What is the entourage effect in CBD?

Learn about plant synergy and how to achieve it in your wellness routine.

What is the entourage effect in CBD?
minute read

The hemp plant is commonly associated with its popular non-psychoactive compound—cannabidiol (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 (ECS) 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 enhance the entourage effect: 

Minor cannabinoids 

According to the NIH, minor cannabinoids heighten the effects of other cannabinoids. For example, minor cannabinoids (like CBN, CBG, and CBC) 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. 

The endocannabinoid system contains two major cannabinoid receptors, called CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors. These receptors aren’t the only receptors in the human body capable of interacting with cannabinoids. 

The effects of certain minor cannabinoids may extend to other receptors within the body, providing further modulation and increasing the potential scope of benefits from cannabinoids. It’s like a chain reaction of wellness that has the potential to impact how every system within your body functions.*

Terpenes

While terpenes are responsible for the smell of cannabis—they are more than just aromas. Studies have shown that terpenes are often what differentiates cannabis strains. For example, indica cannabis strains are particularly rich in myrcene compared to sativa strains, and this terpene is 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. 

Terpenes also play a crucial role in the way specific strains of cannabis make you feel. Terpenes exist in unique concentrations from strain to strain of cannabis. Strains usually have one or two dominant terpenes, which are supported by a cast of terpenes at lower concentrations. They combine to create a unique aromatherapeutic experience that can change the way you experience cannabis.*

Flavonoids

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. 

Antioxidant flavonoids found in plants like cannabis may have a positive effect on human wellness. Antioxidants work to support healthy cells during exposure to unstable molecules called free radicals. Free radicals, like those found in air pollution, are missing an electron. They need a new electron to preserve themselves, and they will attempt to steal that electron from any possible source.

Free radicals have the potential to damage or destroy healthy cells in their quest to replenish their lost electrons. Antioxidants are self-sacrificing. It’s very easy for antioxidants to give up an electron and spare a healthy cell. Antioxidants can easily be replenished through diet or supplementation, and a steady supply of antioxidants can protect cell health in the long term. 

Cannabis is far from the only valuable source of antioxidant flavonoids, although it is a very robust source. You can find similar antioxidants in any plant-based foods or drinks. 

So, what to make of all this? 

The hemp plant harmonizes itself. Everything that naturally occurs within the plant is created to work together. Cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids help each other thrive. And when you keep them together, they may work more effectively to help you thrive, too.

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. 

How can you make the most of the entourage effect?

There’s so much more to cannabinoid wellness than just CBD. So many naturally occurring compounds in the hemp plant have the potential to support a wide array of benefits and effects. The entourage effect is the full expanse of everything hemp is capable of. 

Choosing the right products and considering your wellness goals can help you maximize the potential effects of CBD.*

Turn to broad spectrum or full spectrum products

Full-spectrum CBD products contain every valuable compound that naturally occurs within the hemp plant. They’re the only cannabis extracts capable of promoting the fullest possible entourage effect. No cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids are removed from the extract before it’s turned into a consumable product. 

Broad spectrum products contain everything except for THC, which has been isolated and removed. Full spectrum products will promote the full entourage effect, and broad spectrum products come very close. 

Do your research

It helps to understand exactly what you’re using when you choose a cannabis product. You need to know the cannabinoid content of the products you choose, and the only way to verify that information is through a lab report.

Reputable hemp companies send a sample from each batch of their products to a third-party cannabinoid testing lab, where an expert will measure the amounts of each cannabinoid the hemp extract contains. 

The lab will generate something called a certificate of analysis to share their findings. The certificate of analysis should feature a batch number, and that batch number will correlate to the batch number of your hemp product. Compare the two numbers to be sure that they match.

Each type of cannabinoid product will have a different serving size and a different amount of servings per container. Most CBD oil products contain 30 servings per container, with the recommended serving being a full dropper. Gummies can vary in their servings per container, but a serving is usually one gummy.

