What is the Entourage Effect? How CBD ,THC and Other Cannabinoids Work Together

The entourage effect has been creating a lot of buzz lately. If you are enthusiastic about plant medicine, especially cannabis, and its various health impacts, you are in for a treat.
Written by 
Muhammad Usman, MD & Nutritionist.
|Last Updated:
Entourage Effect of Cannabidiol (CBD)

Many like to call cannabis a miracle plant, which is not an exaggeration considering its therapeutic potential. This article will help you understand various active cannabinoids and their collective effect on your brain.

What are Cannabinoids?

The cannabis plant has an extensive range of active compounds called phytocannabinoids. Some of these include:

The most potent substances are THC and CBD.

The human body has an endocannabinoid system consisting of a complex network of receptors all over the body. They interact with naturally produced analogs of cannabinoids to modulate bodily functions like immunity, emotional development, memory, and pain. These receptors respond to the exogenous cannabinoids and produce similar effects, giving you a “high” feeling. The medical aspects of cannabis are also based on the interaction of cannabinoids with these receptors. They attach in your body and trigger pathways to control mechanisms that create healing effects.

Human CBD receptors chart

Terpenes- A New Discovery

Along with phytocannabinoids, cannabis also contains terpenes. These are aromatic compounds, volatile in nature, and give cannabis its particular smell and flavor. Terpenoids are their denatured and oxidized forms, and both these terms are frequently used to explain terpenes.

Until recently, these terpenes were thought to be responsible for repelling insects and pathogens with their pungent fragrance. However, now there is mounting evidence that terpenes offer more than the psychoactive smell of cannabis. Aromatherapy is based on the healing powers of smell and terpenes play an important role in that.

Around 200 terpenes are found in cannabis, but some have more powerful effects. These terpenes include:

  • Limonene
  • Myrcene
  • β- caryophyllene

Terpenes manipulate receptors and neurotransmitter activity in your body. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act on your neurons to create different sensations and emotional responses. Since terpenes are capable of binding and dissolving lipids, they trigger structural changes in neurotransmitters. This results in:

  • Increased serotonin levels (effects like SSRIs e.g. Prozac)
  • Enhanced dopamine effect
  • Augmentation of GABA activity
  • Amplified nor-epinephrine action (effects like tricyclic anti-depressants)

All these neurotransmitters are involved in the regulation of mood, alleviation of depression, and modulation of cognitive function. The similar effect is mimicked by terpenes.

CBD Terpents

Entourage Effect- A Scientific Perspective

Not every strain of cannabis has all these compounds in a combination form. Some only possess THC while others have CBD and other cannabinoids additionally. Each cannabinoid, however, has a unique property:

  • THC is psychoactive and affects mood, behavior, and perception
  • CBD increases the affinity of cannabinoids to bodily receptors
  • Terpenes promote a relaxing effect, memory retention, and mood stability

The research shows that different cannabinoids and terpenes act in synergy to generate a powerful therapeutic, called an entourage effect.

A double-blinded study conducted by Carlini et. al concludes that cannabis strains that contain CBD and CBN along with THC are more powerful than those with THC-alone. The effect of a combination strain is two to four times higher.

Another study shows that THC, being the most active compound in cannabis, can exert better psychoactive effects when combined with other cannabinoids.

Why is Entourage Effect Beneficial?

The entourage effect is beneficial because it reduces the psychoactive element of cannabis and pushes it into a therapeutic index. THC is notorious for its neurosis provoking abilities. But CBD and terpenes reduce the potency of the psychiatric effects induced by THC. They relax muscles and lessen the time of peak effect of THC.

Besides, CBD cannot directly bind to the endocannabinoid system. It exerts itself by facilitating the binding of other cannabinoids to the receptors and initiating their effect. The research shows that CBD helps in the biding of β-caryophyllene to the CB2 receptor in the body and modulates a pathway involved in chronic pain reduction.

In short, by acting in synergy, these compounds potentiate a medicinal impact of THC like the alleviation of headache, inflammation, and emesis. This generates a delicate balance and eases anxiety often induced by THC.

CBD Extractions and Entourage Effect

There are various types of CBD extractions available.

CBD extractions Contents Entourage Effect
Full Spectrum CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils, and THC present. It comes in variety with <0.3% THC. Yes
Broad Spectrum CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes present. No THC. Yes
CBD Isolate The pure form of CBD with no cannabinoids, THC, or terpenes No


Entourage Effect

Benefits of CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is the most concentrated form of CBD available and provides medicinal effects without psychoactive tendencies. It is either produced from CBD only strains or other phytochemicals extracted from the mixture during processing. Although to experience the entourage effect, you need to use full to broad spectrum CBD. CBD isolate has its benefits.

  • It relieves inflammation and swelling
  • It alleviates headache, arthritis, dermatitis, and menstrual cramps
  • It improves blood pressure and sugar levels
  • It relieves anxiety and helps you relax

The Final Verdict

Cannabis has a versatile range of psychoactive and medicinal ingredients. Each has different capabilities but the synergistic effects of all phytochemicals, along with THC, produce a cloud influence, called the entourage effect. Although more research is needed to get an in depth understanding of the mechanism that leads to the entourage effect, sufficient evidence is available to prove that it exists. To achieve entourage effects, you need to find a full spectrum CBD extract that contains all cannabinoids including CBD, THC, and terpenes. However, a broad spectrum with THC eliminated is also accessible, which produces an entourage effect without euphoria. CBD isolate alone may not create a powerful entourage effect but it does have its own, purely medicinal, benefits that help with pain and inflammation.



  1. Eric P Baron. Medicinal Properties of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids in Cannabis, and Benefits in Migraine, Headache, and Pain: An Update on Current Evidence and Cannabis Science. Headache . 2018 Jul;58(7):1139-1186.
  3. J. D. Wilkinson, et al. Medicinal cannabis: is Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol necessary for all its effects? 2004. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 55(12):1687-94
  4. Perry G. Fine, et al. The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain. Rambam Maimonides Med J. 2013 Oct; 4(4): e0022.


Muhammad Usman
Muhammad Usman
MD & Nutritionist
Dr. Muhammad Usman is a doctor, nutritionist, researcher, and CBD enthusiast- all in one! Graduating from a prestigious medical institution with honors, Dr. Usman is also a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He is an avid research with more than two dozen publications in peer-reviewed journals. With these qualifications, he has helped many people reach their health and fitness goals.

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