The Entourage Effect

Thanks to their efficacy and popularity, THC and CBD have become well-known acronyms among medical professionals and patients alike. Research into their medicinal effects has revealed their usefulness for an ever-expanding list of health issues.

But pure THC and CBD extracts may not offer the best possible therapeutic results. A growing number of researchers believe these substances produce superior results when administered in a more natural form, either together or in combination with other chemical compounds found in cannabis plants like the minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Such compounds are often referred to as whole-plant or full-spectrum products.

They claim this is the result of a theoretical principle known as the entourage effect. While some still have doubts, experimental and anecdotal evidence has convinced many cannabis consumers and industry professionals that the entourage effect is real.


When multiple cannabis compounds are integrated, their medicinal effects may be altered or enhanced. The flavors and psychoactive capacities may also be affected, creating distinct products with varying characteristics.

According to its advocates, the group dynamics of the entourage effect can create emergent properties that would otherwise not be present in pure THC or CBD. Many who work closely with cannabis believe the entourage effect can dramatically increase the medicinal utility of THC and CBD, either by magnifying their known effects or by expanding their menu of therapeutic applications.

The therapeutic effects of cannabis compounds arise from their capacity to bind with naturally occurring endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the central nervous system. The human endocannabinoid system is designed to link with endogenous cannabinoids produced by the body, but compounds found in cannabis plants can bind with these receptors just as efficiently.

Health benefits abound when high-quality medicinal cannabis is consumed by humans. The entourage effect may be one of the reasons why marijuana is such an effective medicine.


The entourage effect is believed to emerge from the interactions between cannabinoids and between terpenes and cannabinoids. Terpenes are essential oils with distinctive aromas and flavors, and the characteristics of individual cannabis products are often determined by their relative concentrations of specific terpenes.

Currently, most of the research into the entourage effect has focused on the interactions between THC and CBD, and more specifically, on how the latter might affect the former.

“The biggest influence [on THC] is CBD,” states Ethan Russo, a neurologist who serves as Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute in Prague. Perhaps no one in the industry has gone to greater lengths to prove the existence of the entourage effect than Russo, who has been scouring the scientific literature in search of its footprints for decades.