Using the work of renowned researcher Russo, this series of posts will explore the ‘Entourage Effect’ and why it’s biological actions are important to CBD and cannabis users.
An introduction to the Entourage Effect
If you browse through different cannabis e-commerce websites, particularly CBD sales sites, it becomes clear that it is a box-ticking exercise to have basic information about the well-known Entourage Effect. Often presented in the form of a single paragraph, this information usually has the same ring to it regardless of which website it is on. The explanation from one site is a regurgitation of a previous one, until we end up with a relatively universal and inadequate understanding of what the Entourage Effect is.
Considering the Entourage Effect is key to broad-spectrum cannabinoid products, it is surprising companies dedicate so little time to explaining what it is, how it may work, and what evidence there is that it exists.
The standard explanation describes how multiple cannabinoids working in the body together is better than individual cannabinoids, because they each benefit from how the other cannabinoids function. This explanation is clearly too basic for someone who is looking to understand how CBD/cannabis products can interact with their bodies.
What is also interesting to note is that, contradicting the extensive body of evidence supporting the Entourage Effect, there are sources claiming it does not exist. It is the scientific action of the Entourage Effect, the evidence supporting it, and then the combining of these with conflicting opinions, that forms the foundations of this article.
By using the work of the renowned cannabis researcher Ethan Russo, this article describes the functionality of the Entourage Effect based on scientific evidence. It will then compare this evidence with research studies that question its existence.
Background on the Entourage Effect
Since Raphael Mechoulam first isolated the primary cannabinoid that affects the mind back in 1964, the primary focus of the scientific community has been THC. However, in the last 15 years the investigation into other cannabinoids and their effects has gathered pace, particularly Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analgesic effects on the body. An analgesic effect is created when a compound, in this case CBD, interacts with the central nervous system to give relief from the causes of pain.
An analgesic effect is different to the more commonly known anaesthetic effect, where the relief is via masking the pain temporarily rather than treating the source. The analgesic effects of CBD and other cannabinoids have been showcased scientifically on multiple occasions. These effects are described in further detail in the second part of this article.
As research into CBD increased, other cannabinoids then also became the focus of research, like CBDV, THCV, CBG and CBN, all displaying useful effects. It is the synergy between cannabinoids and their demonstrated potential to impact issues such as pain, inflammation, epilepsy and arthritis that form the foundations of the Entourage Effect.
An analogy of the Entourage Effect would be to imagine that you are in your everyday work clothes, yet you decide to get onto a treadmill to exercise. You start to run, but the window is closed, so it gets hot. You have no water, so you get thirsty, and your work shoes begin to hurt your feet, which slows you down further. The Entourage Effect is what happens when you open the window, when you have water to drink, when you wear running shoes and shorts. You are still you, with the same body weight and underlying fitness. However, the combined action and interaction of these items enables you to function on a different (better) level and achieve more than what was possible before.
It is this basic understanding that led Shimon Ben-Shabat to first describe this as an ‘Entourage Effect’ in relation to cannabis back in 1999, and then to cite it as a reason that “this type of synergy may play a role in the widely held view that, in some cases, plants are better drugs than the natural products isolated from them” (S. Ben-Shabat, 1999).
In part two of this post about the Entourage Effect, we will explore in more scientific detail the way cannabinoids bind with the receptors in our bodies. Also, we will describe the ways in which different cannabis compounds interact with each other to exert different therapeutic effects. Find out here if the quest for the Entourage Effect has only just begun.
ŽELJKO PERDIJA M.D.
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