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The Entourage Effect

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     Since the mid-twentieth century, the bulk of cannabis research has focused on one specific cannabinoid: THC.  It has only been in the last decade that cannabis researchers have cast a wider net. CBD, CBN, CBG and others have proven to be cannabinoids with serious medicinal and therapeutic potential.  The emergence of the medical marijuana industry in the United States has provided fertile testing grounds for laboratory and in-person medical research and has helped to shape our understanding of the underappreciated benefits of the cannabis plant.

     At the end of last month, a team of Brazilian researchers released the results of a meta-analysis of studies conducted over a four year period of time from 2013 to 2017.  Specifically, the team focused on studies that examined the benefits of CBD to epilepsy patients and published their results in the Frontiers of Neurology journal. The results of their study confirmed what many studies have already revealed: even treatment-resistant forms of epilepsy can be positively affected through the use of CBD.  In addition to adding to the growing chorus of studies revealing the benefits of cannabis-based therapeutic and medicinal treatments, the study helped bolster claims of an “Entourage Effect” among cannabinoids.

     The Entourage Effect refers to the synergistic effects of a full-cannabinoid profile acting in concert with each other compared to an isolated cannabinoid.  In their findings, the Brazilian researchers wrote, “CBD-rich extracts seem to present a better therapeutic profile than purified CBD, at least in this population of patients with refractory epilepsy. The roots of this difference is likely due to synergistic effects of CBD with other phytocompounds (aka Entourage effect).”  However, the researchers noted that these findings needed “to be confirmed in controlled clinical studies.” An analysis of the study revealed that “Seventy-one percent of patients treated with CBD-rich extracts reported improvements, compared to just 36 percent of patients who received purified CBD products.”  This supports a growing body of researchers and advocates that believe in whole-plant cannabis extracts with a full-spectrum cannabinoid profile in addition to beneficial terpenes.  

     While the bulk of cannabis research has focused on a single cannabinoid, THC, it has become apparent that there is real medical and therapeutic value in the synergistic effects of the phytocannabinoids of the cannabis plant.  As the body of available medical cannabis research grows, the efficacy of cannabis-derived treatments will continue to improve. Furthering our understanding of how cannabinoids react with each other as well as the interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes is paramount to designing effective treatments for patients and hemp-product consumers seeking symptomatic relief.

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