The Entourage Effect
Cannabis medicine is an ancient remedy utilized by humans (and animals) throughout the ages for its healing properties for conditions from labor pains to epilepsy. The magic of this medicine lies in its ability to interact with our cells in a mysterious way to help restore balance, when it has been lost due to injury, illness or disease. So many factors can impair the ability of our own internal endocannabinoid system (ECS) function; stress, nutritional issues, genetics, environmental exposures, and on and on, the list goes. Our world is so full of challenges to our well-being, and homeostasis, that our ECS sometimes cannot overcome them all. In these instances, sometimes plant cannabinoids can help. Phytocannabinoids are only one class of molecule contained within cannabis and hemp plants that work on our own cellular physiology to help restore health.
Health and wellness promotion…
Did you know that there are other molecules that exist within hemp and cannabis plants that have physiologic activity within our bodies to promote health and wellness? These molecules have names like terpenes, and flavonoids, and there are over 400 of these chemically active compounds contained within the plant that have effects on our physiology. It’s interesting to note that if you aren’t aware of these compounds, or of their effects on our bodies, you are not alone. There’s a very strong chance that your doctors may not even be aware of these molecules and their properties and effects upon our cells. You see, most physicians aren’t taught about terpenes, cannabinoids or flavonoids in medical school or residency, and unless we specifically seek education about cannabis medicine, we wouldn’t know about it, or it’s role in many disease processes, or its potential therapeutic effects.
The endocannabinoid system…
The endocannabinoid system is the formal name of the system that includes cellular receptors and internally-produced molecules that our bodies possess, and that plant cannabinoids act upon. These phytocannabinoid molecules, including cannabidiol and many others also work on other cellular receptors inside of our bodies. These receptors include ones that you may be familiar with including serotonin receptors and opioid receptors, and others that you perhaps aren’t familiar with, including TRPV receptors, GPR receptors, and PPARs to name just a few. Cannabidiol and the other pharmacologically active molecules contained within the plant have very complex effects within our bodies. They can have differing responses at different doses, and depending on what the circumstances require. Even more interesting is how these molecules interact with each other on cellular receptors, to give synergistic responses while minimizing any possible negative side effects and limiting any possible “toxicity”. Together the molecules have stronger, more beneficial results; as well as fewer side effects and less risks than when they are taken alone, and this “magical” combination of responses has been deemed the entourage effect. It is often likened to listening to a symphony; each individual molecule or instrument may sound fine and have an effect individually, but when combined, the instruments (or molecules, as the case may be) create something that is far greater than simply the sum of its parts.
The Entourage effect DOES work…
It may not be magic, but for many people suffering from many difficult to treat conditions, the relief may indeed feel magical; especially for so many patients who have tried many pharmaceutical options that failed to help them. For everything that we do understand about how the molecules in the plant act upon our cells, there remains much to be elucidated. Science doesn’t like not understanding things. For the time being, we do not completely understand precisely how the entourage effect works, simply that it DOES work. Whole plant medicine is more effective and better tolerated when it is used in this form, than when it is broken down into its individual molecular components. This is problematic for the medicine that is used to the pharmaceutical model of treatments. Single molecules, isolated, modified, patentable and monetizable. It is perhaps, time for us all to reconsider the possibility that perhaps sometimes, naturally occurring medicines, such as cannabis and hemp, may do a better job treating what ails us than do synthetics.
In good health,