Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two best-known compounds in the cannabis plant. The first is psychoactive while the second is said to have medicinal properties. But there's much more than THC and CBD in cannabis. This plant contains a multitude of chemical elements which, although small in quantity, would have equally interesting medicinal potential. The combination of these different components of cannabis would be much more effective than isolated cannabinoids. We then speak of the entourage effect.
Cannabis oil: brief reminder
As the name suggests, cannabis oil is extracted from cannabis sativa. It has a high concentration of THC. It therefore causes psychotropic effects. This is why it falls under the Opium Act.
But cannabis oil doesn't just contain THC. It also contains CBD, as well as other cannabinoids including cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), etc. In addition to these cannabinoids, cannabis oil also contains terpenes. These are aromatic molecules which give cannabis oil its specific smell and which positively reinforce the medicinal properties of the other components of the plant.
Entourage effect: what is it?
The entourage effect refers to the synergistic interaction between the various components of cannabis to exert distinct effects. This mechanism claims that substances, when working in unison, are more effective than when taken in isolation. This is the case with the interaction between THC and CBD. If THC exerts psychoactive effects, which can go as far as paranoia and anxiety, CBD would be able to mediate the unwanted effects of THC. The combination of CBD and THC would therefore make it possible to obtain more balanced effects from cannabis.
How would this be beneficial?
The entourage effect opens the way to new approaches to the use of cannabis in the therapeutic field. If in the past, the role of cannabis terpenes was limited to an odoriferous and flavoring function, now these molecules are of increasing interest to scientists. Indeed, according to a study conducted by pharmacologist Dr. Ethan Russo, terpenoids and cannabinoids work together to increase the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Among the beneficial entourage effects, the phytocannabinoid-terpenoid combination would, for example, inhibit bacterial infection with staphylococcus aureus. The synergy between the substances would also help treat mood disorders, anxiety, depression, dependence, drug addiction...
Controversy surrounding the entourage effect
It is important to emphasize that the research relating to the entourage effect is not conclusive. Science still lacks data to prove this concept. For now, the entourage effect is considered a theory. So, although some studies support this hypothesis, it remains controversial.
The controversial entourage effect is all the more fueled when a study conducted in 2019 revealed that terpenes do not interact directly with CB1 and CB2 receptors. This suggests that if the entourage effect does indeed exist, this mechanism does not work at the level of CB1 and CB2 receptors.