How cannabis compounds work together to increase the therapeutic value of the plant as a whole.
Most of us have heard the phrase “The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts,” which alludes to the fact that greater things are achieved when people work together towards a common goal, versus operating as individuals. We can think of cannabis in much of the same way.
We can think of hemp, a varietal of cannabis, in much of the same way. Hemp contains several individual chemical components that make up the sum of all its parts. In fact, hemp is an incredibly complex plant containing over 400 individual chemical entities! These components include the phytocannabinoids (“phyto” from the Greek word for plant) CBD, THC, and some lesser-known cannabinoids such as CBN, CBC, CBG, CBDa, THC, THCa, among dozens of others.
While the major cannabinoids are widely known for their therapeutic influence on the health of mammals, other chemical components within cannabis hold their own form of therapeutic value.
The less recognized components of the hemp plant include terpenes (beneficial aromatic compounds), flavonoids (pigment compounds), omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (neuroprotectants), antioxidants (free radical fighters), and other essential vitamins and minerals.
The “entourage effect” is a theory that proposes when all of the various components of the hemp plant are combined, a synergistic event occurs. The entourage effect theorizes that the “entourage,” or the group of compounds, work together to increase the therapeutic value of the plant as a whole. The greatest therapeutic effects occur when multiple extracts of the hemp plant are combined, including the stems, stalks, leaves, and flowers—all of which contain various beneficial phytochemicals.
How Does CBD Fit into the Entourage Effect?
CBD’s positive influence on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) showcases the entourage effect in action.
A true full-spectrum product, which includes both CBD and a small amount of THC (under <0.3%, the legal limit), and the other beneficial components mentioned above, can increase the benefits and enhance the overall effectiveness of CBD. In other words, all other parts of the hemp plant help CBD to work better, rather than the isolated compound working on its own.
While there will always be a place for isolate products, such as CBD isolates and broad-spectrum products (containing all of the components of a full-spectrum product, but with the THC removed), they don’t offer the full therapeutic potential of the entire hemp plant. The entourage effect is most applicable when all of hemp’s components are present, including THC. The compounds CBD and THC work especially well when combined, as CBD can influence THC’s binding affinity to receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system.
When thinking about CBD’s influence on balancing the ECS, its best to consider it as a critically vital piece, but be aware that it doesn’t paint the whole picture. CBD has a starring role in an ensemble cast, whose sum is greater than each individual part. To truly reap all the benefits of the hemp plant, CBD is best consumed when the full-spectrum of components are present—just as nature intended.