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Explained: The Entourage Effect in Cannabis (The Full Story)


The more we accept cannabis, the more we uncover about the plant. We’ve seen numerous medical benefits where medical marijuana offers relief from ailments like MS, Epilepsy, pain, and insomnia.


Now, there are links to the more recreational and social uses for the plant, like easing anxiety, “taming THC”, and promoting creativity, energy, and regular sleep. 


It’s becoming clear that various strains, product types, and cannabis compounds can be linked to different effects and values.


But how?


A theory called “The entourage effect” is a growingly popular explanation.


This post explains what the entourage effect is, new scientific findings to support the theory, and examples.


Cannabis Concentrates Guide

What is the Entourage Effect?


The theory of the entourage effect was first proposed by Mechoulam and Ben-Shabat who developed a hypothesis that other inactive biological products, accompanying the primary endogenous cannabinoids, increase its activity.


In simpler terms, they believed the compounds in cannabis, like cannabinoids, phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids work together to create a more complex and nuanced impact on our bodies. This is contrary to the belief that the primary psychological cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, is the sole contributor to cannabis’ effects.


Smoking cannabis flower means you are inhaling hundreds of different botanical compounds, not just THC. Each compound contributes unique effects and benefits, and they can even work together to build an entirely unique experience –– this is the entourage effect!


So how do different aspects of the cannabis plant interact? To understand this, let’s look at the primary compounds:




Cannabinoids are the active compounds in cannabis that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system as well as CB2 receptors and cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The most famous ones are THC and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is primarily associated with the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is known for its potential therapeutic benefits, such as reducing pain and anxiety.

Read next! The Guide to CBD.

But there’s also cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN) which are becoming increasingly popular for their notable effects.


When cannabinoids like CBD and THC are consumed at the same time, the final result has been reported as vastly different than isolating one cannabinoid. Consumers report combining CBD with THC “takes the edge off” and reduces the anxiety-inducing negative side effects sometimes associated with cannabis.


Similarly, in a 2010 study patients with pain related to cancer were given either pure THC extract or an extract containing similar levels of THC and CBD. The cancer patients who received both THC and CBD reported lower pain than those with plain THC.

Cannabinoid handbook



Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis and many other plants – they’re the reason you love the smell of lavender (and also why that essential oil is so calming).


Terpenes are responsible for the distinct scents and flavors of different cannabis strains. They can also modulate the effects of cannabinoids, enhancing or altering the overall experience. For example, myrcene can induce relaxation and sleep, while limonene may boost mood and energy.


Some examples of popular terpenes include:

  • Linalool
  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Pinene
  • Limonene


Open Access Government says “The cannabis sativa plant itself is a ‘biopharmacy’ containing hundreds of phytochemicals, many of which have medicinal indications.” Many of these prominent compounds are terpenes and when they’re combined with cannabinoids, it’s found the pain-relieving effects were amplified without an increase in negative side effects.


Within the terpene category is a modified version of the compounds, called terpenoids, which offer another layer of complexity to the entourage effect.




Flavonoids are natural pigments in plants, and they contribute to the color and flavor of cannabis. They are also believed to have potential health benefits. Some flavonoids in cannabis might have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which could play a role in the overall therapeutic potential of the plant.


Flavonoids contribute to the entourage effect because they’re enhanced when consumed with other compounds, like cannabinoids and terpenes.


Science supporting the entourage effect


In a publication titled The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain, Ethan Russo says:

“The case for Cannabis synergy via the “entourage effect” is currently sufficiently strong as to suggest that one molecule is unlikely to match the therapeutic and even industrial potential of Cannabis itself as a phytochemical factory.”


It’s clear the single compound idea that the effects of THC are the only ones of value. There is an entire synergy of complex interactions between a broad spectrum of cannabis compounds interacting together and within the human body.


Scientific findings increasingly support the entourage effect. Notably, a popular study published in The National Center for Biotechnology Information provides evidence of the synergistic effects of cannabis compounds—specifically how terpenes and cannabinoids work together to treat mood disorders.


Additionally, a recent study from PAX further emphasizes the significance of the entourage effect, showing that the effects of whole-plant cannabis products produce stronger psychoactive effects that last longer than concentrations of products that are nearly pure THC.


The PAX study shows clear value in consuming whole-plant cannabis products, like raw flower, joints, etc. instead of cannabis extracts that strip away valuable compounds. Whether you’re using a vape or pipe, it’s best to opt for flower.


However, when isolating compounds, like removing or limiting THC in a terpene, there’s still value in opting for something like full-spectrum CBD vs. just CBD oil. One study suggests that full-spectrum cannabis extract may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties that are effective for treating neuropathic pain.


Example of the entourage effect


To better understand the practical implications of the entourage effect, let’s consider a real-life scenario.


Imagine a consumer looking for a cannabis strain to help promote sleep. A strain like Blue Dream is highly effective because of the dominant terpene myrcene. This terpene, along with other cannabinoids and terpenes in the strain, works together to calm the mind and induce relaxation and sleep.


What does the entourage effect feel like?


For cannabis consumers, the entourage effect means experiencing a more complex and complete set of effects when using cannabis.


Instead of feeling only the dominant properties associated with THC, like psychoactivity, medical cannabis and adult-use products that maintain the full spectrum of whole plant or plant extract offer a more nuanced and complete experience.


This includes benefits like reduced anxiety and enhanced therapeutic effects.


Challenges to the theory


Like many scientific theories, the entourage effect is not without its challenges. Some individuals and studies question the validity of the theory. Critics argue that not all compounds found in cannabis are inherently pharmacologically active and suggest that the concept might be a marketing ploy by some cannabis companies. Nevertheless, ongoing research and discussion continue to shape our understanding of this phenomenon.


Want to learn more about the entourage effect?  


THC University has over a decade of experience educating cannabis lovers. We teach detailed information about the entourage effect, as well as terpenes, cannabinoids, and their link to enhanced healing.


Check out our affordable course offerings to get trained and certified today!