What is the Entourage Effect of Cannabis and CBD Oil ?

If you’re considering trying CBD oil — or if you’re already a fan of CBD’s benefits — you’ve probably heard many confusing terms about the CBD oil for sale online and in stores. Full-spectrum. Broad-spectrum. Isolate. And you may have even heard about the so-called “Entourage Effect.”

The Entourage Effect is critically important to cannabis, and in this article, we’ll explain why. Basically, the Entourage Effect is how cannabis’s chemical compounds work together to create an effect that’s better than any of the individual compounds alone.

As our cannabis research advances, we’ve learned the plant is best consumed as nature intended — with all its compounds together, working synergistically. The Entourage Effect describes that synergy. That’s why, at Evielab, we carefully formulate our products with multiple cannabis compounds that most people don’t know about. But these lesser-known cannabis compounds may have tremendous medicinal potential.

What are Cannabinoids?

For many years, people have valued cannabis for its therapeutic qualities. But in spite of its long history of use, we have only recently come to understand its chemical constituents. How those chemicals work together is the leading edge of our understanding.

Within the botanical world, some compounds are concentrated in cannabis and seldom found in other plants; they’re called cannabinoids. Most people are familiar with cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the most prevalent secondary metabolites. But there are more than one hundred other cannabinoids found in the plant,  and cannabis contains dozens of other aromatic compounds that are readily found in other plants, too, like lavender and pine.

How Does THC Help with the Entourage Effect?

Many important cannabinoids hang out in the entourage, but let’s examine THC first. THC is the primary cannabinoid of marijuana and the reason for its recreational popularity. It’s a strong intoxicant with sedative and mild hallucinogenic properties.

EvieLab’s products do not contain THC and will not cause intoxication.

In the entourage of cannabis compounds, THC could be considered the energetic, driving force. It’s the primary player in marijuana, and it induces the psychological and physical effects which other cannabinoids modulate.

In marijuana, the constituents of the entourage all arrange themselves around the strong effects of THC. In non-THC cannabis, things work differently. More on that in a moment.

So, because THC is an intoxicating drug, marijuana is illegal in many places and not acceptable to most patients. Millions of people take a lot of things to help with all types of conditions. For them, feeling high is not acceptable.

The Many Forms of Tetrahydrocannabinol

Most folks don’t know that THC takes many forms, like THCA and Δ-8-THC. Actually, THCA is the primary form of THC found in the plant. And, if you consume THCA directly, it won’t intoxicate you.

Only when THCA is heated (usually by smoking or cooking) does it become THC in its intoxicating form. That’s because when it’s heated it loses a group of carboxylic acid atoms. When those atoms are gone, the THC molecules “fit” in the neural receptors. That causes us to feel intoxicated. CBD goes through the same process. In the plant, it’s CBDA; when heat is applied to CBDA, it converts to CBD.

And THC has additional forms too. Each form has a slightly different molecular variation than Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Note: “Δ-9-THC” is the scientific name for what we usually just call THC.

If we apply additional heat to the THC molecule, the arrangement of the molecules may change into Δ-8-THC. Other events can cause changes to THC, too, like exposure to oxygen, digestion in our bodies, or exposure to extremely high temperatures. All of these things can modify THC and change its role in the entourage effect.

How Does CBD Help with the Entourage Effect?

As you probably know, CBD is not an intoxicant. It has important – and oftentimes beneficial – psychoactive effects. But CBD won’t cloud your mind or change your thoughts in the same way that THC might.

At EvieLab, we extract our cannabinoids from clean, CBD-rich hemp.

A groundswell of research on mammals shows cannabinoids’ relevance to epileptic disorders, inflammation, cancer and insomnia, among others. It’s important to note that these studies do not prove CBD’s efficacy for treating any disease or condition, and the FDA does not consider over-the-counter CBD as a valid treatment.

There aren’t many cannabis or CBD drugs available today, at least not behind the counter of your local pharmacy. With the exception of one cannabinoid-based drug approved for a rare epileptic condition, CBD hasn’t been clinically studied or officially approved by the FDA. That’s why you won’t find cannabinoid-based products at the drugstore. But researchers have published dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles documenting CBD research with animal subjects. Those studies can tell us a lot.

