Is the Entourage Effect Proven?

Published November 08, 2022
Is the Entourage Effect Proven? - Secret Nature

Since the beginning of the CBD revolution, the entourage effect has been described as one of the most impressive benefits of full-spectrum hemp extract. Isolate CBD, we’ve all heard countless times by now, does not provide the entourage effect, which is said to make the effects of CBD (and other cannabinoids) stronger.

Is the entourage effect proven to exist, though? We’ve found that while there’s lots of evidence for an entourage effect in cannabis, the phenomenon hasn’t exactly been proven yet.

In this guide, we’ll provide all the available evidence for the entourage effect, but we’ll let you decide whether it’s real or not for yourself. In either case, minor cannabinoids and terpenes are beneficial on their own, so ingesting them alongside your CBD is likely a good idea.

What is the entourage effect?

The entourage effect is a theorized form of synergy that may occur when multiple cannabinoids are used together. It has also been postulated that the entourage effect is triggered when cannabinoids are combined with terpenes, leading to a massive demand for adding terpenes to cannabis and hemp products.

What does the entourage effect do?

The entourage effect is believed to make the effects of cannabinoids stronger. It’s not just that the benefits of minor cannabinoids and terpenes add on to the benefits of the primary cannabinoid. Proponents of the entourage effect contend that a true synergy takes place, meaning that the result of combining cannabinoids and terpenes is more than the sum of their parts.

How does the entourage effect work?

One of the primary detractions from the entourage effect as a scientific theory is there’s no compelling explanation as to how the phenomenon works. Cannabinoids and terpenes can act at a wide variety of different neural centers in the brain and body, making it difficult to map all their different interactions.

With no clear picture of the neurochemistry of the entourage effect, we must rely on educated guesses and observation. People who use hemp products that can offer the entourage effect generally report better results, and it would make sense within the context of the overall contemporary “holistic” movement if Cannabis sativa worked better in its whole, unaltered form.

How do you trigger the entourage effect?

It seems that the entourage effect is triggered any time you use multiple cannabinoids together or use cannabinoids with terpenes. The effect appears to be strengthened, however, based on the number of cannabinoids and terpenes that are thrown into the mix — while nature seems to have developed the ideal ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes to trigger the entourage effect in organic cannabis, it’s also possible that man-made ratios could be even more effective.

Why do scientists believe there is an entourage effect?

Since the early days of cannabis research, scientists had noted a perceived increase in effectiveness between whole-plant versus isolated cannabis compounds. This is not an especially common occurrence in nature, but cannabis is an uncommonly complicated plant. With hundreds of active compounds, it became the prevailing theory that cannabis might simply work better when all of its myriad component parts are kept together.

Who is Dr. Ethan Russo?

The primary proponent of the entourage effect has historically been Dr. Ethan B. Russo, a respected academic and published author of more than 30 scientific studies. Russo has championed the entourage effect for more than a decade and is almost single-handedly responsible for bringing it before the public eye.

As a consultant for GW Pharmaceuticals, Ethan Russo advocated for the development of Sativex, a prescription drug that combines CBD and THC. These cannabinoids were combined explicitly due to Russo’s belief in the entourage effect — a belief that is now widespread throughout the scientific community.

Entourage effect studies

Over the last decade, a variety of different studies into the entourage effect have been published. Here is a small sampling:

— 2011: Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects

  • Ethan Russo’s first study on the entourage effect
  • Provided initial hard evidence for an entourage effect in cannabis

— 2019: The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain

  • Provided additional insights from Dr. Russo
  • Emphasized the importance of full-strain cannabinoid and terpene profiles

— 2020: The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders

  • A powerful confirmation of Dr. Russo’s results from an acclaimed Israeli team
  • Provides a systematic analysis of the entourage effect and how it works

— 2020: Terpenoids From Cannabis Do Not Mediate an Entourage Effect by Acting at Cannabinoid Receptors

