If you are anything like me, then for the longest time you only cared about the Percentage of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) a strain had. Low percentage? No thanks, I’ll pass. In recent years, however, I have changed my views on this as more research into marijuana’s effects starts to show that it’s not the THC, but rather the terpene profile of a strain that will affect your experience.
What is the Entourage Effect?
The entourage effect was first introduced in 1998 by S Ben-Shabat and Raphail Mechoulam to help describe the way cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids work in concert. It’s all of these various compounds working together that allows us to have so many strains that offer such a range of effects. While all of the terpenes and cannabinoids other than THC are non-psychoactive, they work together to modulate your psychoactive experience.
What Terpenes Are and How they Work
To fully understand the entourage effect you need to understand what terpenes are. We all by now have a pretty good idea what a cannabinoid is—even though we seem to think there are only two when there are 113! Terpenes are even more prominent in cannabis with over 200 found so far.
Simply put, terpenes are the compounds that make up the scent and flavor of cannabis. You know that blueberry taste you get when you smoke Blueberry? That’s entirely due to its terpene profile. It’s thought that cannabinoids and terpenes shared chemical precursor is why they can work so well together.
Terpenes don’t need cannabis to have profound effects on your body, though. A 2011 study led by Dr. Ethan Russo showed that terpenes, when inhaled at similar concentrations to cannabis, suggested a direct pharmacological effect on the brain. This led Dr. Ethan Russo to conclude, “further research of the entourage effect in this versatile plant that may help it fulfill its promise as a pharmacological treasure trove.”
What Happens When You Isolate THC or CBD?
All of the benefits of the entourage effects sound great, but then why are isolates so popular? Well, a lot of that has to do with the poor level of education of cannabis consumers. As I mentioned earlier, from our first experience with cannabis, we are taught it’s the THC that you need to care about. So, when you see an isolate labeled 99.9% pure THC, you are quick to gobble it up.
While there is nothing wrong with consuming pure THC or CBD, you’ll be leaving a lot of benefits on the table. For instance, THC by itself causes euphoria, can induce hallucinations and can lead to increased anxiety. When you consume the full-spectrum of a cannabis plant, the entourage effects helps to alleviate a lot of the negative side effects brought on by THC.
Even as much as I know about the various terpenes and cannabinoids, it’s hard not to drop your jaw in awe of the strains coming out with 30% THC or Moonrocks with their 50% THC. Just know that a high THC percentage doesn’t equal a better high. In fact, depending on what you consume cannabis for, a strain with a high teens THC percentage and a solid terpene profile can often get you higher than a 25% THC strain with a poor terpene profile. You can look no further than Blue Dreams being the most popular strain in America even though it averages 18.4% THC while Ghost OG has on average 28.7% THC but doesn’t even crack the top 130 most popular strains according to Leafly.