What is the entourage effect?

The hemp plant is commonly associated with its popular non-psychoactive compound—CBD. But this molecular structure tends to get all of the rep when it comes to the powerful benefits of hemp. 

Truth is, CBD is just one of over a hundred different cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that impact the consumed effects of a hemp strain. Together in plant synergy, all of these compounds act on the endocannabinoid system as a collaborative team, providing more benefits than a single player, or single cannabinoid—could ever accomplish. 

There’s a possible explanation as to why a plant-rich hemp supplement means a richer wellness experience; it’s called the entourage effect. 

What is it? 

Plant synergy—lots of it. This theory, first proposed by Mechoulam, explains the combined effect of CBD, minor cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. While each of these compounds has its own unique benefits and attributes, the combination creates an all-encompassing “entourage” effect. In short, the therapeutic impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its single-molecule parts.

Think of playing a guitar solo with only one string. It’s possible, but you would have much more depth, range, and harmony with the ability to use all six of them. It’s the difference between a simple tune and a masterpiece. 

The same goes for hemp compounds. Researchers are still pinpointing how phytochemicals create this synergistic “masterpiece” in the ECS, but current knowledge suggests the following: 

According to the NIH, minor cannabinoids heighten the effects of other cannabinoids. For example, minor cannabinoids and CBD complement each other in the ECS. They interact with different cannabinoid receptors, which in turn increases receptor balance (and noticeable wellness benefits). Certain minor cannabinoid + cannabinoid pairings target specific receptors for specific wellness needs, such as sleep, energy, focus, and recovery. 

While terpenes are responsible for the smell of cannabis—they are more than just aromas. Studies have shown that terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid system similarly to cannabinoids, and are often what differentiates cannabis strains. For example, indica cannabis strains are rich in myrcene, a terpene responsible for inducing relaxation. In contrast, sativa strains have high counts of limonene, an arousing and invigorating terpene. Hemp would simply not be what it is without the powerful effects of terpenes. 

More than 20 flavonoids have been found in seedlings, leaves, stems, and flowers of the cannabis plant. These molecular structures are known in the plant world for possible antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, but the benefits do not end there. Scientists are continuing to uncover flavonoids’ ability to interact with proteins in the ECS

So, what to make of all this? 

When choosing a hemp supplement, remember the entourage effect. Instead of looking for a supplement with the highest amount of CBD, think: 

Does this hemp supplement utilize the whole plant? 

Another way to enhance your entourage effect is to pair up different delivery methods. For example, a topical cream provides soothing effects for a targeted area; add in a whole plant tincture or fast-acting water soluble to cover all your receptor bases. 

Just remember that plant synergy is the power behind hemp. Be sure to choose a supplement that will give you the whole wellness experience, not just one string of it.