CBD: Managing the THC High

CBD plays a critical role in the cannabinoid entourage. Plenty of anecdotes confirm that it helps with the negative effects of THC. Some informal research has illustrated CBD’s mellowing effects but, again, it’s important to note that CBD’s effects have not been evaluated by the FDA.

CBD in Marijuana and Hemp

Marijuana and hemp are different, and they each carry their own entourage of cannabinoids. Marijuana contains abundant THC; hemp contains very little. While hemp varieties of cannabis may contain trace amounts of THC (usually less than 0.3%), hemp will not cause intoxication.

It’s a significant chemical difference that makes the Entourage Effect work very differently in these two distinct types of cannabis. But many of the constituents are the same, despite the big difference in the central cannabinoid. Many minor cannabinoids are found in marijuana and hemp, usually in quantities of less than 1%.

Do “Minor” Cannabinoids Make a Difference?

Just because minor cannabinoids occur in small quantities doesn’t mean they’re not important With modern laboratory equipment, we’re able to isolate these trace cannabinoids and study them. The preliminary findings are exciting.

Cannabigerol (CBG) is particularly hopeful. Studies have found that it may play a role in many of the effects of cannabis. It’s also non-intoxicating. Researchers have found that CBG is a neuroprotectant in mice with conditions similar to Huntington’s Disease, helps stimulate appetite in mice, and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

The interesting thing about CBG is that cannabis plants produce a lot of it, but it doesn’t stay around for very long. It converts into THCA, CBDA, or CBCA. It’s a precursor to these other, major cannabinoids. In fact, cultivators can use CBG levels to assess when a marijuana plant is ready for harvest. When all the CBG is gone, they can assume the THC and CBD levels are at their highest.

Cannabichromene (CBC) stems from cannabigerol, just like THCA and CBDA. First, it’s CBCA. Then, after exposure to light and heat, it becomes CBC.

Researchers have found that CBC may play are roles in tumor growth rateacne, and depression. Traditionally, CBC wasn’t available in large quantities within the plant; usually, it’s less than 0.5%. But now, we’re able to isolate molecules and incorporate them into products like EvieLab Pearls.

Cannabinol (CBN) is a common, non-intoxicating cannabinoid. It’s a derivative of THCA. If THCA is exposed to sunlight or air, it eventually decomposes into CBN. CBN is widely believed to have sedative effects, but, a more thorough review showed CBN does not cause sedation.

CBN is most notable for its purported pain-relieving effects. A 2002 study found that CBN acts on the same neural receptors as capsaicin, a compound found in Icy Hot and other topical analgesics.

It’s important to note, though, that the studies cited here aren’t performed on humans; generally, mice or dogs are the test subjects. Often, the researchers use high doses of cannabinoids in proportion to the animals’ body weights.

Our Body’s Natural Cannabinoids

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is where all these cannabinoids come together to produce the Entourage Effect. The ECS is the nervous system’s special network of receptors that are perfectly suited to cannabinoids.

In fact, our bodies make their own cannabinoid-like chemicals. They’re called endocannabinoids. If they come from the plant, they’re called phytocannabinoids.

Our bodies already make their own cannabinoids.

The molecular similarity of endo- and phytocannabinoids is similar to how the pain reliever morphine has corresponding endogenous compounds, namely endorphins. Our bodies are pre-wired for a relationship with the cannabis plant!

The ECS has two primary types of cannabinoid receptors, which researchers labeled CB1 and CB2. Our brains and nervous systems have many CB1 receptors; our immune systems house most of the CB2 receptors.

The Excitement and Mystery of the ECS

How cannabinoids dance together with the body’s cannabinoid receptors is a complex mystery. The presence of some cannabinoids may affect the action of other cannabinoids and vice versa. And as the body metabolizes the cannabinoids, they convert into other cannabinoids and compounds that play different roles. EvieLab Pearls contains two distinct cannabinoids that we isolate and carefully recombine in exact proportions.

Within each cannabis variety, there’s a unique combination of cannabinoids creating a multi-faceted experience. That’s why different varieties of marijuana can produce different effects, whether sedating or energizing, cerebral or somatic.

