The Entourage Effect: Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and the Endocannabinoid System
When it comes to terpenes, these molecules are more than mere aromatics—industry experts and avid cannabis users will readily acknowledge that terpenes can, in fact, help predict how a certain strain might make you feel.
The idea is that once you learn what you’re down with (and what you want to avoid), you can scan a product’s reported terpene profile, and know what to expect. As trademarks of a strain’s unique fingerprint and reputation, terpenes are often credited with interacting with other cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) to induce what is commonly known as the "entourage effect."
While many academics and scientists are not ready to acknowledge how specific cannabis terpenes impact the endocannabinoid system, long-time consumers point to inference-based studies, unconcerned that their findings rely primarily on self-reporting (as opposed to scientific analysis). In essence, cannabis users tend to believe in the entourage effect because it helps them make sense of a given experience—people know it is real because it happens to them all the time. It seems that different cultivars lead to markedly disparate results because “cannabis is a highly variable plant, and cannabinoid content in finished flowers is extremely inhomogeneous;” in addition, one study found that “the relative variation in terpene content across [different] plants was approximately 90%,” which is higher than the variation in cannabinoid content (Giese et. al 1520). In other words, since there is a vast difference between the composition of different chemovars (or strains), consumers and patients have come to respect products that are lab-tested and reproducible. With so many choices out there, it makes sense that consumers have developed their own informal systems to collectively categorize cannabis experiences according to terpene profiles.
In a somewhat controversial article entitled, "The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No Strain," No Gain," Ethan B. Russo argues that we need not wait for science to prove what so many people consistently report when it comes to the terpenes in cannabis. In January of 2019, Russo established that “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” (Frontiers in Plant Science). Russo bases his contemporary theories, at least in part, on the research of Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat, two professors who suspected that cannabis synergy “helped to explain how botanical drugs were often more efficacious than their isolated components.” In other words, some researchers have found that, at least in animals, “cannabis terpenoids” may support “the plant’s pharmacological” impact, and contribute to a desirable and holistic entourage effect (Russo). That said, some skeptical scientists need to see more than mere anecdotal evidence, and without much first-hand experience, they are waiting for studies to confirm what cannabis enthusiasts already believe. Writing for Scientific American, Angus Chen challenges Russo’s claims by interviewing other experts in the field. After conducting a significant amount of research, Chen emphatically concluded that “there is no hard evidence that the entourage effect is real” ("Is Marijuana's "Entourage Effect" Scientifically Valid?"). Regardless, several studies conducted on animals suggest that these molecules and cannabinoids work in tandem, creating a synergistic and systemic impact that is detailed in a "Patient's Guide to CBD".
Many people believe terpenes impact how a particular strain or product may help shape their cannabis experience—be it physically or mentally—and that the composition of specific plants should be considered before consumption or use. Eventually, individuals’ collective experiences with different terpenes help them decide which products will deliberately lead to their intended results.
This is one reason why The Legion of Bloom has become such a trusted leader in cultivating cannabis products that stem from honest and sustainable growing practices. Our proprietary steam distillation extraction process creates full spectrum terpenes extractions from small-batch, single-source cannabis genetics. In 2016, Legion pioneered the use of cannabis-derived terpenes with the launch of the Monarch Cartridge line. With two simple ingredients, strain-specific cannabis-derived terpenes and high-quality cannabis oil, the Monarch gives the taste and feeling of your favorite strain--but in the convenience of a vape.
The Legion of Bloom also proudly produces products with lab-verified terpene profiles that can be replicated time and time again—so when you buy Legion, you know exactly what you’re getting. Our customized cannabis terpene profiles all start with specific strain selection based on desired effects and outcomes. We then create a very precise formula, utilizing over 40 different full-spectrum terpenes from all-natural, botanically-derived plant sources for each profile. By having a comprehensive bouquet of terpenes for our strain-specific and therapeutic Terrepen Pax ERA pods, we are able to help consumers optimize their experiences.
The Endocannabinoid System and our CB1 and CB2 Receptors
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD bond with our bodies’ internal endocannabinoid system and activate our CB1 and CB2 Receptors—which is actually a pretty big deal, and explains why people seek out cannabis for so many different reasons. In the simplest sense, “CB1 Receptors target motor activity, thinking, motor coordination, appetite, short term memory, pain perception, and immune cells,” while “CB2 Receptors target [the] gut, kidneys, pancreas, adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, bone, eye, tumours (sic), reproductive system, immune system, respiratory tract, skin, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and liver” ("Americans for Safe Access" 2019 Report). In "The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain," Doctors Fine and Rosenfeld provide a scientific description of this reaction, noting that the endocannabinoid system regulates things that are going on in our CB1 Receptors, which typically impact the “central nervous system,” and the CB2 Receptors, which are more in “the periphery.”
As you can see, this means that cannabis can influence your body and mind in a variety of ways—some more beneficial and enjoyable than others. Cannabinoids that bind with CB1 Receptors impact our mental states (including “memory, perception, and movement”) and are “responsible for the mood-enhancing effects of cannabis as well as negative, dysphoria-inducing” effects in “susceptible individuals” (Fine and Rosenfeld). The CB2 Receptors, on the other hand, “play an important role in pain modulation…immune function, and inflammation,” which is why medical marijuana is slowly becoming legitimized via state legalization (Fine and Rosenfeld). These same authors note that “cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) and chemically related compounds, like the terpenes, commonly found in many fruits and vegetables, have been found to exert significant analgesic effects in various chronic pain conditions;” unfortunately, “the use of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol is limited by its psychoactive effects and predominant delivery route (smoking), as well as regulatory or legal constraints” ("The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain"). Nevertheless, consumers are curious about how different strains of the cannabis plant can produce such variable outcomes, and have begun to map out their own formulas for cannabis experiences by tracking terpene profiles.
Are you tracking your preferred terpenes profiles yet? If you’ve found your favorite terpenes, we would love to hear from you! Go to our Instagram page @thelegionofbloomca and leave us a comment on our #TerpeneTuesday post so we can learn more about what you’re into.
Next week, we will continue exploring the topic of terpenes and uncovering just how important they are to the cannabis experience. After discussing how terpenes are used, we will fill you in on a few of the more common terpenes found in cannabis.
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