Terpene & Cannabinoid Testing: Discussing the Entourage Effect

At Highgrade Labs, we provide our clients with accurate terpene profiling, cannabinoid potency testing, and several other services to ensure precise measurements of what exactly is in their cannabis products.

While there is plenty of thought and research that goes into these analyses, one principle must be at the forefront of our researchers’ minds during terpene and cannabinoid testing: the entourage effect. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss a brief overview of terpenes and cannabinoids, review what the entourage effect is, and talk about why it’s so important to consider when testing terpenes and cannabinoids.


Terpenes & Cannabinoids

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that give cannabis its distinctive smell and flavor. They are found in many plants and are responsible for their unique scents. There are over 100 different types of terpenes in cannabis, each with its unique scent and potential effects.

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

The two most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, while CBD is non-psychoactive and is known for its potential therapeutic benefits.


The Entourage Effect

The entourage effect is a phenomenon that refers to the synergistic interaction of the various compounds in cannabis, such as cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant components.

According to this theory, these compounds work together to produce a more profound therapeutic effect than any one of them alone.

The entourage effect suggests that the various components of the cannabis plant interact with each other in a way that enhances their overall therapeutic benefits. For example, some cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, may have distinct therapeutic effects when used alone.

However, when these compounds are combined with other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in the cannabis plant, the resulting effects may be more potent and may produce a broader range of therapeutic benefits.

For example, one study found that a combination of THC and CBD reduced pain in patients with multiple sclerosis more effectively than THC alone. Another study found that combining THC and CBD produced a more significant antitumor effect in mice than using either compound alone.

In other words, the entourage effect suggests that the whole cannabis plant is more significant than the sum of its parts, and the various components work together to produce a more comprehensive range of therapeutic effects.

This theory has significant implications for the use of cannabis for medical purposes, as it suggests that using whole-plant or broad-spectrum cannabis extracts may be more effective than using isolated compounds.


How the Entourage Effect Alters Terpene & Cannabinoid Testing

Terpene and cannabinoid testing is an important aspect of quality control in the cannabis industry, as it allows producers and consumers to ensure that the products they are using are consistent in terms of their chemical composition and potency.

However, the entourage effect can complicate this testing process, as the presence of certain terpenes or cannabinoids in a sample can affect the potency of other components in unpredictable ways.

For example, if a sample of cannabis contains a high level of a particular terpene, it may enhance the potency of certain cannabinoids, making them more effective at treating certain conditions.

Conversely, if a sample contains a low level of a particular terpene, it may reduce the potency of certain cannabinoids, making them less effective at treating certain conditions. Isolating terpenes and cannabinoids does not tell the whole story when it comes to the effects and potential benefits of a cannabis product.


Accounting for the Entourage Effect in Terpene and Cannabinoid Testing

To account for the entourage effect in terpene and cannabinoid testing, it is necessary to measure and analyze the levels of all the different compounds in a given cannabis sample.

This includes not only the major cannabinoids like THC and CBD, but also the minor cannabinoids, such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinol (CBN), as well as the various terpenes and other plant components.

Gas chromatography and liquid chromatography are two of the most commonly used methods for testing terpenes and cannabinoids in cannabis. These methods can accurately measure the levels of various compounds in a given sample.

However, there are limitations to these methods, particularly in terms of their ability to accurately measure the levels of terpenes and other volatile compounds that may be lost during the extraction process.

To account for the entourage effect, it is also important to consider the relative ratios of different compounds in a given cannabis sample.

For example, a strain with high levels of THC and low levels of CBD may have a different therapeutic effect than a strain with lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD, even if the total cannabinoid content is similar.

Similarly, the relative ratios of different terpenes can also have a significant impact on the overall therapeutic effect of a given cannabis sample.

Therefore, it is crucial to use comprehensive testing methods that can accurately measure the levels of all the different compounds in cannabis and consider their relative ratios to fully understand the entourage effect.


Highgrade Labs: Removing the Guesswork from Cannabis & Hemp Testing

Overall, the entourage effect is a phenomenon that occurs when the various components of cannabis, like terpenes and cannabinoids, interact with each other to produce a more potent and comprehensive range of therapeutic effects.

Terpenes and cannabinoids are essential components of cannabis. Accurate testing of these compounds while accounting for the entourage effect allows testers and clients alike to better understand the cannabis product, what it contains, and what effects it may have.

Want to learn more about cannabis testing? Check out our blog! If you have more specific questions, you can contact our Oklahoma, Maryland, or New Jersey (coming soon) labs!