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The synergistic relationship of cannabinoids affecting one another is called the 'Entourage Effect.'
Entourage Effect and Phyto-cannabinoids

Not all cannabis is created equal. Each strain contains a variety of plant chemicals called phyto-cannabinoids. The various plant based cannabinoids work together to mimic the effect of naturally occurring endo-cannabinoids found in the body. Research suggests that a deficiency in endo-cannabinoids are a source of ailments, so think of the plant as a natural source of cannabinoids - much like a vitamin supplement (Russo 2003).

The chart, left, outlines the way many of the cannabinoids work together to produce the medical effect patients are seeking (Turner et al. 1980). Since strains contain more or less of the cannabinoids people need, patients with access to the cannabis plant prefer to work directly with a specialized grower to find their perfect strain. Israeli researchers studying the effects of the plant have come to understand that these cannabinoids work together and produce an "entourage effect", one playing off another (McPartland and Pruitt 1999). Using the whole cannabis plant causes fewer psychological side effects than synthetic THC found in Marinol. Synthetic THC is known to cause symptoms of dysphoria, depersonalization, anxiety, panic reactions, and paranoia (Grinspoon and Bakalar 1997).

The endo-cannabinoid system was discovered to be a central regulatory system that restores balance and promotes good health (Mechoulam 1995).

The name suggests that the plant came first, but in fact, as Dr. John McPartland has explained, this ancient, internal signal system started evolving over 600 million years ago (long before cannabis appeared) when the most complex life form was sponges. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are present in fish, reptiles, earthworms, leeches, amphibians, birds and mammals - every animal except insects. Given its long evolutionary history, scientists surmised that the endocannabinoid system must serve an important and basic function in animal physiology (McPartland 2006).

 

What is a terpene (pronounced TUR-peen)?

The unique smell of cannabis does not arise from cannabinoids, but from over 120 terpenoid compounds (Turner et al. 1980). These compounds are easily extracted from plant material and are called the essential oil or volatile oil of the plant. Terpenes are produced in the trichomes, the same glands where THC is produced, comprising between 10 and 20 percent of the total oils produced by the glands. It is believed that about 10-29 percent of cannabis smoke resin is composed of terpenes/terpenoids.


FDA Disclosure: The following statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

Popular Cannabinoids Found in Cannabis

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) +

    THC - Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) a neutral cannabinoid, well known for being strongly psychoactive. Of all the scientific discoveries that have been made about THC, probably the single most important was how THC enabled scientists to discover the existence of the Endocannabinoid system in vertebrate animals (including humans): a critical part of physiology that, up until then, was unknown. THC has been shown to be effective in the treatment of a variety of ailments and disorders including pain, tumors, nausea and ADHD.

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) +

    CBD - Cannabidiol (CBD) CBD possesses sedative properties (Carlini and Cunha, 1981), and a clinical trial showed that it reduces the anxiety and other unpleasant psychological side effects provoked by pure THC (Zuardi et al. 1982). CBD provides antipsychotic benefits (Zuardi et al. 1995). CBD, unlike THC, does not dampen the firing of hippocampal cells (Heyser et al. 1993) and does not disrupt learning (Brodkin and Moerschbaecher 1997). The CBD in cannabis smoke may explain why inhaling it causes less airway irritation and inflammation than inhalation of pure THC (Tashkin et al. 1977).

  • Cannabinol (CBN) +

    CBN - Cannabinol (CBN) is the degradation product of THC (Turner et al. 1980), and is found most often in aged cannabis products. It is an oxidation product of THC, normally formed when THC is exposed to oxygen and heat. CBN is known to be very slightly psychoactive and more strongly sedative than other known cannabinoids. As such, samples with significant CBN (approaching 1% by weight) can be useful to treat insomnia. CBN is also somewhat effective as an anti-emetic and anticonvulsant. CBN increases plasma concentrations of follicle-stimulating hormone, and enhances the production of testicular testosterone (Dalterio et al. 1985). CBN shares some characteristics with CBD; for example, it has anti-convulsant activity (Turner et al. 1980) and anti-inflammatory activity (Evans et al. 1991). CBN has affinity for CB1 receptors (Ki at CB1 = 308 nM) and signals as an agonist (Showalter et al. 1996). CBN has a three-fold greater affinity for CB2 receptors (Ki = 96 nM) (Showalter et al. 1996), thus it may affect cells of the immune system more than the central nervous system (Klein et al. 1998).

