What is the Entourage Effect?

Medically reviewed by Michael Matthews, M.D.
17 February 2024
Learn all about Entourage Effect through this article.
17 February 2024
17 min read
What is the Entourage Effect?

Cannabis plants are a storehouse of cannabinoids. There are more than a hundred cannabinoids found in the plant and scientists believe that there are a lot more to be discovered. Some cannabinoids aren’t recognized, but the ones that are popular are THC and CBD. While people believe that consuming CBD alone will work wonders, research suggests that CBD coupled with THC is much better. And, that’s the entourage effect, which is nothing short of magic.

THC and CBD along with many others react with the endocannabinoids present in the human body. Note that while the cannabinoids present within the cannabis plant are called phytocannabinoids, the ones present in the human body are called endocannabinoids. The human body is well equipped to produce its own cannabinoid – called anandamide – that is very similar to THC. However, unlike anandamide that has a short span of life, THC remains in the system for a longer time.

All this sounds complicated, but it becomes simple once you understand how the endocannabinoid system works. So, that brings us to…

What is the endocannabinoid system?

The endocannabinoid system or ECS is a system that comprises of cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids. It plays a crucial role in maintaining balance or homeostasis without which it becomes very difficult for the human body to function. The ECS is also responsible for maintaining many other functions in the human body including fertility.

The ECS consists of two receptors namely CB1 and CB2 that interact with the incoming cannabinoids. While CB1 receptors are present in the nervous system and the brain, CB2 receptors are present in the remaining parts of the body. Both the receptors are responsible to handle several functions including immunity among other things.

What’s fascinating is how THC and CBD react with these receptors. THC, in particular, fits very well with these receptors and activates several functions in the body.

What is the entourage effect?

 What is the Entourage Effect?: infographic


Now that you understand a bit about the ECS, understanding the entourage effect is easier. Out of the two cannabinoids – CBD and THC – THC produces psychoactive effects. Recreational users love THC mainly due to its effects. CBD, on the other hand, doesn't produce any such effects. In other words, you will not be high if you smoke or consume CBD. It contains many medicinal benefits and treats several illnesses.

However, although THC makes you high, it doesn’t mean that it’s evil. On the contrary, THC also possesses medicinal qualities and research shows that it could treat many issues. Although many people believe that CBD is better as a standalone medicine, scientists think that the effects may be enhanced by mixing both the cannabinoids.

Why? It’s because of the way the endocannabinoids within our body and terpenes present in the plant react. And, that’s the entourage effect.

Cannabis oils are available as:

  1. Broad-spectrum
  2. Full-spectrum
  3. CBD isolates

CBD isolates are nothing but pure CBD with up to 99% CBD. There’s nothing else other than CBD.  Coming to broad-spectrum, you’ll find both CBD and a few terpenes of the cannabis plant. Terpenes are the essential oils of the plant and are used in aromatherapy too. Most terpenes are used to relieve stress and pain. Next comes the full spectrum oils containing the goodness the cannabis plant has to offer. This means that it comprises of both CBD and THC along with the terpenes. Most full-spectrum oils contain no more than 0.3% THC, which is very minute. However, it could sometimes pop up in drug tests even if it doesn’t make you high.

Most people prefer CBD isolates because they don’t want to experience the psychoactive effects. However, the truth is that they are missing out on all the benefits cannabis actually offers. Plus, it’s important to remember that small amounts of THC will not make you high. In fact, CBD, THC, and terpenes combined together is wonderful for the human body.

When you ingest a full-spectrum oil, the phytocannabinoids present in the oil interact with the endocannabinoids in our body. This synergy is known as the entourage effect. In other words, it simply means that you could enjoy the benefits of the cannabis plant as a whole rather than singling out the cannabinoids separately.


What is the Entourage Effect?: components

Why it works?

Research suggests that the entourage effect can help to treat several issues including anxiety, pain, inflammation, infection and even cancer. Despite what you’re told to believe, the combination of the cannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant work better than consuming the cannabinoids separately.

Another reason why the entourage effect works is that CBD negates the effects of THC. In medical terms, they will be described as agonists and antagonists. While the agonists interact with a receptor, the antagonists have the opposite effect.

For instance, THC interacts with the CB1 receptor. It works just like anandamide and the chemical structure is also the same. But, THC is more powerful and also produces a few negative effects like dry mouth or red eyes that are commonly associated with consuming or smoking marijuana. Although these side effects are mild, it makes some people uncomfortable and that’s understandable.

But, the problem is that the effects are more pronounced in some cases. Cannabis reacts differently to different individuals. For instance, cannabis may not make you high at all but your friend might not able to manage the psychoactive effects. For some people, THC may cause paranoia and panic attacks especially when they consume very high doses.

To counteract this problem, you can use CBD. And that’s because CBD reduces these negative effects. Thanks to research, it’s found that CBD works as a negative allosteric modulator. In simple terms, allosteric modulators bind to receptors present in other sites and also change the physical structure.

Thus, CBD alters the shape of the CB1 receptors in such a way that the THC cannot bind with them effectively. Naturally, this reduces the negative effects but you’ll enjoy all the positive effects of the plant as a whole.

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THC and CBD ratios

With so many oils and other products available, it becomes very difficult to determine the dosage. In addition, oils that affect you in a particular way may not have any effect on another individual. As mentioned already, cannabis has different effects depending on the person consuming it.

Although cannabis oils are harmless, it’s recommended that you consult your physician before you try anything. Your doctor will be able to give you the exact dosage you require. Thankfully, many doctors are more open to working with patients and prescribe cannabis compared to how it was earlier. If your doctor refuses to recommend anything related to cannabis and you still want to try the oils, it’s perhaps time to switch doctors.

To start off, try small doses. Most companies offer CBD and THC products in the form of oils, capsules, gummies and other edibles. For example, if you purchase a bottle of capsules containing 30 capsules of 5mg each, try one capsule a day. Keep notes on how you feel and try to understand how your body reacts.

Wait at least a day or two before you increase the dosage. Sometimes, edibles start working after a few hours, which is why you should wait.

Also, if you’re trying out cannabis oils just to gain some positive effects, that’s completely okay. However, if you want to treat a particular illness, it’s necessary to gain more insight by consulting your physician. As long as you’re not worried about an impending drug test, try full-spectrum oils to truly experience the entourage effect.