What Is the Entourage Effect?

Have you heard of the entourage effect? The entourage effect is the theory that the compounds in cannabis work better when they’re together. The idea is that these compounds interact with and balance out each other, improving beneficial effects while also lessening side effects. 

Some cannabis products, like CBD isolate, contain just one compound. Others contain the full range of compounds or are somewhere in between. According to the entourage effect, products with more compounds might work better–but is that true? 

Let’s break down what marijuana science can tell us about the entourage effect and how that may affect the products you want to choose. 

Cannabis Compounds Working Together 

Most people are familiar with THC and CBD, the two most famous cannabis compounds. But the cannabis plant actually contains hundreds of compounds. And, according to the entourage effect, all of these compounds work together to support each other. 

There are two main types of cannabis compounds: cannabinoids and terpenes. 


Cannabis contains a wide range of cannabinoids, which are compounds that interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a natural system in your body that helps to regulate bodily functions like appetite, memory, metabolism, anxiety, and immune system response. When certain cannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS, they can change how the ECS regulates these systems. 

Some notable cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant include: 

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): One of the two major cannabinoids, THC is famously responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. 
  • Cannabidiol (CBD): The second of the two major cannabinoids, CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis. CBD is thought to encourage the entourage effect when used with THC. On its own, CBD may help ease anxiety, provide pain relief, and help certain neurological disorders. 
  • Cannabinol (CBN): Created when cannabis begins to break down over time, CBN is best known for its sleep-inducing properties. 
  • Cannabigerol (CBG): This minor cannabinoid has shown promise as a potential treatment for glaucoma, pain, and nausea. 
  • Cannabichromene (CBC): Promising research on CBC suggests that it may have pain relieving, muscle relaxing, and neuroprotective properties. 
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): A psychoactive component found in cannabis in small amounts, THCV has shown promise as a treatment for anxiety and certain neurological issues. 


Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis and most other plants. These give plants their aroma. You can look at a strain’s terpene profile and get a good idea of what it will smell like. 

Some research suggests that terpenes may also interact with the body, causing therapeutic effects of their own. Here are the most common cannabis plant terpenes and some of their potential therapeutic benefits:

  • Myrcene: A relaxing terpene with an earthy, musky, cardamom-like scent. 
  • Caryophyllene: This calming terpene has a peppery, spicy, clove-like aroma. 
  • Pinene: A woody, piney terpene that’s thought to have a calming effect. 
  • Limonene: This uplifting, energizing terpene has a strong citrusy aroma. 
  • Terpinolene: A fresh, floral, and citrusy terpene that’s thought to have a relaxing effect. 
  • Humulene: This calming terpene has an earthy aroma similar to hops. 
  • Linalool: The terpene linalool has a calming effect and a similar aroma to lavender. 
  • Ocimene: A strong, sweet, and herbal terpene with an energizing effect.  
  • Nerolidol: This woody terpene is thought to have a calming effect. 
  • Bisabolol: A relaxing terpene with a light floral scent. 

Origins of the Entourage Effect Theory 

The term “entourage effect” was coined in the 1990s, then became more well-known in 2011 thanks to a research paper by neurologist and pharmacologist Dr. Ethan Russo. His review “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpene entourage effects” details the benefits of top cannabis compounds. Then, based on their pharmacology, he goes over their potential synergistic effects when used together. 

In his review, Dr. Russo stated that specific combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes may reduce the negative side effects and boost the positive effects of THC. Russo listed various combinations that could potentially help treat conditions like anxiety, pain, inflammation, and epilepsy.

Dr. Russo later described this effect using a musical analogy, putting THC as a soloist and the whole plant as a supporting musical group. “If they’re really good, someone singing acapella can be really great,” says Russo. “But if you have multiple instruments and harmony, it’s often a richer experience. The same applies to medicine, particularly plant-based medicine.”

Modern Research on the Entourage Effect 

Much of the current research we have on cannabis was done using single compounds, like THC isolate or CBD isolate. This creates a problem when it comes to studying cannabinoid interaction, since a majority of studies have been done on isolated cannabinoid activity. 

While there aren’t many studies using numerous compounds at once, there are some newer additions to the scientific literature that have looked at potential cannabis synergy. One 2018 review collected potential evidence of the entourage effect, while another 2018 study found that certain terpenes and flavonoids in cannabis had specific health benefits. A 2020 study found that cannabinoids paired with terpenes may be able to treat certain mood and anxiety disorders. 

There are also a fair amount of modern studies that have looked at how CBD and THC affect each other when used alone. This research suggests that CBD seems to help curb the adverse effects of THC, especially anxiety. It may also enhance THC’s ability to ease pain

While there’s some evidence that the entourage effect could have therapeutic potential, marijuana research is still in its very early stages. We need more research to fully understand how cannabinoids and terpenes, and minor cannabis compounds like flavonoids and fatty acids, may create effects in humans. 

How Do You Get the Entourage Effect From Marijuana Products?

So, should you always make sure you get the entourage effect when you use cannabis? We would say it’s good to think about, but you don’t necessarily always need the whole entourage. Like Dr. Russo said, sometimes a soloist–like THC or CBD–can be great. The question is whether, for you, having a whole band might be better. 

A good way to think about how different products can give the entourage effect is by looking at the different types of CBD products. CBD products fall into one of three categories: 

  • CBD isolate: CBD isolate products contain only CBD, so they do not provide an entourage effect. 
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: Broad-spectrum CBD products contain a wide range of cannabis compounds, but specifically exclude THC. These can be a good choice for someone who is interested in the entourage effect, but does not want to consume THC.
  • Full-spectrum CBD: Full-spectrum CBD products contain the entire range of compounds found within cannabis and hemp plants, including THC. Full-spectrum CBD products made from hemp plant extract can only contain trace amounts of THC (up to 0.3%), so they won’t cause psychoactive effects. Full-spectrum CBD products made from cannabis extract can contain more THC, but the amount will vary depending on the specific product. 

If you wanted a CBD product that could potentially provide the entourage effect, you would want either a broad-spectrum or a full-spectrum product, like a full-spectrum CBD oil. 

If you’re not sure which product would be best for you, ask a DC Collective dispensary employee for assistance. An employee can help you find a cannabis strain or product that would best suit your needs and tolerance level, as well as answer any questions you may have about the entourage effect.

August 8, 2023

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