When there’s so much hype about cannabidiol (CBD), why would we start this article by focusing on effect of THC? The reason being is that the “entourage effect” of cannabis is incredibly therapeutic, but it only works when multiple plant compounds are present. Dr Ethan Russo was the first to coin the term the "entourage effect" when studying the synergy between the various cannabis plant compounds.
There are various illnesses and conditions of the body that will respond to CBD, but when we remember what was covered about our complex endocannabinoid system, it starts to make more sense that part of the reason for the compatibility of the plant phytocannabinoid system is due to the fact that it exploits the complexities of our own inbuilt processes.
Yes, the human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS). Discovered in the mid-1990s, it has been found to be responsible for bringing balance and order to ever other system in the body, from the lymphatic and nervous system to the reproductive.
It was originally considered that CBD was an inactive cannabinoid found inside cannabis, but after research found it was highly active and found in large quantities naturally in the hemp variety of cannabis, studies began showing that it has many therapeutic qualities, much like THC, along with its own unique effects.
Even when we consider that both THC and CBD have similar effects, such as they’re both anti-inflammatories, it seems that they each achieve this in different ways. This results in a more well-rounded and robust response as a result of the two of these compounds working in synergy inside the body.
Even better, not only are CBD and THC anti-inflammatory by nature, there are also several other varieties of phytocannabinoids that are showing this effect as well, and each of them work slightly different from one another. So far, the research tells us that CBD is the most potent anti-inflammatory phytocannabinoid and comes in second in its analgesic effects to only THC.
CBD plays an incredibly important role throughout the immune system and central nervous system with its ability to activate and inhibit non-cannabinoid receptors along with improving the activity and synthesis of anandamide (AEA).
Yes, terpenes are real, with over 200 terpenes found inside the cannabis plant, they work in synergy with the other compounds such as cannabinoids, flavoninoids and phytosterols improving the efficiency and potency, which creates an entourage effect.
Cannabis bred to be high in CBD has the ability to block inflammation in the brain and body. CBD decreases the psychoactive properties of THC without lowering blood or tissue levels of THC. CBD improves collagen in healing bone and promotes bone fusion in the connective tissue system of the body while THC does not.
CBD also has the ability to convert inflammatory weight-promoting and cardiac-damaging white fat into anti-inflammatory, weight-losing, and cardiac-protective brown fat. CBD, not the other phytocannabinoids, also seems to protect against the annihilation of the heart muscle caused by diabetes.
Terpenes do a lot from relieving anxiety and depression to aiding with stress and sleep disorders. Alpha-pinene, myrcene and linalool are just three out of the hundreds of terpenes found in the cannabis plant that work together to produce synergy with the other plant compounds.
What is different from unique properties of either THC or CBD, is the synergy between them and some of the other phytocannabinoids. One example of this synergy at play is in the treatment of prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer other than skin cancer among men, found only second to lung cancer in male cancer deaths.
THC doesn’t even have to activate CB1 receptors in order to cause prostate cancer cells to implode. Quite incredible. In fact, CBD, CBDA, THCA, CBN, and CBG all block prostate cancer cells from growing rapidly, preventing tumors from growing and spreading.
THC, CBC, and CBD have the unique ability to strengthen the immune system and are all anti-inflammatory. Testosterone-independent deadly prostate cancer cells, which are more difficult to eliminate, and are harder to prevent spreading, are sensitive to CBD.
The difference between cannabinoids and terpenes is in their chemical structure and in how they act upon the body. Most cannabinoids work with and through the body's own endocannabinoid system, whereas the effect of terpenes seem to act directly upon other systems of the body and with the cannabinoids.
When you start to hear of this you may begin to think that you should be consuming a full spectrum of cannabinoids instead of just one, and you would be right in assuming the research backs this. It’s not until the plant is heated that CBD and THC become more present in the plant, which can be accomplished by smoking the plant, vaporizing it, or pre-cooking it in an oven before adding it to liquids or edibles, a process which is known as decarboxylation.
