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Terpenes and the Entourage Effect

cannabis plant with light halo

Andrew Freedman has been working in the cannabis industry for over ten years as a buyer, commercial grower, and extractor. He is the author of the book Terpenes for Well-Being, available on Amazon, which explores the Entourage Effect and the role of terpenes in emotional and physical care. This phenomenon is actually what inspired the Vibe Collection, crafted to enhance certain responses within your mind and body — available at The Terpene Store.

The Entourage Effect has been talked about widely in cannabis for the last couple of years, but what is it exactly? No, we aren’t talking about Vince, Turtle, and the gang. We’re talking about the added peripheral effects of terpenes interacting with cannabinoids while consuming cannabis.

When we think about cannabis, we usually always associate it with its intoxicating star compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), or its now equally famous counterpart CBD (cannabidiol). To understand the Entourage Effect, you have to understand what these molecules do in our body and how they affect us when consumed.

To better answer that, we need to know how our endocannabinoid system (ECS) works. Our body has an ECS just like we have a circulatory system. It is an essential part of how our body functions. When we consume cannabis, THC and CBD interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout our bodies. These receptors are predominantly located in our brain, nervous system, peripheral organs, and tissue. The ECS is a unique communications system in the brain and body that affects many important functions including how a person moves, feels, and reacts. The interaction of THC and CBD with our ECS is what makes us feel the Entourage Effects of cannabis when consumed.

Our body produces natural cannabinoids to keep our ECS in check. For example, anandamide, a natural cannabinoid produced by the brain. It has been noted that consuming red meat can increase anandamide production. Anandamide could help people forget traumatic experiences and reduce stress levels. However, more research is needed on the ECS.

THC and CBD are only part of the equation of how cannabis makes you feel when consumed. You may have heard the joke that Indica cannabis will keep you “in-da-couch,” whereas Sativa-dominant strains of cannabis boost energy level activity and creative thought. This isn’t necessarily true. However,  these generalizations have helped consumers understand how cannabis might make them feel. To gauge an even better understanding of how cannabis and the Entourage Effect might make you feel, we have to look at terpenes’ effects.

If you consider your entourage your associates, then consider terpenes to be cannabinoids’ best friends. Aromatherapy has been used for hundreds of years, using specific scents to make us feel or heal in a specific way. You can apply these same practices of holistic health to your cannabis experience. Haven’t you ever wondered why lavender bubble baths are so relaxing? Might have something to do with the Entourage Effect.

Limonene and Terpinolene are the dominant terpenes found in Sativa strains of cannabis. These are the single source molecules responsible for the bright smells of lemon and other citrus fruits. Limonene and Terpinolene are widely used throughout many consumer products because the bright citrus smells evoke feelings of freshness, happiness, and energy. These same physiological principles can be applied back to cannabis that is high in Limonene and Terpinolene — it should smell and taste like citrus and when consumed should give you more of a fresh, clean energized feeling. The terpenes’ effects work with the cannabis to enhance their effects — and that is the Entourage Effect.

Before we go any further, it is important to note that cannabis will always have an intoxicating effect when THC is involved. CBD is non-intoxicating, but is psychoactive. That means you may not feel “stoned” per se, but you can feel the effects of its consumption.

Indica strains of cannabis generally have very high levels of the terpene Myrcene. Myrcene is found in large concentrations inside of mangoes in the wild. When vaporized and inhaled, it has been noted to create more permeability in the blood-brain barrier. This means that more cannabinoids can pass through easier, allowing more of them to interact with your ECS. This also explains why Indica is jokingly said to leave you “in-da-couch,” because the terpenes in these strains have made the cannabinoids more bioavailable in your body. This, in a nutshell, is the Entourage Effect — a terpene aiding cannabinoids in creating or enhancing an effect.

In my book, “Terpenes For Well-Being”, I describe terpenes as the “color” of cannabis. What does this mean? Visualize a coloring book with black lines on white paper. Consider these your cannabinoids. There is a clear picture, but it is two-dimensional without any depth. Now add color to these black lines. Now pick any three colors and imagine a child has used them to fill in the picture. While it is still two-dimensional, it has evolved into something a bit more interesting. Adding the color can be equated to the Entourage Effect — it enhances the picture, much like terpenes enhance cannabis. Now think of complex terpenes as the work of a professional artist. The picture has now become a piece of art with depth and complexity and an entirely new dimension. Three colors (or terpenes) have completely evolved the experience into a new one that would not have been possible with black and white.

Terpenes are the color of the cannabinoid experience. The effects of terpenes make it what it is. This is why some strains work so well for some people, but not for others. We are all unique individuals with our own unique bio-chemistries. We must experiment with a wide range of cannabis, all with different terpene combinations, to best understand how to replicate the Entourage Effects we desire.

Terpenes are the bubbles in our beer — they are the smell, taste, and sparkle. Sure, you could drink a flat beer and it will get you drunk just the same; But isn’t it that much better when you can taste, smell, and actually enjoy the experience of something delicious?

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