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Cannabis' "Entourage Effect" Is Real, Scientists Say

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Many people would dismiss the 'entourage effect' as a marketing campaign to promote cannabis. But a new study has found that the effect is key to how cannabis can provide pain relief and may play a major role in how efficiently cannabis provides such relief.

Researchers from the University of Arizona Health Sciences conducted the research. They wrote in a press release that the presence of an entourage effect had been "an unsolved mystery."

Until now then.

The researchers write that they “have found evidence that favors the entourage effect theory and positions cannabis terpenes, the part of the plant that imparts taste and aroma, as a promising new agent for pain therapies that require lower doses and cause fewer side effects.”

What is the entourage effect?

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many different plants, including fruits and flowers. They provide the scent of various plants, such as pine, mint and citrus. They are the basic component of essential oils.

The cannabis plant produces terpenes, as well as many different types of cannabinoids. The latter include CBD (cannabidiol) and (THC) tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis.

THC is believed to cause the high on its own. However, the combination with terpenes – the entourage effect – increases the effectiveness of cannabis for reducing pain and does not cause additional negative side effects, the new study shows.

In the study, the researchers wrote: “Our findings suggest that these cannabis terpenes are multifunctional cannabimimetic ligands that provide conceptual support for the entourage effect hypothesis and could be used to enhance the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids.”

Terpenes tested alone and in combination with cannabinoids

The researcher used mice to test the effectiveness of terpenes alone and in combination with cannabinoids in reducing pain. They found that terpenes on their own mimic the action of cannabinoids.

When THC for example, entering the body, it binds to a cannabinoid receptor (usually the most abundant receptor, CB1R). On their own, all four types of terpenes tested by researchers did the same thing. They also led – again on their own – to reduced pain sensitivity in subjects, a remarkable finding in itself.

However, when researchers treated the mice with a combination of terpenes and cannabinoids, they found that the subjects experienced an even greater reduction in pain.

dr. John Streicher, the study's principal investigator, said in the press release that the results “were unexpected in a way. It was our first hypothesis, but we didn't necessarily expect terpenes, these simple compounds found in multiple plants, to produce cannabinoid-like effects.”

Streicher said his long-term goal is to use terpenes in combination with cannabinoids or opioids to achieve the same levels of pain relief with lower doses of drugs and fewer side effects.

Sources include GreenEntrepreneur (EN), Health Sciences (EN), ScientificReports (EN), WorldTodayNews (EN)

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