Most animal studies with cannabidiol utilize synthetic, single-molecule CBD produced by biochemical laboratories for research purposes. In contrast, whole plant extractions typically include CBD, THC, and more than 400 trace compounds. Many of these compounds interact synergistically to create what scientists refer to as an “entourage effect” that magnifies the therapeutic benefits of the plant’s individual components—so that the medicinal impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts. It is important to consider the entourage effect (or lack thereof) when extrapolating data based on animal studies: 100 milligrams of synthetic single-molecule CBD is not equivalent to 100 milligrams of a CBD-rich whole plant cannabis extract. “Cannabis is inherently polypharmaceutical,” Dr. John McPartland notes, “and synergy arises from interactions between its multiple components.” The clinical contribution of cannabinoids different than THC, terpenoids and flavonoids to clinical cannabis effects has been espoused as an “entourage effect” (Mechoulam and Ben-Shabat 1999). While THC remains the most psychoactive compound found in Cannabis, all other substances present in the plant (in particular cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids) also have unique properties that will ultimately influence the effects that Cannabis has on us.
Many times patients using Cannabis as medicine have reported that a specific plant genetic seems to have better therapeutic properties on them than other ones available. When compared, those Cannabis varieties had similar cannabinoid profile (content of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD). So if the difference is not in the cannabinoid content, it must lie in the “entourage” of other substances present in the plant in order to explain the difference perceived by various patients.
Studies show that THC activates the pathways in the central nervous system, which work to block pain signals from being sent to the brain. Cannabis has been shown to be especially effective against neuropathic pain, or nerve-related pain. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another condition, shown effective with medical cannabis. The high from THC is also associated with temporary impairments of memory. While this may be seen as a drawback for some cannabis users, impaired memory is often therapeutic for those who struggle to , such as patients who suffer from PTSD. Recent studies confirm that oral doses of THC can help relieve a variety of PTSD-related symptoms including flashbacks, agitation and nightmares.