CBD 101, CBD Research

The Entourage Effect and CBD

hand holding a hemp plant


When it comes to cannabis, most of us are only aware of CBD and THC. But the truth is that cannabis contains hundreds of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other active compounds.

These natural substances work together in a synergy that scientists have dubbed the “entourage effect.”

In this article, we’re going to explain what this effect is and discuss the research surrounding it.

What Is the Entourage Effect?

To give a basic definition, the entourage effect is the synergistic relationship between all of the active compounds naturally present in cannabis. These include:

  • The two major cannabinoids (CBD and THC)
  • The “minor” cannabinoids that are present in much smaller quantities (CBG, CBC, CBN, and many others)
  • Terpenes
  • Flavonoids, fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and other phytochemicals

By working together in synergy, these compounds produce greater benefits than CBD or THC by themselves. In this sense, each compound is not only providing a beneficial effect but also intensifying the effects of other molecules. The entourage effect is maximized by whole-plant cannabis preparations, also known as full-spectrum extracts.

An easy way to understand the entourage effect is to think of an orchestra. When played together, all of the musical components of an orchestra, including piano, violin, flute, and others, create a sound that’s more pleasant and harmonious than any instrument by itself.

Similarly, while CBD or THC-only preparations are beneficial, they’re more effective when combined with hundreds of other active ingredients. These compounds add their own benefits and boost each other’s effectiveness through synergistic interactions. As the popular saying goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Cannabinoids and the Entourage Effect

The main contributors to the entourage effect are cannabinoids: the main active compounds in cannabis. Although researchers have identified over 113 different cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the best known because they’re present in much higher amounts.

On its own, THC causes psychoactive side effects popularly known as the marijuana “high,” which can include euphoria, anxiety, paranoia, and impaired memory and reaction time.

All cannabinoids can interact together in hundreds of unique ways. Researchers are only beginning to explore the ways in which cannabinoids work together and influence each other’s effects.

Terpenes and the Entourage Effect

Given the major impact of cannabinoids, it can be easy to overlook another type of beneficial cannabis compounds: terpenes. Terpenes are a class of aromatic molecules produced by a variety of plants. The terpene pinene, for example, has the fragrance of pine trees.

Much like the case with cannabinoids, there are well over 100 different terpenes in cannabis plants, including linalool, limonene, myrcene, caryophyllene, and pinene. Terpene composition plays a big role in differentiating strains of cannabis.

Where terpenes truly shine, however, are their synergistic relationships with cannabinoids, improving their effectiveness.

The study of the health effects of terpenes and their interactions with cannabinoids is the next great frontier of cannabis research.

Making Use Of the Entourage Effect: Whole-Plant CBD

We can see that the entourage effect is beneficial. But how do you best make use of it with CBD oil and other CBD products? The answer is simple: look for CBD preparations made from the whole hemp plant.

Such extracts are typically called full or broad-spectrum CBD and undergo minimal processing. Full-spectrum extracts maintain all of the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other naturally-occurring compounds in hemp. Meanwhile, broad-spectrum extracts contain the same beneficial compounds but completely remove THC.

By comparison, many products are made with CBD isolate: a >99% pure form of CBD. Although these products are also beneficial, they don’t utilize the entourage effect.

The Entourage Effect: Holistic Benefits

If we think about the entourage effect from a natural perspective, it makes a lot of sense. Beneficial compounds rarely exist in their isolated form in nature. Instead, they’re combined with hundreds of other active ingredients.

If you want to maximize the wellness benefits of CBD oil and other CBD products, it’s best to use full or broad-spectrum product.