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By Beth Garretson, PhD Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, Torrey Holistics

Dr. Beth is a cannabis science specialist and private cannabis consultant. She has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and is a cancer survivor. She is passionate about cannabis science guiding customers through the variety of options available at Torrey Holistics.

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What is the Entourage Effect?

In the cannabis community, the term “entourage effect” is used everywhere. A myriad of products, pamphlets, and websites advertise the term as the most important defining characteristic in a cannabis purchase. But what, exactly, does it mean?

The entourage effect describes how each individual molecule (CBD+THC+CBN+… etc.) in the cannabis plant combines and interacts with one another to create an effect that is “greater than the sum of its parts.” In other words, the synergistic effect produced by the combination of cannabis-derived molecules produce a more powerful effect than a single molecule alone.

A key difference between single-molecule versus “whole plant” cannabis lies within

the library of therapeutic compounds expressed in a whole cannabis plant. To understand this, think of the alphabet. There are 26 letters that combine in various ways to create the words and sentences that make up the English language; without this variety, we wouldn’t be able to communicate. Similarly, molecules found in cannabis combine to create different effects. A single molecule is like using only one letter to communicate…

Aaaaa, aaa aaa aaa aaaaa?

Hello, how are you today?

As you can see, using the whole alphabet is much more effective at conveying meaning than using a single letter alone.

This same concept applies to cannabis. It is not just one molecule doing the work, it is an entourage of molecules that add up to what is known scientifically as the “entourage effect.”

The Entourage Effect and Personal Preference for Consumers

There is still much to understand about the entourage effect, particularly seeing as there are many different diseases that can be affected by the synergistic interaction between the 100+ cannabis compounds — known as “cannabinoids” — produced by the plant. With that being said, existing research shows that this is a measurable effect in many cases. There is strong evidence of the medical value of consuming individual cannabinoids like THC and CBD, but scientists are now looking at the impact of more than just these two molecules alone. For instance, they are just beginning to quantify the presence of other cannabinoids like Delta-8 THC, CBN, CBG and THCv in a laboratory setting, and are finding that even the aromatic compounds produced by the plant play an important role in this interactive process.

So does this mean you need every single molecule expressed in cannabis to get the entourage effect? Probably not. So what are the key molecules, and how are they combined to achieve specific medicinal benefits? We don’t know yet, but we do know that you need more than just THC and CBD alone, and this helps understand why there are so many overwhelming options in a legal and licensed cannabis dispensary like Torrey Holistics.

When you look at the wide selection cannabis products and their respective effects, the entourage effect can become even more confusing. How can one plant be used to ease the symptoms of pain, insomnia, cancer, and still be a fun recreational product? The answer is the entourage effect. There are hundreds of different cannabis plants that become refined into different ingestible products. You can smoke or vape, place drops under your tongue, drink it, eat it and even rub it all over your body! There no single cannabis product that perfect solution for every single medical or recreational customer.

When I get a new cannabis client, they often ask me, “What do you recommend for [[insert medical complaint]]?” I always have the same answer, “It depends, let me ask you some questions…” I often use the example of a library to help new clients understand a cannabis dispensary shopping experience. If you walk into a library and ask the librarian, “what book do you recommend?” The librarian is going to pause, and start asking questions about your reading experience and preferences. If you dislike crime and prefer science fiction, this preference is important in your book selection. The same applies to cannabis, I dislike high energy sativa strains like Green Crack and prefer relaxing indica strains like Skywalker OG. Using cannabis to address specific needs is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

The Entourage Effect is Not Necessarily Cannabis-Exclusive

The term “entourage effect” is usually exclusive to the cannabis community. The term not used in any other scientific or medical setting. But with modern medicinal practices, the concept applies to many treatments. For example, let’s look at a typical chemotherapy treatment. There isn’t one single chemotherapy drug — there are hundreds of chemotherapeutics available, and an oncologist will prescribe a cocktail of them for each individual clinical patient. Oftentimes they will prescribe more drugs to help control the side effects of treatment. The patient will then use over the counter medications for other side effects, and a holistic approach to help enhance medications for the side effects they are experiencing. The combination of chemotherapy + prescriptions + over-the-counter medications + health supplements is the perfect example of the “entourage effect” being used in a traditional medical setting. An anti-nausea prescription may not be enough to prevent chemo-induced nausea, but a combination of medication + ginger tea + massage therapy + motion sickness acupressure is “greater than the sum of its parts.” Just like cannabis, combining the different therapeutic effects of the individual cannabis molecules will provide an enhanced way to achieve the desired outcome.

The Entourage Effect for Recreation or Relief

The entourage effect is what drives so many different experiences for the cannabis user. Some strains may produce an energizing effect, whereas others may promote relaxation and sleepiness. Selecting a different cannabis strain or product depends on the experience you are looking for. Each strain will express cannabinoids and other compounds at different levels, driving the experience towards uplifting, relaxing, or something in between. Thankfully, with the legalization of recreational cannabis and the rigorous testing required for legal products to be sold, these individual molecules are required to be quantified and labeled on your cannabis product. The options people gravitate towards when looking for relief from various medical issues is oftentimes a different set of molecules than those found in products tailored to the recreational user. Sometimes they overlap, but if you are looking for relief without the “high,” most likely you will use a different combination and ratio of molecules in your cannabis produces. Just like a doctor individualizing your treatment plan, you need to tailor your cannabis experience to address your personal needs. This is why it is important to understand the entourage effect. When in doubt, talk to the consultants behind the counter at Torrey Holistics and explain what medicinal or recreational effects you desire from a cannabis product. Or attend one of Torrey Holistics free education events to learn more about the specific products that would work for you and your personal needs.

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