The buzz around cannabis is at an all-time high, with much of the buzz revolving around all the already proven and potential medicinal properties of the plant. The fact that cannabis has so many possible medical benefits is one of the main reasons the plant is becoming less and less taboo throughout the country, which is a very good reason to further study the plant and push to reform laws that prohibit its use. Unfortunately, much of the science is lacking in its approach to studying the plant, focusing on just a couple of components, rather than the entourage effect of the plant.
There are many, many things that make up the cannabis plant, everything from cannabinoids to flavonoids to terpenes. There’s over 60 cannabinoids – molecules found exclusively in the cannabis plant. However, only two – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidol (CBD) are really known about and therefore studied, so they tend to take priority when it comes to making medicine. And many medications have been made using just THC and CBD. There was Marinol in the 1980’s, a synthetic form of THC. Recently, with the breakthroughs from studying CBD, many states in the U.S. have adopted “CBD-only” medical laws. The problem with this is that it ignores all the other compounds found in cannabis that can provide health benefits, especially when used in combination with one another.
The effects of whole plant medicine have been coined the entourage effect by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam who first discovered THC within the plant all the way back in 1964. The entourage effect refers to the relationship the compounds in cannabis have with one another, and how they can work together to provide coveted health benefits. There has been argument over what the actual name of the effect should be, with some claiming it is actually the ensemble effect, since an entourage refers to one focal point with a group surrounding it, and an ensemble is a group that works together. But that’s really nothing more than an argument in semantics, and by no means affects the science that is being done, so we’ll just disregard that.
Think about it like this: let’s say you take vitamins and/or supplements. If you take a potassium supplement, you’re only getting potassium. IF you were to eat a banana, however, you would get potassium, as well as: B6; vitamin C; manganese; fiber; biotin; and copper. Clearly, the whole banana provides far more benefits than a simple vitamin focused only on one thing. So, if you were to take CBD only, you’re limiting yourself in what benefits you can get. A more holistic approach to cannabis medicine is far more appropriate.
Some of the other major cannabinoids in a cannabis plant are: cannabigerol (CBG); cannabichromene (CBC); tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV); cannabidivarin (CBDV); and cannabinol (CBN). These have been shown to contain analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and many other medicinal properties.
Then there are the terpenes: pinene; limonene; linalool; mycrene; caryophyllene; and hundreds of others. These not only have medicinal properties, but also affect what cannabinoids enter the body, as well as where and with what effect, and can amplify or decrease the effects of the cannabinoids.
The medicinal benefits of the entourage effect are wide ranging, from basic acne treatments, all the way up to treating severe diseases and illnesses such as breast cancer and MRSA.
Focusing on only certain properties of the cannabis plant limits the amount of medical breakthroughs that could be made, and ultimately the number of people and patients that can benefit.