The ‘Entourage’ Effect

There has been a lot of talk in the hemp industry about the entourage effect. The entourage effect refers to the synergy that takes place when cannabinoids and terpenes work together to provide health benefits.

Some people call it “whole-plant medicine” or “whole-plant synergy”, and it is based on the idea that hemp products with many diverse compounds can deliver health benefits that isolated compounds on their own cannot.

A study in 1998 argued that the body’s endocannabinoid system responds more favorably to whole-plant hemp extracts by increasing the activity of the two primary endocannabinoids. This also hints at why botanical whole-plant drugs are often more effective than drugs containing an isolated plant molecule alone.

There is evidence that some cannabinoids boost the effects of other cannabinoids. For example, THC can enhance the therapeutic performance, and minor cannabinoids may contribute benefits too.

In this study hemp extract was much more effective than THC isolate. The researchers said “The synergy of the hemp extract could be accounted for by the presence of significant quantities of CBG and THCA in the extract, compared to the THC alone.”

Additionally, this study of an isolated form vs. an extract with the whole plant, showed that the whole-plant extract was just as effective but with a 20% smaller dose.

It can be broken down into two distinct phenomena:

  • the intra-entourage effect - interactions between cannabinoids and terpenes
  • the inter-entourage effect - cannabinoid-to-cannabinoid interactions and terpene-to-terpene interactions

While there’s evidence to support an inter-entourage effect, there’s less to support an intra-entourage effect.

It is generally accepted that terpenes play a critical role in the entourage effect.

However, of late this hasn’t been conclusive.  In an April 2020 study on mice, researchers showed that three common hemp terpenes—humulene, pinene, and geraniol—activated the CB1 receptor. The CB1 receptor is responsible for inducing physiological responses. These terpenes kicked off CB1-specific physiological responses among the mice, suggesting that terpenes can offer therapeutic benefits.

Other studies have shown that terpenes did not have a facilitative effect by binding to the body’s cannabinoid receptors. What this might mean is that researchers have not consolidated their understanding of the mechanisms at work just yet and so the phenomenon is misunderstood. 

Having said that, on a clinical level, products that are isolated forms do seem less effective than whole hemp, suggesting that there are other chemicals involved. It has been suggested that the failures in demonstrating the entourage benefits could be attributed to preparations that are not ‘therapeutically optimized’, pointing to inconsistent standards in the quality of hemp as potentially being responsible for mixed findings.

Our Full Altitude tincture has nine different cannabinoids for a wide range of therapeutic benefits encompassing this 'entourage effect'.





The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.