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The Entourage Effect: What Is It?

Medical marijuana is comprised of various components including cannabinoids and terpenes. Researchers have noted a significant difference between how these components act individually and what happens when they are combined. This is referred to as the entourage effect. To discover how this effect can benefit your medical conditions, talk to one of our Florida Medical Marijuana Doctors. Take our simple 5-minute eligibility survey to see if you pre-qualify as a Florida medical marijuana patient.

Most people familiar with the marijuana plant are aware of THC, CBD, and terpenes. However, they may not know there are over 400 chemicals present in the plant itself, including some that appear to have little to no effect on the endocannabinoid system when used by themselves. However, when combined with other parts of the plant, the substances work together to affect the way the receptors and system interact with each other.  Unlike synergy, where two or more substances with notable specific actions of their own work as a team to exert a combined influence on the body, the chemicals that function as a team to produce the entourage effect may have very little, if any, impact on cannabinoid receptors by themselves. In other words, while all entourage effects are synergistic, not all synergy produces the entourage effect.

Because of how various chemicals inside and outside the body interact with each other due to the entourage effect, simply knowing what each individual component does on its own will not give you the full scope of its possible actions when paired with other parts of the whole. While specific cannabinoids or terpenes in the marijuana plant may have certain properties, if they interact with other substances present in the plant the effects may be different than expected. This is one reason why it is so difficult to determine exactly what will happen to a person using whole-plant marijuana as opposed to one medicating with an isolated property like CBD, THC, or another specific cannabinoid or terpene; researchers simply haven’t had time to investigate all the ways the substances found in marijuana affect each other as well as the person using it. 

How Does it Work?

Let’s start with a well-known scenario: THC causes a feeling of euphoria also known as a high. Sometimes this sensation can be overwhelming and cause a person to experience things like anxiety or panic, to have an increased heart rate and blood pressure, and to feel dizzy or nauseated. Here are some ways to help your body cope:

  • Use CBD. It helps the body moderate the effects of THC and ease that too-high feeling. Inhalation is the quickest way to get relief – vaping, dabbing, or smoking are all good choices. 
  • Another option is to sniff or chew black peppercorns. They contain a terpene called Beta-caryophyllene that binds to CB2 receptors and helps ease anxiety and paranoia.
  • In a similar fashion, the terpene limonene, abundant in fresh lemons, helps moderate the effects of THC on the brain. If you have some lemons in your kitchen, make some fresh lemonade and drink it to lessen the sensations associated with using too much marijuana.

Terpenes are found in marijuana as well as many other plants, fruits, and vegetables. They are chemicals responsible for the smell of various strains, but their properties aren’t just limited to the ability to create aroma. Certain terpenes have also been identified for their ability to influence body systems when they interact with cannabinoids on CB2 receptors. 

  • Alpha pinene, responsible for the smell of pine associated with some strains of marijuana, helps maintain an important part of the brain’s ability to form memories by preserving or protecting acetylcholine, the chemical responsible for memory formation.
  • Myrcene can help ease the resistance in what’s called the blood-brain barrier, enabling beneficial chemicals to pass from one to the other, thereby helping with healing and maintaining the body’s balance or homeostasis. 
  • Linalool, limonene, and CBG, when combined, may help treat MRSA, a drug-resistant bacterium found in weakened or elderly patients.
  • Pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene work together to ease anxiety as well as helping to treat addiction.
  • THC and CBN enhance sedation.
  • Limonene, linalool, and CBD are being studied as a possible treatment for acne.
  • Beta-pinene and limonene may help diabetics stabilize their blood sugars. 
  • Camphene, limonene, and beta-pinene help relieve nausea. 
  • Eucalyptol, camphene, and beta-pinene improve breathing. 
  • Alpha- and beta-pinene, combined, display anti-tumor properties. 
  • Limonene and linalool enhance the properties of CBD. 
  • Caryophyllene, linalool, and myrcene work with cannabinoids to help people with sleep disorders.

Flavonoids are also found in marijuana. In the plant kingdom, flavonoids are responsible for giving color to leaves and flowers – especially yellows and blues. They contribute many of the compounds found to be beneficial in tea, wine, berries, and cocoa. While they don’t contribute to the smell or taste of marijuana, they do contain properties that interact with other chemicals in the plant itself as they bind to endocannabinoid receptors to provide anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-aging, and anti-bacterial effects as well as aiding the cardiovascular system. 

Another interesting property of flavonoids is their ability to bind directly with opioid receptors in the human body. While THC can indirectly bind with these receptors, flavonoids activate them; this helps marijuana provide the kind of pain relief cannabinoids and terpenes cannot contribute on their own. In addition, flavonoids are not addictive, which cannot be said for most opioids. 

While eating raw, unprocessed marijuana is the best way to ingest and benefit from flavonoids, there are other alternatives available. Using different temperatures when vaping will release and/or activate some flavonoids, but may also burn others up. Here are the names and optimal vaping temperatures for the 4 best-known flavonoids:

  • Beta-sitosterol, thought to help with inflammation, has a relatively low vaporization temperature of 134°C. 
  • Apigenin, being studied for possible anti-inflammatory and estrogenic properties, is vaporized at 178°C.
  • Cannflavin A, a COX inhibitor (anti-inflammatory, non-steroidal), vaporizes at 182°C.
  • Quercetin, which demonstrates anti-oxidant and anti-viral properties, has the highest known vaporization temp at 250°C. 

If you drink a glass of apple juice, it’s not the same as eating an apple and allowing your body to use the peel, pulp, and the juice with all the chemicals contained in each part able to interact with each other and provide more health benefits than any one part of the apple can give you on its own. Likewise, marijuana is a complex plant we are just beginning to understand. One thing, however, is becoming more and more apparent – using the whole plant offers advantages you cannot get from its individual components. As time passes, researchers will discover more about the entourage effect and its ability to affect our body systems, helping us reach and maintain optimal health and wellness. Talking to a Florida Medical Marijuana Doctor can help you understand the best products and route for your situation.

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