The term “entourage effect” was first coined by none other than the grandfather and initiator of cannabis research, Raphael Mechoulam in 1998.
The theory says that the whole cannabis plant and all its ingredients work together better than individual components extracted from cannais. The concept has mystified scientist ever since. They can’t grasp it in totality because they can never get funding to study it. Inverse Science reported on this fascinating concept.
The whole is greater than the sum total of the parts
The scientific mindset says we need to take things apart to understand them. That means investigating components on their own instead of looking at how they work together. If you were to investigate a carburetor without knowing about all the other components of a car, would you grasp the concept of a motor vehicle?
There are scientists such as Dr. Ethan Russo, neurologist and cannabis researcher, who realize that the entourage effect is a very real phenomenon. He has published a comprehensive review in the British Journal of Pharmacology and is cultivating new strains of cannabis to try and figure out the synergy between the 400+ compounds found in the cannabis plant. This could keep science busy for some time.
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The whole plant
If only scientists could put their heads together, and all work at it, progress would be certain. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no incentive to do so. The whole plant could never be patented or synthesized into a medicine that could be sold. Herein lies one of the problems of pharmaceutical research. Without a profit motive, there is no reason for companies to spend money on scientific studies.
Many people believe that a combination of cannabinoids working together has a much greater effect than any single one, but proof is lacking. The closest science got to proving it was when Marinol, a drug containing synthetic THC, was given to patients and it was not well-tolerated.
Terpenes add to the entourage effect
Terpenes are responsible for the fragrance of the cannabis plant, but they are also powerful antioxidants. These terpenes might hold much more healing power than we can ever grasp.
Now combine them with cannabinoids, and we have ingredients that regulate several systems in the body. We also have natural antioxidants that clear up toxic metabolic products. What is the combined effect? We can theorise that it would be better than terpenes alone or cannabinoids alone. However, science has not investigated this in any detail.
Good science, bad science
Apart from profitability issues, research into the entourage effect is difficult because a scientist can’t conclude an effect without understanding its cause. Studying ingredients in isolation only show how it works when all on its own. Studying each of the hundreds of natural molecules in cannabis still wouldn’t tell us what they do when they all work together.
Perhaps we will never understand some of the wonders of nature. For example, photosynthesis happens, even though there are huge gaps in our understanding of the process at molecular level. Saying it doesn’t happen just because we don’t fully understand it won’t stop plants from growing.
Could this be the case with the entourage effect? It’s possible that it works, even though we don’t quite understand how or why.