Furthermore, full-spectrum CBD also contains small amounts of beneficial cannabinoids, like CBN, CBG, and CBC.

And it’s not just cannabinoids in full-spectrum CBD oil either; terpenes play their part as well. Whether it’s myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, pinene, or various others, they can influence the overall effects of a given CBD product. Various flavonoids may also be featured within a full-spectrum CBD oil.

In contrast, broad-spectrum CBD oil contains all of the above compounds except THC. There is absolutely no presence of the psychotropic compound in broad-spectrum formulas; however, users can still benefit from the interplay between other phytochemicals. CBD isolate, the third main type of CBD oil, contains only CBD. As a result, users will only benefit from the effects of CBD, without the influence of the entourage effect.

A scientific example of the potential efficacy of full-spectrum CBD can be seen in a 2015 study (Gallily et al., 2015) on lab mice.

The study first examined the effects of CBD isolates, which ultimately did not show a clear indication of cannabidiol’s perceived ability to block the sensation of discomfort. That was not the case with full-spectrum CBD, which “provided a clear correlation” between the said beneficial responses and the doses administered.

The main drawback of full-spectrum CBD is that there is a very small chance it may render a positive drug test because of the minute THC content. If this is something you need to avoid for employment purposes, it would be best to stick with broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolates.

Entourage Effect With Weed

Entourage Effect With Weed

If you opt for consuming weed to achieve the entourage effect, you’re likely better off vaping rather than smoking. The main reasons: temperature and combustion.

When you smoke a joint or use a bong, you heat cannabis plant matter to the point of combustion, and end up burning off a fair share of the bud’s precious terpenes and cannabinoids.

But with vaping, you heat the buds just right to retain the full terpene and cannabinoid profile. Some devices even come with precise temperature controls to allow you to target certain cannabinoids or terpenes specifically. Ultimately, you get the most out of your experience while preserving the synergistic relationship that enhances the effects of your beloved herb.

Related article

The Advantages of Vaping: Why It's The Smarter Choice

Is the Entourage Effect Real?

Is the Entourage Effect Real?

Right now, it is too early to say whether the entourage effect, at least in clinical contexts, is quantifiable. More comprehensive research needs to be done to study all the possible interactions.

The entourage effect is promising, in theory. However, it is also important to note the criticisms against it. Because there isn’t sufficient evidence to make solid claims, some experts see it as a marketing ploy to bolster the cannabis industry.

With that said, you experience the entourage effect to some degree whenever you smoke your favourite strain. Those terpenes and cannabinoids in your bud work together to provide the specific high that made you fall in love with that particular Haze, Kush, etc. Whether or not “entourage effect” is the best term to describe this relationship is up for debate.

Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
Miguel Antonio Ordoñez
With an AB Mass Media and Communications degree, Miguel Ordoñez is a veteran writer of 13 years and counting and has been covering cannabis-related content since 2017. Continuous, meticulous research along with personal experience has helped him build a deep well of knowledge on the subject.
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