What are Terpenes?

Cannabinoids aren’t the only players in the Entourage Effect of cannabis. Some people believe that other compounds play a critically important role in the effect of a particular cannabis variety, as compared to other varieties.

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that give cannabis flowers their distinctive aromas, which vary between the genetic variety of cannabis. Essentially, terpenes are simply essential oils. They’re the same compounds found in perfumes. Though terpenes might smell great to us, plants produce these strong-smelling compounds to ward off predators.

Cannabinoids are tasteless and odorless. Terpenes give cannabis its flavor and aroma.

Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes are not unique to cannabis; all aromatic plants contain terpenes. Lavender contains linalool. Citrus fruits, like lemons, contains limonene. Pine trees, appropriately, contain pinene.

A wide range of research has documented that terpenes strongly influence how marijuana and other cannabis medicines affect us. And anecdotally, consumers report that two varieties of marijuana may have different effects despite having the same proportion of THC and CBD. Terpenes are the reason.

Aromatherapists use terpene oils to stimulate relaxation or invigoration, depending on the terpene selected. For instance, myrcene, which is a common terpene in cannabis and cloves, is believed to have a sedative effect. Limonene is uplifting; cannabis varieties rich in limonene are usually experienced as energizing.

So, cannabis varieties with high levels of myrcene have a sedative effect. But the effects of myrcene don’t stop there. Some people believe that myrcene amplifies the psychoactive properties of THC and other cannabinoids.

Terpenes modulate the action of other cannabinoids, and they also have their own effects on the human body. The Entourage Effect is a complex dance of many interdependent partners, interacting in largely unknown ways. But the overall phenomenon is clear: cannabis is most efficacious when it contains all of its natural components. That’s why full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products are better than isolates for many consumers.

What Type of CBD Should I Buy?

Essentially, there are three types of CBD oil — and some confusion about which term applies to which product type. Broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, and isolate are the common descriptors of CBD. But CBD is simply a molecule; the terpenes and other cannabinoids included in the product are what make it broad-spectrum or full-spectrum.

CBD Isolate

An isolate is a purified compound. Whether it’s ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or cannabidiol (CBD), an isolate is simply a substance without any other ingredients. When CBD is in this form, it’s a crystallized powder.

Of course, CBD isolate products aren’t sold as a powder; the purified CBD is usually mixed with a tincture, candy, or some other delivery mechanism. What’s important about isolates, though, is that there are no other cannabinoids tagging along with the CBD.

Isolates are best for people who are very concerned about THC content or people who need to take large doses of CBD. However, isolates don’t provide the Entourage Effect or the full benefits of the cannabis plant.

Broad-Spectrum and Full-Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad-spectrum CBD oils contain the terpenes and other cannabinoids that are co-extracted from the plant with the CBD. They tap into the Entourage Effect which, as we’ve learned, is the key to getting the most out of cannabis.

Broad-spectrum products are preferable for many patients. That’s because they do not contain THC — if they’re properly formulated — yet do take advantage of the entourage of cannabinoids which boost CBD’s effects. A broad-spectrum CBD contains some terpenes and minor cannabinoids.

Consumers confuse the descriptors “broad-spectrum” with “full-spectrum.” That may be because the two terms are loosely defined. “Full-spectrum” often means that the CBD product contains THC, but it doesn’t inherently indicate how much. “Full-spectrum” may describe a product that has a lot of THC (like a 1:1 ratio of CBD:THC), or it may mean the product contains less than 0.3% THC, such as in markets where THC is illegal.

Many CBD companies will advertise a “zero-THC guarantee,” yet claim to offer a “full-spectrum” product. It’s not that they’re being deceptive, per se; the term “full-spectrum” is confusing and used in different ways.

Enhancing the Entourage for the Future

Minor cannabinoids like CBG and CBC have shown promise. But, in the raw plant material, they are only present in trace amounts. When we concentrate them and precisely mix them with other cannabinoids and terpenes, we can target specific diseases and conditions.

With modern technologies, we can enhance cannabis’ usual cannabinoid and terpene profiles. And at Evielab, we’re working to create the CBD formulations of the future to do just that.