The Entourage Effect, Like Anything Else, May Have Its Downsides - RxLeaf
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The Entourage Effect, Like Anything Else, May Have Its Downsides

Randy Robinson
cannabis, medical cannabis, health benefits, CBD, CBG, THCV, THC, entourage meaning, entourage effect, terpenes, health risks

The entourage meaning may not be what we think it is.

Studies that only look at isolated parts of the cannabis plant, like THC or CBD, often produce conflicting results. One week, a study may come out with results that claim THC works wonders for controlling pain. The next week, another study comes by that says THC’s pain-killing effects are actually a placebo.

But, anecdotally, the plant appears to treat a myriad of conditions and their symptoms. So what’s the deal?

To explain these research disparities, Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist, proposed “the entourage effect”. The concept was later popularized by Israeli biomedical chemist Raphael Mechoulam.

According to the entourage effect, the cannabis plant’s components – cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc. – work together on multiple receptor, cellular, tissue, and organ systems. And because every chemovar, or strain, of cannabis is different, individual plants may produce wildly different effects on different people. In other words, THC alone may not treat pain but in combination with these other compounds, it works wonders.

Cannabis advocates often rely on the entourage effect to explain how cannabis may treat patients when the research hasn’t quite caught up to the claims. But because the plant contains thousands of chemicals, it’s entirely possible that individual components could harm the body just as others heal it.

cannabis, medical cannabis, health benefits, CBD, CBG, THCV, THC, entourage meaning, entourage effect, terpenes, health risks

Case in Point: CBG Blocks Serotonin

One example of a potentially detrimental cannabinoid is cannabigerol, or CBG.

CBG is a prominent cannabinoid in cannabis, along with THC and CBD. In fact, CBG is a precursor to THC and CBD. In other words, enzymes transform CBG into the other cannabinoids.

Prof of Pot, a cannabis blog run by an anonymous pharmacologist, went over CBG’s less-desirable effects in detail. For one, CBG blocks serotonin receptors. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. Its receptors are primarily found in the gut (not the brain, contrary to popular belief). And regulation of this neurotransmitter may be particularly important if you struggle with depression, nausea, or vomiting.

Certain drugs, such as ondansetron and dolasetron, can manage nausea by blocking serotonin receptors. CBD also appears to control nausea and vomiting – in small doses – by a pathway related to the serotonin network, although exactly ‘how’ is still being worked out.

But, CBG appears to counteract CBD’s ability to curb nausea, meaning too much could make certain cannabis products or plants useless when trying to calm the digestive system.

As noted above, CBD can reduce nausea when administered in small amounts. However, one rodent study found that high doses of CBD could actually make vomiting worse.

cannabis, medical cannabis, health benefits, CBD, CBG, THCV, THC, entourage meaning, entourage effect, terpenes, health risks, nausea

Whole Plant or Go Home

So, have cannabis businesses, activists, and scientists been lying to us the whole time about cannabis’s therapeutic promises and the true entourage meaning?

No. Of course not.

What it does mean is that the nuances related to cannabis as a medicinal treatment are still being investigated. We also don’t yet know the long-term effects of isolates or ultra-concentrated extracts.

CBD isolates or other products infused solely or primarily with CBD have been known to trigger side effects. According to the FDA warning label for Epidiolex – a pharmaceutical made of relatively pure CBD extracted from cannabis plants – malaise, renal failure, and suicidal thoughts are potential side effects from too much CBD.

It’s also possible that consuming some cannabis plants that naturally produce high amounts of CBD or CBG could exacerbate certain symptoms rather than relieve them. For example, plants that contain THCV can suppress appetite, which isn’t ideal for cancer patients, AIDS patients, or those with eating disorders.

Regardless, most cannabis plants don’t seem to trigger the same issues that CBG or CBD do when these are on their own. Until science better understands the plant and our endocannabinoid systems, be wary of any miraculous entourage claims. It’s the buzz word du jour, but we aren’t even half way to know what it even means.

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Randy Robinson

As someone who wanted to know everything but couldn't decide on anything, Randy completed degrees in English, World History, and Molecular Biology. During their studies, they received an externship at the biotech firm Cannabis Science Inc., focusing on phytocannabinoids as anti-tumor and anti-cancer agents. Based in the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, you can find Randy on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium @RanDieselJay

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