When you look at cannabis you can see that it is covered in crystal resin, known as trichomes. Trichomes hold hundreds of compounds known as cannabinoids and terpenoids. Cannabinoids you might be more familiar with are THC and CBD—these are only two of many important parts working together, helping to create specific effects. The interactions between these compounds have now been labeled “The Entourage Effect.”
Ethan Russo, M.D., is a neurologist who has long studied cannabis compounds and their role in the body. In his study “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,” he details how cannabis compounds influence each other’s mechanisms and work together to create this synergy. This isn’t just talking about our well-known THC-CBD tag team here – even the smallest amounts of terpenes (fragrant oils that give cannabis its smell and healing factors) can make a difference.
Now, there are products out there that are “THC-only” medicines. These are typically referring to Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone), synthetic renderings of THC. These are legal pharmaceuticals primarily made and prescribed to treat cancer-related nausea, but whether or not they are effective is questionable. A 2011 survey on forms of consumption found only 1.8% of 953 patients preferred synthetic THC pharmaceuticals over inhaled or infused methods. This may be the case because of all the other important cannabinoids that are missing. When ingesting or smoking whole plant cannabis you’re not only getting THC and CBD. CBDa, along with CBD, THC, and THCa are just a few others that are going to be present in this entourage effect. These cannabinoids have proven to help with not just nausea and inflammation, but they are also an effective anti-tumor treatment. Sometimes cannabinoids “reprogram” cancer cells to kill themselves, actually shrinking tumors!
CBD-only medicines have been brought to light in the more recent years of the cannabis industry. When CBD-rich oil was originally created for an epileptic child with a non-psychoactive strain called Charlotte’s Web, the remedy encouraged several states to adopt CBD-only laws. Under this law, THC-rich medicines still remained illegal. CBD-only cannabis medicines have proven to be life-changing for some, but missing out on other cannabinoids leaves out other patients who need more than just CBD to conquer what they may be battling. CBD combined with other cannabinoids like THCa, THCv, CBC and CBN have been proven to be extremely effective together when fighting epilepsy, Parkinson’s, ALS and the list goes on.
Here's hoping that we will soon start to see strains that not only narrow the gap between THC and CBD profiles, but show the importance of how cannabinoids and terpenes work better together.