A Synergy of Cannabis Compounds: The Entourage or Ensemble Effect?

With the recent CBD boom, an explosion of products has flooded the market, all claiming therapeutic effects and benefits. This explosion of CBD products has changed how people perceive cannabis use. It is probably easier to convince people to try cannabis products nowadays, including CBD. But what type of CBD products should you try? IS CBD the only thing to consider?

As quickly as companies come up with new products, scientists and researchers are also discovering compounds that exhibit therapeutic effects, similar, if not superior, to CBD. They might not be as familiar yet, but other cannabis compounds are getting attention. Cannabis is a complex plant, and there are hundreds of compounds with various effects. We are barely scratching the surface. Even with this so-called hype, the research can hardly catch up. Every company in the space is now working double time to discover something new and put it into their products.

There will always be CBD purists. However, things are changing. More consumers are now open to trying other cannabis compounds in their CBD products. Once, many were wary of THC due to causing a “high” and altered perception, but people are now more educated about safe ratios, like using 20-40 times less THC than CBD to avoid a major intoxication (for example 20mg CBD and 1mg THC).

Whether cannabis compounds are presumably acting on their own or used in a combination, there is no denying that the positive benefits are endless. The future looks promising for cannabis research. We are all excited about the discoveries, but we should always practice due diligence.

Cannabis and its Compounds

The cannabis plant contains many distinct compounds. We've discussed many of them here on the TruPotency blog (including CBG, CBN, myrcene, and linalool). Cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and omega fatty acids are all chemical compounds found in cannabis.

There are over 100 identified cannabinoids compounds unique to cannabis. When introduced into the body, cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system, regulating inflammation, appetite, mood, pain, and more. CBD and THC take the top spots as they are the most abundant in cannabis and most well-known. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), always associated with the "high," is the cannabinoid responsible for most of the intoxicating effects of cannabis. THC affects perception, mood, emotion, cognition, and motor function, while CBD (cannabidiol), rising in mainstream popularity, is believed to have many therapeutic effects without the high. CBD was even shown to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

There are many lesser-known cannabinoids. Some have garnered renewed interests, such as CBN (cannabinol) and CBG (cannabigerol), that may have distinct properties. And recently, two new cannabinoids were discovered in cannabis. These have been synthesized before, but are found for the first time in the cannabis plant itself. One is THCP (tetrahydrocannabiphorol), which might be 30 times more potent than THC at CB1 receptors. The other one is CBDP (cannabidiphorol), which might have similar properties to CBD. The discoveries show how much more we have to learn from studying cannabis and cannabinoids.

The aroma of cannabis and other plants comes from compounds called terpenes. There are over fifty thousand different terpenes discovered and about two hundred can be found in cannabis. Different studies have shown that terpenes have physiologic effects, offering therapeutic benefits on their own and the ability to contribute to the impact of other cannabis compounds.

One of the most abundant terpenes in commercial cannabis is myrcene, also found in lemongrass and mangos. The potential effect of this terpene is sedation, relaxation, and reduction of soreness, which can potentially be useful in the relief from insomnia and occasional pain. Another one is linalool, a terpene also found in lavender, believed to help with relaxation and sleep. There are many others, each having their distinct properties that may be beneficial to humans.

Isolate versus Broad Spectrum versus Full Spectrum?

To fully understand the efficacy of cannabis compounds, and especially concerning CBD, we must know what companies mean when they refer to products as isolate, broad spectrum, and full spectrum. Even with the popularity of CBD, there is still a lot of education needed to understand product listings for consumers to make sound choices.

  • CBD Isolate — It is CBD in its purest, unadulterated form (99%+ CBD). It is free of any other cannabinoids and terpenes. Many products are made with CBD isolate, like tinctures, and good for those looking to avoid THC and wanting pure CBD.
  • Broad Spectrum CBD — CBD alone has a myriad of positive effects, but many other cannabinoids and terpenes have their own therapeutic potential. Broad spectrum CBD contains various cannabinoids and terpenes besides CBD, but is processed in such a way to remove any THC from the mixture. So, you get the benefits from the entourage effect (more on this below) without THC.
  • Full Spectrum CBD — With a combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and organic material, full spectrum CBD has all the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant. Full spectrum products have relatively low amounts of THC (less than 0.3% by legal standards) and contain many cannabinoids and terpenes that act synergistically to enhance their ability to provide relief.

