There is a basic theory in cannabis pharmacology, known as the entourage effect, which posits that cannabidiol (CBD) has greater benefits when used in conjunction with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This effect is enhanced when smaller organic compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids, which provide flavor, aroma, and a variety of therapeutic benefits, are introduced. When combined, the ratio of CBD to THC plays a vital role in determining the overall efficacy of a product for a specific ailment.
CBD and THC are what’s known as cannabinoids, and they are just two of the approximately 100 to 140 found in the cannabis plant. Each cannabinoid has its own qualities — traditionally, THC has been the primary cannabinoid of choice for consumers and researchers alike, as it contains psychoactive properties that create a high. CBD, by contrast, is technically psychoactive based on its ability to change brain function and behavior, but it is non-intoxicating.
Research into THC began in 1964 when a scientist named Raphael Mechoulam isolated and synthesized it. THC has been the focus of cannabis research ever since, even though CBD had been discovered a year earlier in 1963.
When pure, synthetic THC became available in the 1980’s in the form of the drug Marinol, scientists expected it to work just as well as the natural cannabis plant. However, patients reported greater therapeutic benefit from natural cannabis, i.e. “flower”, which includes all of the compounds and chemicals of the cannabis plant. This implies greater benefit from cannabinoids used in conjunction with one another versus administration of THC in isolation.
How Does CBD Affect the Body?
The human body is regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which keeps our body in homeostasis, or balance. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD act upon our ECS to produce specific effects.
In recent years, CBD has emerged as a particularly valuable cannabinoid due to its ability to relieve a variety of ailments, from anxiety to nausea to muscle pain. Because of encouraging research and the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized large-scale hemp cultivation, the CBD marketplace has grown exponentially.
However, not all CBD products are created equal. The entourage effect is the underlying difference between the 3 main classifications of CBD products. CBD products that contain THC are “full-spectrum” whereas CBD products that do not contain THC, but include other compounds found in the cannabis plant, are “broad-spectrum”. The third classification is called isolate, and it is just that – the CBD cannabinoid alone, isolated from any other compound found in cannabis.
Contains a variety of cannabinoids, excluding THC.
Contains all of the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, including up to 0.3% THC, the amount allowed by law in the U.S.
At Boulder Medicinals, we believe in the entourage effect and we use only premium “full-spectrum” CBD oil in our products.
Contains only the CBD molecule and no other cannabinoid.
Beyond anecdotal evidence, a variety of studies have been performed to measure the efficacy of the entourage effect. In a 2011 study, the British Journal of Pharmacology found that taking terpenes and cannabinoids together may be beneficial for:
- fungal infection
CBD may also help modulate the undesirable effects of THC, such as anxiety, hunger and drowsiness. In many ways, CBD helps the body stay balanced and can even help reduce harm caused by long term cannabis use:
In 2018, a research study based on a 10-week trial of oral CBD treatment (200 mg) showed an increase in the volume of discrete hippocampal regions of heavy cannabis users. Overall, these studies point to a protective effect of CBD on cognitive regions of the brain during cannabis use in humans.
The same study also found that CBD, co-administered with THC, increased visual learning, procedural learning, and memory
Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
Terpenes and terpenoids provide aroma and taste to cannabis — they are volatile aromatic molecules, most readily identified as the frosted white hairs on cannabis flower. Terpenes, similar to CBD, provide a “shield” against some of the deleterious psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Terpenes also form the basis of aromatherapy. If you’ve walked through a candle aisle, you’ve experienced terpenes in essential oils. It is these terpenes that give cannabis strains their own distinctive smell and flavor profile. Over 200 terpenes have been discovered in the cannabis plant. Industrial hemp farming is known to destroy these valuable terpenes, which is why Boulder Medicinals is a certified-organic producer of hemp, as we believe in hand cultivation over machine cultivation.
The benefits of the entourage effect in relation to terpenes, published in a 2011 report by Dr. Ethan Russo in the British Journal of Pharmacology:
Terpenoids and cannabinoids both increase blood flow, enhance cortical activity, and kill respiratory pathogens, including MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that in recent years has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans.”
Dr. Russo’s article reports that cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions “could produce synergy with respect to the treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal, and bacterial infections.
Research into CBD is still relatively young, and additional studies will prove beneficial to further cement our understanding of the entourage effect. Of the 3 classifications of CBD, only full-spectrum CBD oil takes advantage of all of the cannabinoids of the cannabis plant, allowing CBD and THC to work in conjunction to maximize their therapeutic benefits.