Understanding the entourage effect
Amongst its most important lessons, cannabis teaches us that no healing can take place in a vacuum. Rather, it takes a village of flavinoids, terpenes and cannabinoids to accomplish all the myriad tasks humanity sets out for cannabis.
That Golden, or Emerald Rule lies at the heart of Medicine Box’s understanding of the entourage effect. Stuck as society is in a binary, either/or mode of thinking, cannabis has labored under the narrow-minded obsession people place on any one of its compounds, whether THC or CBD, to the exclusion of others. The correct answer, from what the entourage effect teaches us, is C: All of the Above. That’s why we work with the full spectrum of cannabis compounds for our products and we always will.
However, Medicine Box utilizes cannabis’s entourage effect informs more than Medicine Box’s product offerings – it’s the way we conduct business and structure our lives. All the humans, from growers to consumers, involved with Medicine Box contribute to the larger vision of healing that is larger than any one person. Our model of collaboration rests on the entourage effect, and the more we learn about it, the more important it is to emphasize how vital it is for society to embrace the ENTIRE plant for its health and wellness – not just a few spare compounds. That effect, when fully realized, can not only heal the individual, but every community it touches as well.
the origins of the entourage effect
Up until about 20 years ago, your average head knew of one compound in cannabis, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, because it got you high. That compound was discovered in 1964 by the Israeli chemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, and amazingly enough, he alongside Shimon Ben-Shabat made a fairly immodest proposal: “Investigations of the effect of the active component in the presence of its ‘entourage’ compounds may lead to results that differ from those observed with the active component only.” In addition, he surmised, “This type of synergism may play a role in the widely held (but not experimentally based) view that in some cases plants are better drugs than the natural products isolated from them.”
In 2011, Dr. Ethan Russo of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute wrote an in-depth paper examining the proposition in greater detail, and continues to write on the subject. Just last year, in a paper published in Frontiers in Plant Science, Russo recounted several studies which showed, in examples of intractable pain and isolated breast cancer cells, a statistically significant difference and superiority of a cannabinoid mixture over simple THC or CBD isolate. Yet the effect still confronts plenty of institutional skepticism and resistance.
can’t do it alone
It all boils down to the low estimation traditional doctors and physicians hold towards a plant as medicine, even as we’re encouraged to consume vegetables, fruits and other plants for our diets. And no one is suggesting we should shift to megavitamins exclusively. There are over 100 known cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, most of them in trace amounts when compared with THC and CBD. We do the plant, and ourselves, a deep disservice by ignoring the potential synergies these compounds have upon each other.
In particular, I see extraordinary danger present in the hysteria that has erupted over CBD, which is currently being placed in everything from skin care products to Carl’s Jr. burgers. At its worst, it’s a cynical and destructive con game that has already created horrid yet poorly reported public health outcomes around the country. Most of it stems from the unregulated nature of CBD – for instance, in 2017 52 people in Utah were hospitalized after consuming synthetic CBD found in stores. In addition, the arrival of hemp-derived CBD means that most people will be getting this compound from a bioaccumulator. That’s right, if you’re getting your CBD from hemp, you just may be getting a heaping helping of pesticides and heavy metals from the soil it was grown in as well. And unlike cannabis, no one’s testing for it. Think that’s in any way healthy for you?
Moreover, this focus on CBD vs. THC sells the plant and its healing potential short. When it comes to treating specific ailments, everybody is different and every body is different. CBD isolate is not a one-size-fits-all treatment plan. In some of those cases, we may need as many of those different cannabinoids as we can get, and that could even include the big, bad THC – certainly more than the .3% hemp is legally allowed to contain. The focus on CBD perpetuates the ugly stigmas and lies surrounding the cannabis plant. And it maintains the stranglehold certain bad actors in health care possess over the treatments we are allowed to explore.
We’re only just beginning to learn about the plant now that the end of Prohibition is approaching. To obsess over one molecule in the plant and demonize the rest risks returning to a more subtle form of Prohibition. And as we know, Prohibition meant a freeze on learning more about this plant. Especially in the modern era, where so many people need relief, we cannot afford to go down this path again.
how the entourage effect informs medicine box
Medicine Box takes great pains towards creating products that incorporate the whole plant, so the consumer will reap the benefits of the entourage effect. Put more explicitly, Medicine Box customers receive the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes from the whole flower, as opposed to the trim, leaf or single compounds. It speaks to the collaboration and community we seek to encourage within our home community and yours as well.
Because cannabis itself is a brand-new industry, there are very few models to go by other than the one the plant itself provides for us. So accepting and utilizing all the plant’s gifts and the synergies it presents us makes the most sense, both in how we create our products as well as the business that makes it. Staying true to what the entourage effect means from a philosophical as well as a scientific perspective one keeps the organization of Medicine Box connected to the ever-evolving cannabis plant, After all, she’s the boss anyway.