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What is the Entourage Effect? Defining the Benefits of Full-Spectrum Cannabis

What is the Entourage Effect? Defining the Benefits of Full-Spectrum Cannabis

The entourage effect was first suggested by Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat in 1998. They hypothesized that the effect of active cannabinoids was amplified by “inactive” compounds, making a combination of cannabinoids more potent than any one compound on its own.

If you’ve ever consumed cannabis and felt both heavy and light at the same time, simultaneously drifting but grounded, floating but also tethered to the earth, experiencing a “stone balloon” feeling … that is the entourage effect at work. Multiple cannabinoids working together to amplify the effect and experience.

The entourage effect may be a relatively new concept in the realm of cannabis, but we see the entourage effect in everyday life. Music, art, food, fashion, sports, and even our language and communication combine elements to create an enhanced experience. For example, phrases like “many hands make light work,” or “when it rains, it pours.”

In the culinary world, chefs blend seasonings and spices, reduce sauces for deeper and more complex flavors, and take advantage of chemical reactions (like the Maillard reaction or caramelization) to add “layers of flavor” to the dish. Musicians combine various rhythms, melodies, and harmonies to create songs and sometimes fuse two or more genres to produce a unique sound and feel.

In our article detailing the differences between cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), we mentioned there are over 100 cannabinoids in the raw cannabis plant. There are also over 400 terpenes and 20 flavonoids alongside these cannabinoids. Full-spectrum cannabis, also known as full-spectrum CBD, is a substance that contains all the extracts naturally found in the cannabis plant. 

To recap: Cannabinoids work in combination with terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids to produce the entourage effect, which amplifies the effect and potential benefits. Full-spectrum cannabis contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids contained in the raw cannabis plant. A match made in heaven.

This article will detail:

  • What is the Entourage Effect: Definition & Explanation 
  • Is the Entourage Effect Real?
  • What Does the Entourage Effect Feel Like?
  • Potential Benefits of Full-Spectrum, Entourage-Effect Cannabis
  • How to Experience the Entourage Effect With Full-Spectrum, Whole-Plant Cannabis
  • Full-Spectrum Cannabis vs. Isolated Cannabinoids
  • What is the Entourage Effect of Full-Spectrum Cannabis? 

What is the Entourage Effect: Definition & Explanation

If you’re a cannabis enthusiast, you’ve almost certainly experienced the entourage effect. With over 100 cannabinoids, 400 terpenes, and 20 flavonoids, that’s a lot of potential combinations! Sometimes the entourage effect feels like the “stone balloon” feeling. Other times it’s a delightful combination of peace and calm with transcendent elation and euphoria. Others experience the sensation of being awake and asleep at the same time. 

However you may have experienced the entourage effect, it can be difficult to identify, define, or describe because it just feels so … natural.

Now, let’s dig into the nitty gritty, let’s look at the science, let’s get physical, physical (not now, Olivia) — apologies, let’s get physiological. 

What is the entourage effect? What does the entourage effect mean? How do you define the entourage effect and describe what is actually happening? After all, knowledge is power (and knowing is half the battle).

The entourage effect is a term used to describe the potential synergistic interactions cannabinoids have with other compounds found in the raw cannabis plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, and even other cannabinoids. When cannabinoids interact with these various compounds and they amplify the positive effects of one another, this is the entourage effect hard at work.

In a kitchen, you’ll likely find ingredients such as eggs, butter, flour, sugar, baking soda, and chocolate chips. To make chocolate chip cookies, these ingredients (along with a few others) must be combined. On their own, each of them is just a single ingredient, but together, they become much more than that. 

In other words: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  

When isolated, they are simple ingredients. When combined, they produce something new and complex: a chocolate chip cookie! Or, if you prefer, oatmeal raisin, or peanut butter, or a sugar cookie, or perhaps a snickerdoodle. With so many different ingredients (cannabinoids), we have a plethora of cookies (entourage effects) to choose from. The possibilities are endless.

Is the Entourage Effect Real?

Many studies indicate there is a positive, synergistic relationship between cannabinoids and other compounds found in the raw cannabis plant. When multiple compounds are present, the entourage effect helps them more efficiently bind with the receptors in our endocannabinoid system.

What is the endocannabinoid system? Great question. The endocannabinoid system regulates most of the critical functions in our bodies, including learning and memory, inflammatory and immune responses, pain control, and even emotional processing (thanks, Harvard).

While a solitary cannabinoid like CBD can be effective on its own, using cannabinoids in combination with other compounds can amplify the positive effects. 

Potential benefits of the entourage effect include:

  • Cancer treatment, including breast cancer treatment and colon cancer treatment. A botanical drug preparation showed better anti-tumor efficacy than pure tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the entourage effect seemed to aid in suppressing the growth, reproduction, and migration of cancerous cells.
  • The treatment of mental health conditions including mood disorders, major depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. This could be especially helpful for those who have been less responsive to traditional treatment methods for these conditions.
  • Inhibiting adenylyl cyclase — a compound that can attack and weaken white blood cells and disrupt the production of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), which is involved in the regulation of glycogen, sugar, and lipid metabolism.
  • Opioid detoxification and addiction treatment, which may help with the opioid epidemic.
  • Anti-inflammation by preventing tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), which can lead to significantly reduced pain and discomfort. 
  • Treatment of other conditions including epilepsy and fungal and bacterial infections.

Although research on the entourage effect is relatively new, the findings are promising and we’ve only just scratched the surface. The anti-tumor properties of cannabinoids hint at undiscovered breakthroughs in cancer treatment. The potential benefits in the mental health space could lead to drastic shifts in the way common conditions like depression, anxiety, bipolar, or post-traumatic stress disorder are treated. Even learning and memory are affected by our endocannabinoid system — which could potentially lead to revolutionary treatments for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

We’ve seen the tip of the iceberg, and there is still so much left to discover.

