The Entourage Effect
You may not have taken much time to really look or think at the cannabis plant, but it is a work of nature. The plant itself is covered in a sticky substance called crystal resin, which contains hundreds of compounds known as cannabinoids and terpenoids. These are what give cannabis it’s almost magical properties; among them are of course, the two most popular ones: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). However, these are just two of many important parts of the plant that can work together for a variety of medical purposes. This interactive synergy between cannabis compounds is called the “entourage effect.” once you understand it, you’ll see why oils or Tinctures which only contain THC or CBD aren’t always sufficient for many medical conditions.
The Different Parts of the Cannabis Plant
This is generally what all the hype is about. The flowers of the female cannabis plant can be identified by their small teardrop structure.
Trichomes are the frosty-looking coating found on the surface of the plant. Trichomes protect the plant from external stressors and contain resinous glands that create flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenes.
The main part of the flower at the end of a female plant’s stem is comprised of small floral clusters. In general, the bigger and denser the trichomes are in a cola, the better quality it will be.
Leaves are an important part of a cannabis plant. There are, in fact, a couple types of cannabis leaves. The large, protruding leaves that appear along the length of the plant are called fan leaves. Theses leaves are essential to the plant’s photosynthesis but are always removed when harvested.
Sugar leaves are smaller than fan leaves and found throughout the colas’ cupping buds that are typically trimmed off the flower after harvest. They are called “sugar leaves” because of the high volume of trichomes found on them, which makes it look like the leaves are covered in sugar.
Theses are the small leaves that surround the reproductive cells of a female cannabis plant. When a female plant is exposed to pollen from a male plant, the bracts surround and shield the seed pod, protecting it from predators.
The stem is, of course, the main structure of the cannabis plant. Its main function is to transports fluids, nutrients, and information from the roots to the rest of the cannabis plant.
This is the point in which the stem and leaf intersect. Nodes can hold one or more leaves or offshoots. Nodes are important to be familiar with, as they are where cannabis plants begin to grow either pollen sacs from the male plants or pistils. Understanding the sex of a cannabis plant is crucial to the final product, since only female plants produce flowers and since non-pollinated flowers are far superior than pollinated buds when it comes to consumption.
The History of the Entourage Effect
For much of cannabis’s history, the reason behind the different effects and how the different cannabinoids reacted with each other remained a mystery. Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist who has long studied cannabis compounds and their role in the body, was deeply instrumental in the current understanding of cannabinoids. The term ‘entourage effect’ wasn’t coined until 1999 and originally identified as a method of endocannabinoid regulation. The entourage effect has since evolved to describe the effects of combined cannabis chemicals together.
Why Does the Entourage Effect Matter?
THC and CBD are cannabinoids, which means they bind to the CB1 receptor (which is mainly found in the brain) and CB2 receptor (which is mainly found in the immune system). Together with other receptors, they are a part of the endocannabinoid system. Researchers only discovered the endocannabinoid system in the early 1990s. The endocannabinoid system is basically a collection of neurotransmitter that appears to regulate things like mood and immune function.
While THC binds with your body’s receptors, it also interacts with other cannabinoids in your system. It also has a complicated relationship with CBD which we are only beginning to understand. While there aren’t many studies out there to confirm this, cannabis users have reported that CBD can modulate the psychoactive effects of THC. This is important for medical users since it could mean taking only THC oils or CBD oils won’t give you the full beneficial effect of cannabis.
CBD medicines have been gaining momentum in recent years as well. It has been shown to treat pain, reduce anxiety, and decrease inflammation among a variety of other benefits. In fact, some researchers believe that CBD’s ability to act on the endocannabinoid system may provide benefits for those with neurological disorders such as with multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
Cannabinoids and Terpenes Together
“Whole plant medicine” is a term used to describe medicines utilizing the full spectrum of therapeutic compounds cannabis has to offer. Although a lot of cannabis today is bred to contain a disproportionately large amount of THC compared to other compounds for maximum psychoactive abilities. The importance of chemical diversity is being realized as new strains emerge. We are still in the infancy stage of understanding the whole plant medicine principle, but we can look at anecdotal evidence for some answers. For example, it seems that when following the entourage principle, intoxication is higher. This is likely because the body absorbs the THC when other cannabinoids are involved. The diverse chemical availability in whole plant medicines is remarkable in its own right, but research looking into how cannabinoids and terpenoids work together adds another level of intrigue.