...the case for Cannabis synergy via the “entourage effect” is currently sufficiently strong as to suggest that one molecule is unlikely to match the therapeutic and even industrial potential of Cannabis itself as a phytochemical factory.’
Whenever we consume cannabis, whether we are smoking, vaping, or even using topicals, our bodies are interacting with a wide-variety of botanical compounds known as phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced in plants, as opposed to endocannabinoids which are produced in the bodies of most mammals. Each of these compounds provides its own signature effects and benefits, which shift and change as they interact with each other. This phenomenon is known as ‘The Entourage Effect’.
Dr Ethan B. Russo is a neurologist and pharmacologist who is known for his extensive studies of cannabis and its effects on the body and mind. He delves into researching the interactions between these cannabinoids in his essay The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain; ‘...the case for Cannabis synergy via the “entourage effect” is currently sufficiently strong as to suggest that one molecule is unlikely to match the therapeutic and even industrial potential of Cannabis itself as a phytochemical factory.’
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) & CBD (Cannabidiol) are some famous players in the cannabinoid scene. These two compounds have been isolated and incorporated into a vast array of products; edibles, topicals, tinctures, you name it. While these two compounds undoubtedly provide an array of potential health benefits, there is a growing movement embracing ‘whole plant medicine’; aka ‘Nature’s Multivitamin’.
Synergistic Phytochemical Factors
The vast array of synergistic phytochemical factors which make up a plant's unique biological makeup are comparable to a symphony orchestra. An untrained ear is unable to pick out the individual instruments, however, this does not mean their absence would go unnoticed.
We are still learning much about the nature of the intricate relationships which exist between the phytochemical constituents of the cannabis plant. For example, the active ingredient in Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, derived from Salix alba (White Willow bark). Aspirin is commonly taken to treat fever, pain and inflammation. It also is an effective blood-thinner. However, with long term continued use some adverse side-effects can begin to manifest, such as increased bruising as the vein walls become thinner and more permeable. Salix alba itself provides similar anti-inflammatory, pain relieving effects, but the plant contains other chemical constituents beside acetylsalicylic acid that work to modify the effects, and is found to fortify your vein and capillaries overall. Digitalis is another medicine, derived from Foxglove, that can have serious side effects when isolated from other, counteracting constituents. Phytocannabinoids are being found to have similar moderating effects on each other.
Of course, there is huge merit to isolating compounds and studying them extensively. We have collectively benefited from the scientists who are working tirelessly to understand plant compounds and how they individually interact with the human body. However, it is important to not get lost in the details. Like Monet’s famous ‘Water Lilies’ painting series; when viewed up close they seem dreamy and unorganized, take a step back and watch the bigger picture come into view. Nature truly knows best.
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