By Jon Cooper, ebbu CEO
Cannabis consumers have had to learn a lot of new lingo in recent years. From shatter, wax and sauce to micro-dosing and decarboxylation, much of this vernacular is tied to the flood of products entering the market.
And then there’s this trendy term: “The entourage effect.”
To learn more, we need to dive into some serious plant science.
Cannabis and hemp plants contain various chemical compounds. The two most prevalent are cannabinoids and terpenes.
The best-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), but scientists have identified more than 100 others.
Terpenes, which are found in many other plants, give cannabis strains their distinctive flavors and odors, from sweet and fruity to musky and fuel-tinged.
Cannabinoids and terpenes bind to chemical receptors located throughout the body, what’s known as the endocannabinoid system. Each cannabinoid and terpene has a specific biochemical effect on the receptors, which send messages to various parts of the body, regulating temperature, pain, nausea, anxiety and more.
While there are some cannabis products that contain only one cannabinoid (think CBD gummies or THC concentrates), the true power of these compounds is tapped into when they are consumed in tandem.
In ebbu’s laboratory, we have quantified the effects of individual cannabinoids and terpenes on individual receptor cells via their reactivity, and then studied the activity in those cells when hit with a formulation that contains two or more cannabis compounds. We found that different combinations result in extremely different reactions from the cells.
This, of course, is the “entourage effect,” and we are definitely not the first to observe it.
The first cannabis researchers to use the phrase in 1998 were led by the legendary Israeli biochemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. Ten years later, Dr. Ethan Russo reported that, “Secondary compounds in cannabis may enhance the beneficial effects of THC.” In 2011, Dr. Russo wrote a journal article titled Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects, and the phrase began picking up steam.
Russo said that even on their own, terpenes can provide pain relief and help reduce inflammation, as well as decrease anxiety and depression. But when combined with cannabinoids, the effects of both compounds are amplified.
When consuming full-spectrum products, the cannabinoids act on different receptors in the human body at the same time, resulting in what is essentially chemical chaos. Some of the compounds are helpful for a condition or achieving a certain state of being, but other effects experienced from whole-plant consumption are either undesirable or unnecessary.
A consumer might experiment with a strain that is high-CBD or high-THC, but products infused with whole plants will always be delivered inconsistently because each plant, even from the same strain, has a slightly different combination of cannabinoids and terpenes.
ebbu’s approach is to dial in the best formulations of a limited number of cannabinoids and terpenes, to take advantage of the entourage effect and produce the most effective, consistent mood sensations and experiences, as well as health benefits. To do this, we have tested many cannabinoid and terpene formulations on both receptor cells and in human trials.
As we and other scientists continue to study how cannabinoids and terpenes work alone and in concert, we will get a clearer picture of how the entourage effect can best be leveraged to help medical cannabis patients and provide safe, consistent and reliable experiences for adult-use consumers.