  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THC-A) +

    THCa - Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa) is the acidic precursor to THC, which actually exists in only minute quantities in the living plant. In living cannabis, THCa is the most abundant cannabinoid and terpenoid, potentially reaching over 30% of the dry weigh of the cannabis. Once the plant is harvested it begins a clock where, over time, the THCa begins to be converted into THC, a process quickened by exposure to heat and sunlight. One main reason cannabis is cured is to convert the THCa into THC, as well as drying it out to make it easier to burn, thus releasing the remaining THCa as THCTHCa is non-psychoactive, though it still stimulates the appetite like THC. It also is a powerful anti-inflammatory, helps fight cancer and other tumors, aids with sleep, and more.

  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THC-V) +

    THCv - Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) is a propyl analogue of Delta 9-THC, primarily appearing in indica and afghanica varieties of cannabis, such as hashish from Nepal (Merkus 1971), dagga from South Africa (Boucher et al. 1977), and in plants cultivated from seeds from Zambia (Pitts et al. 1992). THCV is only 20-25% as psychoactive as Delta 9-THC (Hollister 1974). It has a quicker onset of action than Delta 9-THC (Gill et al. 1970), and is of briefer duration (Clarke 1998). THCV may be clinically effective in migraine treatment.

  • Cannabigerol (CBG) +

    CBG - Cannabigerol (CBG) is the biosynthetic precursor of CBC, CBD, and THC, and is present only in minor amounts. CBG has been called “inactive” when compared to THC, but CBG has slight affinity for CB1 receptors, approximately the same as CBD (Devane et al. 1988). In rat brains, CBG inhibits the uptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, less effectively than CBD and THC, but CBG inhibits GABA uptake more effectively than CBD and THC (Banerjee et al. 1975). CBG has antibacterial properties (Mechoulam and Gaoni 1965). CBG inhibits the growth of human oral epitheloid carcinoma cells (Baek et al. 1998).

  • Cannabichromene (CBC) +

    CBC - Cannabichromene (CBC) is the fourth major cannabinoid, found predominantly in tropical Cannabis strains. Until the mid-1970s, CBC was frequently misidentified as CBD, because CBC and CBD have nearly the same retention times in gas chromatography (John M. McPartland and Ethan B. Russo 107). CBC exhibits strong antibacterial activity and mild antifungal activity, superior to THC and CBD in most instances (ElSohly et al. 1982). Unlike CBD, CBC does not function as an anti-convulsant in rats (Davis and Hatoum 1983). The molecular affinity of CBC for cannabinoid receptors has not been measured. In mice, CBC causes hypothermia, sedation, and synergizes the depressant effects of hexobarbital (Hatoum et al. 1981). In rats, the co-administration of CBC with THC potentiates THC changes in heart rate, but does not potentiate THC’s hypotensive effects (O’Neil et al. 1979). Co-administration of CBC lowers the LD50 dose of THC in mice (Hatoum et al. 1981).

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Download 'Cannabinoids - How Your Body Is Built For Cannabis' Brochure

Endo-cannabinoid System tri-fold brochure from the Florida Cannabis Action Network

Florida CAN created this brochure on the endo-cannabinoid system to help you understand how your body processes cannabis. This very same brochure is used by the FLCAN Legislative Committee to educate lawmakers and made available for other state's initiatives. Contact FLCAN

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Certain Cannabinoids Required by Florida Law

In June 2014, Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, the first cannabis-friendly bill in Florida since 1979.

Find out more about the new 2014 law utilizing low-THC cannabis, rich in cannabidiol, or CBD.

Learn More