The Entourage Effect

By Anthony Pellegrino Updated March 8th
The entourage effect is the theoretical result produced from the synergistic interaction of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids naturally found in cannabis.

If you heard the word marijuana, a few things would come to mind right away. You would likely think of the effects associated with its two main components, THC and CBD. For those of you unfamiliar, these two compounds are called cannabinoids. They're two of the most well-known compounds responsible for marijuana's effects.

THC and CBD are not the only cannabinoids found in weed, but they're the two that most of the scientific research is focused on. In truth, there can be several hundred compounds found in cannabis, and like THC and CBD, they can have different effects when you consume them in differing concentrations and combinations.

This is what is referred to as the entourage effect. But opinions vary as to the intensity of its effect (and whether it's real at all).

What is the entourage effect and is there scientific evidence to explain how it works? The entourage effect is the theoretical result produced from the synergistic interaction of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids naturally found in cannabis. We'll delve deeper into the subject below.

Why is the Entourage Effect So Interesting?

One of the biggest reasons the entourage effect is so interesting is that it would mean new, more finely-tuned cannabis strains could be cultivated. If it operates the way it's hypothesized to, many different types of medical benefits could be derived from future cannabis strains.

If research can demonstrate and measure an entourage effect, it should be possible to find the most desirable ratios of THC - CBD - terpenes, etc for different conditions. We can learn what concentrations of individual cannabinoids produce the most pleasurable or beneficial effect for different users. And there are expert cultivators around the globe that have learned to develop specific strains with differing concentrations of cannabinoids.

THC is one of hundreds of compounds found in cannabis.

This is also interesting and important because cannabis strains may affect everyone differently. Some consumers may find that certain combinations are useful for pain relief but cause severe anxiety at the same time. Others may find that the same strain is perfect for relaxation and not feel any anxiety at all. There can also be non-psychoactive benefits for specific medical conditions such as tumors or seizures that can be targeted toward individual physiology.

With a better understanding of the entourage effect, we may be able to discover why these different reactions occur. We could then help users select the right combination of cannabinoids to avoid negative reactions and enhance the desired ones. With better knowledge may come additional marijuana products finely tuned for their users, including both physical and mental benefits and treatments.

What Does Science Say About the Entourage Effect?

Thus far, the medical research into the Entourage Effect has been limited. A 2011 review asked the question on the top of many researchers' minds: “Is cannabis merely a crude vehicle for delivery of THC?

Is cannabis merely a crude delivery vehicle for THC?

The review states that “pure CBD and CBG powerfully inhibit MRSA (MIC 0.5–2 mg·mL-1) (Appendino et al., 2008). Amongst terpenoids, pinene was a major component of Sideritis erythrantha EO that was as effective against MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains as vancomycin and other agents (Kose et al., 2010).


The review goes on to state the following. “The preceding body of information supports the concept that selective breeding of cannabis chemotypes rich in ameliorative phytocannabinoid and terpenoid content offer complementary pharmacological activities (an entourage effect) that may strengthen and broaden clinical applications and improve the therapeutic index of cannabis extracts containing THC, or other base phytocannabinoids.”

Ultimately, this effect is believable and plausible given the context of what we already know about marijuana. Medical researchers and physicians knowledgeable about cannabis would not necessarily be surprised to see the entourage effect empirically demonstrated. However, this demonstration is still necessary through the use of medical research. If this can be done, new and exciting medical marijuana advancements could be developed to improve the subjective and patient-specific effects of cannabis.

Other research, however, doesn't look as promising.

This 2020 review, found that current studies have, thus far, failed to prove the entourage effect -- although it does note that many suggest otherwise. The paper ultimately warns that "overestimation of such claims [of an entourage effect] in the scientific and lay literature has fostered their misrepresentation and abuse by a poorly regulated industry." Given the context and the current lack of scientific evidence, it is wise, then, to be wary of any claims (especially marketing claims) related to an entourage effect.

Is This Effect Limited to Dried Flower Products?

An entourage effect would not be exclusive to marijuana flower. Naturally, it would occur in any marijuana product that contains both THC, and CBD and/or other cannabinoids and compounds. Dried flower is basically full-spectrum, although some strains have almost no CBD. Many cannabis concentrates like live resin also include CBD or other compounds and terpenes -- like myrcene or caryophyllene -- so an entourage effect should be possible with these products if it is possible with flower.

Full-spectrum cannabis products have become more popular among customers hoping to explore the entourage effect.

But this interplay between cannabinoids and terpenes can also reduce certain effects in some cannabis products. As many consumers know, THC and CBD produce relatively different and sometimes clashing reactions. In fact, most people find that high levels of CBD can actually mute a "high" and make it "wear off" sooner. This is why many strains of flower are bred specifically for maximum THC and minimum CBD -- so as to increase the potent feeling of THC. Many types of concentrates contain only THC or CBD as well and for the same reason. When you shop for your products, you can compare the THC and CBD levels with this information in mind.

You Can Research the Entourage Effect Too!

Ultimately, additional research is needed to prove whether an entourage effect is real, and how it impacts consumers if so. But why wait on the research when you can explore the possibilities yourself? Personal experience is just as important, if not more so considering the individualized effects of cannabis.

Try keeping track of the different effects you feel with different strains in a notebook.

You can test how different combinations of cannabinoids and compounds affect you by keeping track of the effects of different strains and products in a notebook.

You can add columns that show the cannabinoid and terpene content of each strain you try.  With a little trial and error, you might be able to trace down the combination of major cannabinoids and compounds that give you the most beneficial effect!

After all, life isn't just about the destination; it's about the journey too!

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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