The raw plant contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). These phytocannabinoids have their own unique anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-cancer properties. Although the body doesn’t convert THCA to THC, it does convert CBDA to CBD, with the research showing blood levels increase by four fold if the plant is consumed raw or the fresh leaves are juiced, than if the plant is preheated. This means utilizing the raw plant provides another way of consumption of cannabis with markedly reduced risk of psychotropic effects and an increased blood level of CBD.
When cannabis is growing with high-CBD levels it becomes effective on its own for a variety of degenerative brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and dementias. CBD also reverses inflammation in the brain’s immune system.
A tiny amount of CBD breaks down into THC in the body, which is an action that may explain the rare side effect of drowsiness. If this does occur, dosing can be shifted to the evening, with the result being improved sleep. In some people, daytime drowsiness can still happen on occasion. If this happens, switching over to a different strain of high-CBD/low-THC cannabis can be helpful.
It seems that CBD, THC, CBN, and CBC all help to improve symptoms and signs of psoriasis. At very high doses, these strains of cannabis may lower cortisol levels.
Cannabichromene (CBC) is anti-inflammatory in its own unique way, with its ability to block nitric oxide, which in turn, blocks the release of the main pain neurotransmitter, substance-P. It also blocks one of the pain receptors, PPAR gamma. CBD, THC, and CBC all show antidepressant effects in animal studies, while cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN) do not show these effects. CBN has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, along with anti-cancer effects. CBN is also of value for aiding in sleep disorders.
One of the major challenges when it comes to medical cannabis treatment is the illegal status of the plant due to the effects of THC and its desirability as a recreational drug. Side effects of high-THC cannabis are covered in our various other articles, but these side effects don’t necessarily mean that THC has to be removed from treatment options, but for the focus to be put on limiting its psychotropic effects and avoiding impairment.
The endocannabinoid and phytocannabinoid systems both show the entourage effect of synergism among their various components. Phytocannabinoids have no lethal dose in standardized testing. Cannabidiol (CBD) has a very large spectrum of benefits, being superior, synergistic and activity-modifying of other phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and non-cannabinoids. CBD doesn’t have any significant psychoactive effects and works the best when combined with other phytocannabinoids. As a single compound, it presents a large amount of potential treatment options with a wide variety of disease states and diseases.
Below are some of the mechanisms of medical cannabis:
The phytocannabinoid system improves the endocannabinoid system and then works through on improving its functioning and restoring balance in the face of injury or illness. The science surrounding how these plant-based products work is quickly unfolding, but there’s still much to be understood.
There are some challenges with medical cannabis, include some unwanted effects, side effects, issues of abuse, and misuse, and social disruption, but one only needs to listen to the disclaimers at the end of television ads for FDA-approved drugs to see that the risks of medical cannabis are so much more acceptable than many pharmaceutical drugs.
There are severe conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, psychiatric disorders, autoimmune problems, and epilepsy that need new treatment protocols. If any other safe compound had similar effects on health as does medical cannabis, researchers, pharmaceutical companies, clinicians, and the government would be doing everything in their power and abilities to fast-track them for public availability. Instead, the opposite has happened.
To this very day, the research surrounding cannabinoids is still largely restricted. This huge bias on national funding agencies toward finding research that supports prohibition and has negative hypotheses and results is evident in the concerted effort to keep debunked negative claims in the public eye on federal websites.
Medical practitioners such as physicians are still very poorly informed across the board about the science of the endocannabinoid and phytocannabinoid systems. The moralistic and political decision making of the past has to yield to rational approaches to exploring the full health benefits of hemp and cannabis.
We hope this article covered your question, is the entourage effect real, and helped you understand the evidence surrounding medical marijuana and hemp in more detail and how utilizing full spectrum cannabinoid and terpene products can help. The entourage effect is real.