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The Entourage Effect: Why Whole-Plant Cannabis Products are Better


New cannabis products are sweeping the legal cannabis industry on a regular basis. We’re seeing canned canna-beverages that replace alcohol, edibles of every kind, transdermal patches, and the increasingly popular weed vape cartridge grow in market share every year. 


In fact, Headset found sales of products like beverages (+10%), edibles (+10%), and vapes (+5%) gained considerable traction in 2022. At the same time, cannabis flower became less popular (-10%). 


While this movement away from whole-plant cannabis signals a greater interest in convenience and more discreet methods of consumption, it may also be accidentally lowering the positive effects of those cannabis products. 


A new study from the leading cannabis brand PAX shows the effects of whole-plant cannabis products, like plain flower, produce stronger psychoactive effects that last longer than products that are nearly pure THC. 


Let’s cover what this means for the way we should think about consuming cannabis. 


A case for the entourage effect is building


The entourage effect is a growing theory that cannabis is most effective (and beneficial) when every compound of the plant is consumed together. These compounds, like cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.), terpenes (limonene, myrcene, etc.), and flavonoids are what create each weed strain’s unique characteristics, and their associated positive effects. 


In recent years, new studies like one from the University of Arizona Health Sciences confirmed that terpenes and cannabinoids work together synergistically to enhance each other’s positive effects, like pain reduction, in medical patients. 


In a 2018 study, It was even found that epilepsy patients experienced fewer seizures and side effects when they used whole-plant CBD extracts compared to purified CBD products.


This theory has now been further confirmed by PAX’s latest study which found consumers of full-spectrum cannabis saw a “considerably faster and more potent psychoactive response” compared to those who consumed cannabis distillate. 


So where is this theory heading? It’s clear we’re moving toward a more unanimous agreement that not only is the entourage effect real, it’s significant evidence that cannabis should be consumed as nature intended, in its most raw form. 


A closer look at the PAX study


The PAX study compared the effects of two different inhalable (vaporizer) cannabis products with similar THC levels. The first was a PAX Live Rosin with Natural Diamonds with 85% THC plus additional natural cannabinoids and terpenes, while the second was a cannabis oil distillate with 82-85% THC. 


Participants took two hits (eight milligrams) of either the full spectrum concentrate or the cannabis distillate while an EEG device was used to monitor brainwave activity over a period of 90 minutes. 


The findings concluded as: 


  • The full-spectrum live rosin used by the first study group started within about three minutes, with higher potency readings at the onset (20.8%), at the peak after 15 minutes (40%) and after 90 minutes (30.2%).


  • The cannabis distillate used by the second study group had an onset of about four minutes with a potency of 13.5%, a peak potency of 19.1% and a potency of 18.1% after 90 minutes.


In short, the whole-plant, full-spectrum cannabis produced a faster onset and much higher psychoactive effects than cannabis distillate.


Choose full-spectrum or raw cannabis flower for the entourage effect


So what can you take away from the growing scientific support of whole-plant cannabis? There’s a few things: 


  • Consume either raw cannabis flower or products that include live resin or added natural cannabinoids and terpenes. If you’re looking to get the best possible experience with cannabis, there is significant evidence in favor of this decision.


  • Don’t shop based on THC percentage. As cannabis legalization grew, so did the amount of THC in products. Even last year, 60% of consumers said THC level was a leader factor in purchase decisions. 


  • Stay informed. We’re learning more than we ever knew about cannabis now that it’s more broadly accepted. Keep your eyes peeled for new information regarding the latest on cannabis. 


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