The packaging should list in milligrams how much of each cannabinoid you’ll get per serving. This will allow you to tailor your experience and manage your dosage appropriately. If you’re more comfortable with a simple solution, choose gummies. The hardest part of measuring your dose is counting to one. 

Consider your desired effects

Most people use CBD products with a specific goal in mind. One of the most common reasons people turn to CBD products is to promote better sleep. The second most common reason is CBD’s potential to provide mood support. Many people find that CBD can ease emotional tension and feelings of stress, which makes it easier to accomplish tasks with mental clarity.* 

You might want to use CBD to address multiple concerns. You don’t necessarily need to use different CBD products to do that. If all of your wellness goals involve modulating your endocannabinoid system, any ingestible CBD product is capable of providing the effects you’re seeking. If you’re looking to address a topical concern, you’ll need a topical form of CBD.*

Topical CBD products and ingestible CBD products work differently. The overwhelming majority of topical CBD products aren’t transdermal, which means they won’t reach your endocannabinoid system through your skin. Topicals are designed to provide localized relief to the skin, muscles, and joints in the area where they’re applied.*

Ingestibles, like gummies and tinctures, provide benefits directly to the endocannabinoid system. They work to support wellness internally. They’re capable of providing benefits to your overall wellness, easing physical and emotional tension, supporting your digestive system, promoting normal immune health, and supporting a healthy sleep-wake cycle.*

You can use a combination of the two if you have both interior and exterior wellness goals. Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts will use both topicals and ingestibles as a part of their post-workout recovery routine. It’s safe to use them in conjunction with each other because they support benefits differently. Using them together can address a wellness concern both inside and out.

Are CBD isolate products still beneficial?

CBD isolate products can still be beneficial, but you’re sacrificing a lot when you remove other cannabinoids and terpenes from the equation. CBD isolate is incapable of producing the entourage effect.* 

THC isn’t a bad thing. It’s relatively harmless in the meager concentrations that occur naturally within the hemp plant. If you’re worried that the THC in whole plant extract products may produce psychoactive effects, you have nothing to fear. Not only are the amounts of naturally occurring THC insignificant but the effects of THC are naturally thwarted by the effects of CBD.*

Part of the entourage interaction between CBD and THC involves CBD blocking THC from adhering to cannabinoid receptors. The trace amount of THC is vastly outnumbered by the CBD content in full-spectrum CBD products.

If THC content remains your primary concern, broad spectrumCBD may be a better option for you. THC is isolated and removed from the hemp extract, and lab reports for broad spectrum products should report that no detectable levels of THC were found. This should put your mind at ease. 

The bottom line

The beneficial effects of CBD oil products are the result of more than just CBD. Many cannabis compounds play a role in modulating the endocannabinoid system and producing potentially therapeutic effects. Cannabis research uncovers new information every day about the potential of cannabis compounds and how they may impact human wellness.

The entourage effect may be a very important component of how cannabinoids can influence our well-being. Choosing full spectrum CBD products is the best way to fully enjoy the best of what the hemp plant has to offer. If you’re unable to choose full spectrum CBD products, broad spectrumCBD products are the next best choice. 

Our collection of USDA organic hemp-derived cannabinoid products contains both full spectrum and broad spectrum varieties of CBD. Determine your wellness goals, consider which products will work best for you, and browse our collection.

Sources: 

The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders | PubMed Central | National Institutes of Health

Flavonoids in Cannabis sativa: Biosynthesis, Bioactivities, and Biotechnology | ACS Omega

Phytocannabinoids beyond the Cannabis plant – do they exist? | British Journal of Pharmacology

Lavender aromatherapy: A systematic review from essential oil quality and administration methods to cognitive enhancing effects | PubMed Central | National Institutes of Health

Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects | PMC

Flavonoids in Cannabis sativa: Biosynthesis, Bioactivities, and Biotechnology | ACS Omega

The Cannabis Terpenes | PMC

The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain | PMC