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Cannabis Basics: What Is The Entourage Effect?

We often talk about cannabis as though it were a single medicine. In one sense this is true: When we designed the products in the Vireo Spectrum™ line of cannabis medicine, we chose specific strains of cannabis for their precise, consistent, and replicable medicinal properties.

But in another sense, cannabis isn’t one medicine at all, but many combined into one. Rather than delivering a single “active ingredient,” cannabis contains many dozens of them in the form of natural compounds called cannabinoids.

Some researchers believe that, rather than working in isolation, the interaction between cannabinoids—sometimes known as the “entourage effect”—is medically important. Let’s review a little information about the most abundant cannabinoids, THC and CBD, and then we’ll share what we know about the entourage effect.

The Cannabis Plant’s “Active Ingredients”

Medically speaking, cannabinoids are the most important. They’re a family of compounds that interact with one of the body’s most important regulatory networks: The Endocannabinoid System. At present, some 113 of them have been identified in the cannabis plant.

From a clinical perspective, the two most prevalent ones are of the greatest interest to us: THC and CBD. You’ve probably heard of THC. As well as being the most abundant cannabinoid, it’s also the only one responsible for the cannabis plant’s psychoactive effects, or what’s commonly called its “high.”

The second most common cannabinoid is CBD. Until recently, it received far less attention than THC, but that’s changing rapidly. While it doesn’t impart any of THC’s psychoactivity, it’s already been implicated in a stunning array of medical benefits, and it’s likely that more will be identified in the near future.

The Entourage Effect: Cannabinoids in Concert

As you might expect, these cannabinoids elicit different effects in our bodies. The fact that THC is psychoactive and CBD isn’t is merely one example. But there’s also evidence that these compounds work together, rather than separately. For instance, it’s believed that CBD actually helps reduce THC’s psychoactivity, though this effect may be dependent in part upon other variables.

Many clinicians believe that there are many other interactions occurring behind the scenes. For instance, one study published in 2011 suggests that THC interacts with a terpene, or aromatic oil, called alpha-pinene. It’s found in certain cannabis strains, and it appears to help counteract the cannabinoid’s negative impact on short-term memory.

Other researchers aren’t convinced. Citing the scarcity of double-blind clinical trials—the best method for obtaining valid, authoritative information on any medication—some are concerned that anecdotes are taking the place of scientifically derived evidence.

For example, some dispensaries describe their cannabis products solely on the basis of their terpene profiles. While terpenes are known to contribute important medical benefits on their own, we feel it’s premature to draw conclusions about an entourage effect between them and cannabinoids until they’ve been established through clinical trials rather than anecdotal evidence.

For our part, we’re excited by the possibilities suggested by the entourage effect and other interactions between the compounds in cannabis. But until we have hard evidence, we can’t and won’t make unsubstantiated claims.

In Conclusion

Again, that’s one of the many reasons we design and produce all Vireo Health’s cannabis medicines to consistent and exacting standards. We’ve found that the specific ratios of THC to CBD produce safe and predictable results for our patients, but—as with any medication—everyone reacts slightly differently. That’s why the Vireo Spectrum™ line is available in easy-to-use, color-coded formulations so that you can tailor the cannabis medicine to your specific needs, conditions, and goals.

If you have questions or concerns about the components in cannabis medicine, please don’t hesitate to write us an email. We’d love for you to join this important conversation.

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