What Does the Entourage Effect Feel Like?

If you’ve never experienced the entourage effect for yourself, it can be difficult to contextualize. The thought exercise below may help illustrate this in more accessible terms.

Imagine you’re sitting alone in a theater or concert hall. You find yourself looking at a dark, empty stage. A spotlight shines on the center of the stage and there’s a lone musician standing in the middle. As they begin to play, the room is filled with the sounds of their melody. You sit in the darkness as the sound of music (sorry, not sorry) washes over you.

Now imagine that same theater or concert hall. Instead of sitting alone, you are in a crowd of people. The lone spotlight and musician have been replaced with a band, full pyrotechnics, and a light show. As they begin to play, the room is filled with the sounds of their melodies, in combination with harmonies and rhythm. Flashes of light and color dance across the room. You sit in the crowd, swaying and moving to the music alongside everyone else, as the sound of music (again, not sorry) washes over you.

This is what the entourage effect feels like.

In these scenarios, the room itself remains unchanged, yet it feels so much different from one concert to the next. While our lone musician was capable of playing a beautiful melody, the addition of other musicians allowed for more complexity of music and sound. Color and light altered the mood and amplified the effects of the music. As additional layers were added to the experience, each was more amplified than the one before. 

Again, the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Potential Benefits of Full-Spectrum, Entourage-Effect Cannabis 

Full spectrum CBD requires a less complex extraction process than its isolated counterparts. Because of this simplified extraction process, full spectrum CBD contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids the raw cannabis plant has to offer. This “full spectrum” of cannabinoids means (you guessed it) the entourage effect comes into play.

According to Medical News Today, uses for full-spectrum CBD include:

  • Anti-seizure treatment. This 2019 study suggests CBD and other cannabinoids may be an effective treatment option for epilepsy, particularly with epilepsy that has been resistant to other forms of treatment.
  • Pain relief and treatment of chronic pain. Several studies suggest a combination of THC and CBD may be an effective treatment method for reducing and relieving chronic neuropathic pain (pain caused by a disruption or disturbance in one or more nerves).
  • Anti-anxiety treatment. A 2011 study found that CBD may reduce feelings of anxiety, discomfort, and cognitive impairment.
  • Addiction recovery treatment. A 2019 study found CBD significantly reduced drug-cue induced cravings and anxiety compared to a placebo. The study also suggests decreased physiological symptoms in response to drug cues (specifically heart rate and salivary cortisol levels).
  • Treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. Studies indicate CBD and other cannabinoids may be effective in treating Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

As we learn more about full-spectrum cannabis, we’ll likely discover new benefits, applications, and treatment methods for this powerful combination of compounds. Anecdotally, study participants and cannabis users have reported decreased stress and anxiety, decreased pain and inflammation, improved mood, and alleviation of symptoms from chronic conditions.

How to Experience the Entourage Effect With Full-Spectrum, Whole-Plant Cannabis

Full-Spectrum Cannabis vs. Isolated Cannabinoids

According to Medical News Today, “[t]here are three main types of cannabidiol (CBD). CBD isolate is the pure form of CBD, while full-spectrum CBD is an extract containing other compounds of the cannabis plant, such as terpenes and other cannabinoids. The third type is broad-spectrum CBD.”

First, we have the isolate. Isolated cannabinoids are extracts that contain a single cannabinoid. Typically, this is achieved with multiple solvent and distillation processes. Other cannabinoids and compounds are not preserved during isolation, extraction, and processing (which typically removes all flavor and odor from the final product). The extracts are typically between 97% and 99.9% pure, which means an isolated cannabinoid effectively contains just a single compound.

Next, we have full-spectrum cannabis. The goal during extraction and processing for full-spectrum cannabis is simple: Preserve as many cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids as possible, and maintain the ratios of each of these three compounds throughout processing. Because terpenes and flavonoids are more volatile than cannabinoids, it’s difficult to maintain ratios during processing, which makes true full-spectrum extracts incredibly rare.

Broad-spectrum cannabinoids are a middle ground between isolated and full-spectrum cannabis. This can be created either by adding terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids to an isolated cannabinoid after processing, or through additional distillation processes when extracting full-spectrum cannabis (usually to remove THC).

Most edibles, vapes, and oils available in stores or dispensaries are isolates. Since most of the compounds have been lost, you won’t benefit from the entourage effect when vaping, consuming edibles, or using oils.

If you want to experience the benefits of the entourage effect, you’ll need multiple compounds. Because it contains several cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, full-spectrum, whole-plant cannabis is the best, most natural way to achieve the entourage effect.

Field Queen

For the best full-spectrum cannabis product on the market, we recommend raw cannabis powder from Field Queen. Field Queen cannabinoid powder is 100% natural and contains everything mother nature put into the cannabis plant (only water has been removed). Because this all-natural cannabis powder contains multiple cannabinoids and compounds, you’ll receive the benefits of the entire plant — which means, of course, the entourage effect will come into play.

Because these compounds interact with our endocannabinoid system more efficiently, full-spectrum cannabis has increased potency and bioavailability. This means less product is required to achieve the same effect. The improved bioavailability of Field Queen’s full-spectrum cannabis will produce the best possible results and benefits while saving you money compared to other cannabis products.

What is the Entourage Effect of Full-Spectrum Cannabis? 

By now, you should be able to answer a few questions confidently. Questions like, “What is the entourage effect?” and “What is full-spectrum cannabis?”. At this point, it seems there’s only one question left to answer: What are you waiting for?

Visit Field Queen and experience the benefits of full-spectrum cannabis (and the entourage effect) for yourself!