With the whole plant, cannabis delivers an entourage effect.
If you’ve read anything about cannabis recently, you’ve probably heard about the many promising benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) in treating cancer, epilepsy, depression, anxiety and chronic pain, and the option of purchasing “buzz-free” CBD with only trace amounts of cannabis’s psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Some writers new to cannabis have rushed to present CBD as the medical side of cannabis, and THC as the recreational. But it’s not that simple — cannabis contains hundreds of active elements, including cannabinoids like CBD and THC, plus terpenes, which give it its distinct odor, and flavonoids, which give it different taste profiles. While they all have some impact on body and brain functions — THC is an effective treatment in cancer care, reducing nausea and sleep disorders and increasing appetite — by working together, they can positively impact both the medicinal and recreational value of cannabis. This synergistic interaction between elements is often called the “entourage effect.” Adherents to the entourage effect promote what they call “Whole Plant Medicine” — consuming bud or extracts that contain a natural mix of elements.
Strains of cannabis that have relatively equal amounts of CBD and THC have been shown to be more effective in pain relief, control of nausea and suppression of cancer cell growth than strains that have been bred to produce mostly THC or CBD.
A study conducted by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that patients treated with Sativex, which includes both THC and CBD, had greater tolerance for the drug than those treated with Malinol, which includes only THC, and were much less likely to experience anxiety or paranoia. While this research proves an important point about element interaction, at Home Grow Community we’re opposed to medications based on synthetic cannabinoids, and feel strongly that derivatives from organic cannabis, with their many positively interacting elements, are healthier and align more closely with our values.
Terpenes and flavonoids may play an important role as well. Adie Wilson-Poe, one of the researchers at Washington University, believes Whole Plant medicine takes the entourage effect beyond merely the positive effects of combining THC and CBD. “If you were to vaporize a whole flower,” she says, “you’d be consuming potentially a couple dozen anti-inflammatory molecules at once,” says Wilson-Poe. “In this sense I think of whole-plant cannabis as like a multivitamin for inflammation.”
In a paper published in the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2011, Dr. Ethan Russo, Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, reported that, while terpenes in cannabis can have sedative, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects on their own, they seem to change the way cannabinoids like CBD and THC bind to their receptors, positively impacting the way in which these cannabinoids’ effect body function.