Taken together, cannabis alone encompasses no less than 400 identified chemical compounds and there are more than 110 cannabinoids that have been identified in the famous plant. Studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that the interaction between these substances and our endocannabinoid system results in synergistic effects known as the “Entourage Effect”.
Because of this synergy, the effects are more effective in the treatment of medical conditions than compounds isolated from cannabis.
For example, THC and CBD work better when taken together than when administered individually. Each enhances and improves its counterpart. Whatever you say, it’s a good way to simplify things anyway, since interactions often involve more than two compounds and go beyond a simple interaction between cannabinoids.
How does it work ?
our internal endocannabinoid system which includes these three main compounds:
- cannabinoid receptors
- metabolic enzymes
The cannabinoids in cannabis plants which also called phytocannabinoids, mimic internally produced cannabinoids, which are called endocannabinoids. Plant phytocannabinoids such as THC, CBD and CBN bind to the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in our bodies.
Once these receptors are “unlocked”, they send a chemical message asking the body to perform various functions such as maintaining the body’s homeostasis. Metabolic enzymes break down the cannabinoids, regulating the endocannabinoid system. This is all well and good, but where does this famous effect come from?
THC binds to the orthosteric zone of the cannabinoid receptor while CBD binds to the allosteric zone.
When the CBD acts on the allosteric zone, it changes the way THC and endocannabinoids work with the cannabinoid receptors.
Depending on how CBD interferes with the effects of THC, scientists have recognized that CBD can reduce the negative effects of too much CBD such as increased heart rate and feelings of anxiety. There are also assumptions that THC would enhance the medical benefits of CBD.
Dr. Ethan Russo also suggests that terpenes further alter the functioning of the endocannabinoid system.
Terpenes are indeed the elements responsible for the great tastes and smells of cannabis, and some of them may have therapeutic effects depending on their nature. Cannabis contains terpenes such as Myrcene, Pinene, Limonene, Caryophyllene, Linalol, Terpinolene, Humulene, Pulegone, and many others.
More Research needed
Further studies are needed to precisely target synergies between the endocannabinoid system, phytocannabinoids, and different terpenes, but regardless, scientific and anecdotal evidence suggests that there is enormous medical potential to exploit these synergies.
Presently, pharmaceutical companies produce synthetic cannabinoids and cannabis-derived remedies for medical and research purposes. Marinol and Cesamet for instance are remedies comprising synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the structure of THC. Epidiolex is a cannabis CBD-derived remedy used for epilepsy syndromes such as Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Sativex for example is a drug derived from cannabis which includes THC and CBD.
But since interactions between different cannabinoids and terpenes have been shown to have unique effects. In fact , today’s cannabis pharmaceuticals may be too simple to treat many medical conditions. Nonetheless, there are some important pros and cons.
Scientific research requires highly regulated and controlled dosages that can then be precisely replicated and tested with large numbers of participants to determine the exact functioning of these controlled compounds.
Since each variety and each cannabis plant descended from the same variety has a unique chemical compound profile, therefore , a reproducible dosage that includes the same amount of cannabinoid and terpene becomes virtually impossible to replicate using just the dried marijuana heads. For this reason, today’s cannabis research uses mostly isolated compounds.
On the other hand, while research is helping to move things forward, it does not represent well enough anecdotal evidence of how cannabis, as a plant, is felt by us humans, and the functioning of the surrounding effect is unfortunately largely neglected.
Cannabis is known to contain more than 400 chemical compounds that induce different effects not only in an isolated format but also when they interact with other cannabis compounds, but research into the effect of the environment is still in its infancy.
Finally , we hope that our society will move forward in supporting scientists to continue research on the interactions between cannabinoids, terpenes and the endocannabinoid system to help us advance medical science for a brighter future.