Cannabis marketeers promote the idea with gusto, but is the entourage effect scientifically proven?

The concept of a cannabis entourage effect was first hypothesized in the late 1990s and since then, countless articles and marketing campaigns have promoted the idea as fact. But in reality there’s little solid evidence to back up the claim, which begs the question: Is the entourage effect real?

What Is The Entourage Effect?

The entourage effect is the idea that all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in cannabis work together to produce an effect greater than when separated. It was first postulated in 1998 as a way to explain the results of an earlier study on the endocannabinoid system that showed a boosting effect when multiple cannabinoids were combined. The term ‘entourage effect’ was coined, and the theory has since ballooned in popularity.

Cannabinoids and Terpene Synergy

In the intervening years a number of preliminary studies have suggested the existence of the entourage effect. For example, one study involving the cannabis derived pharmaceutical SATIVEX showed CBD to modulate the effects of THC, an idea supported by a great deal of anecdotal evidence. 

Additionally, the cannabis terpenes alpha-humulene and beta-caryophyllene do exist together in synergy, which has all helped to lend credence to the idea that the constituent parts of cannabis work together in concert to produce a magnifying effect.

Photo by ktsimage

Entourage Effect Theory and Speculation

But despite this growing sense of truth, the entourage effect remains a theory. Due to the difficulty of conducting scientific studies on a schedule 1 substance such as cannabis, performing basic science to determine simple truths about the plant are near impossible. Many of the studies undertaken so far are either anecdotal, or are yet to be fully corroborated, meaning hard evidence proving the existence of such an effect is scant. This however has not stopped the poorly regulated world of cannabis marketing from proudly boasting of a ‘whole plant’ synergy, more often than not, in an attempt to sell a therapeutic product.

The Grand Orchestra of Cannabis

The thought of a grand orchestra of cannabinoids and terpenes playing in unison with THC as its conductor is an intriguing one. Perhaps in time the entourage effect will be proven true, it is after all our best current explanation for the complex interactions that appear to be taking place between the many components of cannabis. 

Sadly however, until marijuana is removed as a schedule 1 substance, thorough and complete scientific study to determine the truth of the matter cannot take place. In the meantime, it’s probably best to take bold marketing claims about the entourage effect with a generous pinch of salt.

Photo Captured by Yarygin