Understanding Cannabis: The Entourage Effect
Keep reading to find out what the entourage effect could mean for future markets. The phenomenon, while still not fully understood, is shaping the efficacy of cannabis-derived treatments for both medical and recreational consumers.
Before we dive into the phenomenon known as the entourage effect, we first need to cover the basics of a cannabis plant’s chemical structure. We have previously explored how the plant features a sophisticated blend of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. The largest group of molecules, cannabinoids, features the likes of THC, CBD and CBC. During cultivation, all of the different compounds exist synergistically, with the ratio of specific compounds influenced by the strain’s genetic history.
When it comes to isolating particular cannabinoids, companies are usually only interested in specific compounds. Cannabis concentrates typically focus on isolating THC, while CBD oils only want to harness cannabidiol. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but it means missing out on a phenomenon unique to the cannabis plant—the entourage effect.
Researchers have found that when cannabinoids exist together, their individual effects are enhanced. CBD oil that features other cannabinoids, even if only in trace amounts, is more effective in higher doses, than oils which exclusively feature CBD. Even more intriguing is that terpenes have also been found to influence the efficacy of cannabinoids.
A 2011 study by Ethan B Russo¹, a senior medical advisor at GW Pharmaceuticals, aimed to establish whether the concept of cannabinoid-terpenoid synergy had applications within the cannabis industry. Russo suggested that cannabis selectively bred to include both cannabinoids and terpenes “may strengthen and broaden clinical applications”, going on to add that the therapeutic value of a cannabis extract could be improved by including “THC or other base phytocannabinoids”.
The benefit provided by the entourage effect is already starting to shape how the cannabis market is developing. Pharmaceutical companies continue to explore which combinations of cannabinoids can be used to provide the most significant benefits.
However, this does come at a cost. Sophisticated extraction equipment is needed, alongside a detailed understanding of a cannabis plant’s chemical structure. Cannabinoids and terpenes are volatile, and depending on the precision and efficacy of the extraction method used, some compounds are easily destroyed. Any company that claims to offer specific cannabinoid and terpene focused products should be able to prove their legitimacy with published test results.
Another significant hurdle for the medical market is the lack of regulations in place. This enables companies to make all sorts of claims without having to back them up. The CBD oil market is a prime example of this trend, as numerous oils have been found to contain different ratios of cannabinoids, compared to what is advertised. Before adding any company to your investment portfolio, ensure they have the credentials to back up any of their ranges or services.
Although we have talked extensively about the benefits of including multiple cannabinoids, isolates still have a place in the cannabis market. For consumers legally limited on what they can use, CBD isolates allow them to benefit from CBD’s therapeutic value without the risk of falling a drug test due to the presence of THC. Although CBD’s efficacy does improve when it is around other cannabinoids, it can still hold its own value when exclusively isolated. While the needs of the consumer, and our understanding of cannabinoids continue to grow, a diversity of products and services is key to ensuring a successful return on investments.
For now, the illicit nature of THC in much of the modern world prevents CBD isolates from becoming obsolete. In the future, that situation may change as we learn more about how the different compounds interact with one another. Regardless of how you choose to invest, there is one golden rule that you should always follow. Make sure your chosen company can prove that its products or services deliver the ratio of cannabinoids as per their claim. Until a framework of regulation is introduced, you will have to conduct your own due diligence.
1. Ethan B Russo (2011), Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. LINK