What is the Entourage Effect?
The Entourage Effect is the mechanism in which cannabinoids act synergistically with each other and numerous other compounds within the plant, such as terpenes, flavonoids and resins. The Entourage Effect was coined in the late 1990s by the famous Rafael Mechuolam, Shimon Ben-Shabat and their group of Israeli researchers.
The discovery of cannabinoids’ ability to enhance and compliment each other has led to advances in extraction and formulation strategies. While the term ‘Entourage Effect’ is primarily used in the plant-based medicine industry, this phenomenon is thought to occur in a wide range of botanical medicines.
How does the Entourage Effect work?
In the realms of recreational plant use, the Entourage Effect refers to its potential to enhance the effects of the cannabinoid THC and contribute to the psychoactive and somatic experiences.
However, in the medical setting, it pertains to the synergistic action of cannabinoids and other plant compounds. At a physiological level, combinations of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids may be able to increase the activity of endogenous cannabinoids and interact with the body’s Endocannabinoid System.
Cannabinoids working together
Additionally, cannabinoids are thought to have a symbiotic action, the most well-known example of this is the action of one non-intoxicating cannabinoid mitigating the psychoactive effects of another. Terpenes also have their role in the Entourage Effect: to name a couple, 𝛽-myrcene as an anti-inflammatory and linalool with anticonvulsant activity.
You could imagine the action of the Entourage Effect to be much like an orchestra. Each musician has skill individually, their talent can operate in isolation or can have an entirely different impact when combined with other musicians in the orchestra.
Isolated cannabinoids vs formulations: side effects
For plant-based medicine patients, the choice between isolated treatments and full or broad-spectrum formulations primarily is determined by the presenting symptoms, and of course by the considerations of the prescribing doctor.
But like all medications, there can be side-effects of plant-based medicine. For example, while an intoxicating cannabinoid in isolation may have the potential to increase appetite or hunger, it is also commonly associated with side effects such as paranoia and a subjective high.
When taking formulations or whole-plant extracts, patients are ingesting a range of carefully measured cannabinoids, terpenes and other plant compounds. By choosing formulations, prescribers can select products that are most suitable to the patient’s needs, in doing so utilising the potential benefits of the Entourage Effect.
Research on the Entourage Effect
Research to understand how the Entourage Effect works and how we can effectively harness it is just beginning to be uncovered. But it’s not all good results: in contrast, a recent study has reported no differences when administering terpenes with phytocannabinoids in the context of activating cannabinoid receptors.
While there is little solid evidence for either side of the debate, an appetite for information on the topic continues to fuel clinical research.
DISCLAIMER: Cannabinoid products are unapproved therapeutic goods, which means they have not been assessed by the TGA for safety, quality or effectiveness. However, where clinically appropriate, there are pathways for doctors to access cannabinoid products for their patients. Note that plant-based medicine does not have therapeutic effects for all patients and may not be medically appropriate for you or your condition. It is always important to check with your doctor before considering plant-based medicine as a treatment option for you, especially if you are already taking other medications. as some patients may experience side effects. None of the content here is an encouragement or inducement to try or use plant-based medicine, and is for educational and informational purposes only.