  • Found that terpenes do not act at the CB1 and CB2 receptors
  • Rather than denying the existence of the entourage effect, the study simply identifies the CB1 and CB2 receptors as not responsible

— 2020: The ‘entourage effect’ or ‘hodge-podge hashish’: the questionable rebranding, marketing, and expectations of cannabis polypharmacy

  • The only negative study on the entourage effect
  • “Claims of a cannabis entourage effect invoke ill-defined and unsubstantiated pharmacological activities which are commonly leveraged toward the popularization and sale of ostensible therapeutic products.”
  • “Overestimation of such claims in the scientific and lay literature has fostered their misrepresentation and abuse by a poorly regulated industry.”
  • The study does not deny the existence of the entourage effect but rather cautions against marketing it too strongly

Summary: Is the entourage effect proven?

No, the entourage effect is not proven. In fact, nothing in science is “proven.” According to scientific theory, every supposed “fact” is just theoretical — regardless of how much evidence has accumulated in its favor.

Some theories are more proven than others, though, and the entourage effect is well on its way toward a firmer foundation of proof. A wider array of scientific minds must start contributing to the process of untangling the mysteries of the entourage effect, and this phenomenon should receive greater overall attention simply on the merit of its massive beneficial potential.

In the end, there’s nothing dangerous or frightening about the entourage effect, and there’s nothing to defend against. If combining cannabinoids and terpenes into gestalt products provides synergistic benefits, excellent. If not, no one is harmed. 

Instead of griping about the entourage effect and how it’s marketed in the online hemp industry, let’s all work together to learn more about this compelling phenomenon and how it affects the cannabinoid experience.

Entourage effect FAQ

Learn more about the intricacies of the entourage effect in the FAQ section below:

1. Is the entourage effect a good thing?

Yes, the entourage effect appears to be a beneficial phenomenon. There is no evidence that it is harmful in any way. On the contrary, the entourage effect appears to improve the effects of cannabinoids, making them more potent and wider-ranging. Until we receive evidence to the contrary, it’s reasonable to assume that the entourage effect is a positive thing.

2. What does the entourage effect feel like?

Users describe the difference between hemp or cannabis products that provide the entourage effect and those that don’t as being like the difference between night and day. A product that doesn’t offer the entourage effect (like isolate CBD) will provide its intended effects just fine, but a product that offers the entourage effect (like full-spectrum CBD) will offer all those effects and much more.

3. Is the entourage effect real for CBD?

Whether it’s CBD or any other cannabinoid, the entourage effect certainly seems real enough to those who experience it. Countless anecdotal reports from CBD users claim that the entourage effect increases the potency of CBD products. In some cases, the entourage effect even appears to offer benefits that CBD usually doesn’t.

4. What impact do terpenes have on the entourage effect?

Terpenes appear to play a much more major role in the potency of the entourage effect than was previously believed. Originally, the entourage effect was thought to mainly occur between cannabinoids, but recent research indicates that terpenes contribute to this form of cannabis synergy nearly as much.

If all the terpenes from a specific strain are kept intact, for instance, and added to a CBD extract, that CBD extract takes on the strain’s properties. As a result, it’s now possible (and common) to find CBD products that mimic the effects of popular cannabis strains like OG Kush and Sour Diesel.

5. Does the entourage effect matter with edibles?

Yes, the entourage effect is just as important when it comes to edibles as it is with any other type of hemp or cannabis product. To get the best possible benefits of your edibles, make sure to trigger the entourage effect as strongly as possible by boosting your main cannabinoid with minor cannabinoids and terpenes.

6. Which products offer the entourage effect?

Any product that combines cannabinoids or combines cannabinoids with terpenes qualifies for providing the entourage effect. We still don’t know exactly what the entourage effect is or if it offers the benefits that it is widely believed to offer, but the only way to synergize cannabinoids is to use them together. Examples of extracts that offer the entourage effect are full-spectrum and broad-spectrum hemp oil.

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