CBD isolate, broad spectrum CBD, or full spectrum CBD — are there any other differences? It can come down to taste. And yes, we mean flavor. CBD isolate is odorless and flavorless, while broad spectrum and full spectrum products may impart the earthy taste of cannabis, however many products do add flavors like peppermint or orange for a twist on standard tinctures. Full spectrum products with THC might scare some people, but the THC is below 0.3%. At such a low level, full spectrum products should not get you high. We make sure all CBD products available for sale at TruPotency.com pass rigorous testing and meet federal regulations.

The Entourage Effect

There is a theory in the cannabis space, found in full spectrum CBD products, called the “entourage effect.” If you listen to music, you know that it takes more than one note to create a song, and more than one instrument to create a band. Much like a well-orchestrated symphony, cannabis compounds can work together to create what is known as the “entourage effect,” an interactive synergy created by the combined presence of terpenoids and cannabinoids.

Certain compounds called terpenes or terpenoids can be combined with cannabinoids to create a synergistic effect (think 1+1=3). Because of naturally occurring variation in these compounds from plant to plant and product to product, products may contain unique combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes that produce different combined effects.

 As previously discussed, we are just scratching the surface when it comes to cannabis research. There are so many unstudied cannabis compounds, and for those that we are familiar with like cannabinoids CBD and THC, there is still more to learn. Other cannabinoids might have similar synergistic effects that scientists have not studied yet. While there may be a so-called entourage effect, it is difficult to prove without more information. Most of the evidence is anecdotal; that is why more research is needed to confirm the entourage effect theory.

One study that highlights this effect is a meta-analysis looking at purified CBD vs a CBD-rich cannabis extract. Here they are comparing many studies, some that used purified CBD (equivalent to CBD isolate) others that used a CBD-rich extract (equivalent to full-spectrum CBD). They found that patients in the study who used CBD-rich extracts (full-spectrum) needed about 4-times less CBD to control their symptoms than those who used purified CBD.

Cannabis scientists and researchers are continuously studying cannabinoid and terpene ratios to get the most effective desired effects for CBD products. At TruPotency.com, we curate the highest quality CBD products to find the safest and most effective. Based on the cannabinoid and terpene profile, our science advisory board determines which products are right for stress, skincare, focus, upset stomach, soreness, or sleep. We use a proprietary algorithm that uses all available scientific publications to best estimate the type of CBD product targeted to satisfy a specific need.

For example, for a CBD product containing complementary cannabinoids CBN and THC with modest levels of terpenes linalool and myrcene, the algorithm will use this information and see that this combination of cannabinoids and terpenes will help with sedation and relaxation, then it will rate the product high for sleep. The algorithm will also detect that CBN and THC can act synergistically with linalool and myrcene to enhance sleep improving effects even more. We at TruPotency.com hope to help guide consumers with real data that makes sense. All the information we use to rate products is available on every product page.

Ensemble, Not Entourage Effect

We tend to think about the big players CBD and THC. But CBD alone performs differently than CBD in combination with THC. And CBD and THC will act differently in the presence of terpenes. Referred to as the therapeutic entourage effect, a combination of cannabinoids and terpene produce the best therapeutic benefits.

However, Dr. Grinspoon in a High Times interview suggests the "ensemble effect" might be a better term to use than "entourage effect" because the latter implies that all cannabis compounds are supporting one leading compound. Ensemble, on the other hand, suggests that CBD, THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenes are all working together equally.

Overall, the cannabis plant has some truly wonderful molecules with a lot of therapeutic potential. For those looking for the most benefit, we hope this article highlights the efficacy of full-spectrum products and why the entourage (or ensemble) effect can be so important.