How cannabis compounds could be working together

There’s a lot more to cannabis than THC and CBD. It actually contains more than a hundred active compounds, each with its own role and benefit. Here’s how the so-called entourage effect could help your dog get more from their CBD products.

Our view on dogs and the entourage effect  
  • The entourage effect says that cannabis compounds work synergistically to enhance their effect on the body.
  • Cannabis producers and consumers widely accept the concept, however, clinical research remains limited.
  • For dogs, the entourage effect is likely to boost CBD’s potency, especially its anti-anxiety effects.

  • The best CBD oil for dogs use a full-spectrum CBD with a rich, diverse range of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes.

What is the entourage effect?

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two main active ingredients in cannabis, but they’re complemented by a large range of other chemical compounds with documented effects on the body.

The entourage effect is the idea that cannabis can only deliver a full set of benefits when THC or CBD is supplied alongside a full spectrum of secondary elements (as opposed to being artificially isolated).

Proponents of the entourage effect try to identify those beneficial relationships between compounds and breed cannabis strains that maximize them.

Three categories of cannabis compounds stand out as contributing most to the entourage effect:

The entourage effect hypothesis

Cannabis compounds work synergistically, contributing to a wider, stronger, and more holistic effect when consumed together in their natural form.

As a result, components such as terpenes, flavonoids, and secondary cannabinoids should be preserved during the production process and be detectable in the final CBD extract.

Why should owners care?

Much of the research on the entourage effect is focused on the human market. Growers and therapists want to know how to produce cannabis strains that vary in taste and effects.

Many dispensaries now offer a wide range of specially bred flowers, from super-strong cannabis that uses other cannabinoids to temper THC, to specially flavored strains that maximize citrus or peppery terpenes.

Dogs shouldn’t be taking oils containing lots of THC or strong flavors, so why should owners care about the entourage effect?

Beyond fine-tuning a human high, the entourage effect can be harnessed to give CBD products stronger and more holistic abilities – such as treating arthritis or anxiety.

Many owners who’ve tried CBD and found that their dog ‘just doesn’t respond’ are likely to have used products with isolated cannabinoids and a shallow range of secondary compounds.

While much about how cannabis compounds interact is still unclear, we know that oils with a full range of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes are more likely to work on a larger range of pups.

How can you increase your dogs’ chances of benefiting from the entourage effect?

Once owners know what to look for, it’s easy to pinpoint which products offer dogs the full CBD experience.

1. Choose the right spectrum

CBD products are usually sorted into three categories: isolate, broad-spectrum, and full spectrum.
The terms isolate and broad-spectrum signal that some or all secondary compounds are missing from an oil. Full-spectrum products should contain the greatest range of cannabinoids.

2. Choose the right strain

Just because a product is full-spectrum, however, doesn’t guarantee a range of secondary compounds. Some strains of hemp plants contain a richer set of cannabinoids than others.
Look for brands and producers that care about their hemp—or are cannabis breeders themselves. Hemp should be sourced from certified farms within the US, and brands should be able to trace their ingredients and provide details to consumers.

3. Read the certificate of analysis

The easiest way to ensure that a CBD product promotes the entourage effect is to read its independent lab test results.

These certificates should detail the complete contents of an extract, including cannabis compounds and any contaminants.

Is the entourage effect safe for dogs?

There have been a small number of reports over recent years that full-spectrum oils containing strong terpenes and extra cannabinoids may increase the risk of stomach upset or diarrhea in dogs.

It’s not exactly clear where these claims come from, and no real evidence has emerged suggesting full spectrum oil is unsafe for dogs or humans.

Concerns may have arisen from a misunderstanding about what ‘full spectrum’ actually means, especially in relation to THC content.

Overall CBD is a highly safe natural compound with toxicity far below the majority of prescription medications.

The entourage effect: scientific fact or stoner myth?

While anecdotal evidence for the entourage effect is impressive, the clinical research is significantly lacking.

Despite a lack of interest from scientists in anything that’s not CBD or THC, however, studies into secondary cannabinoids have begun to emerge over the past decade:

dog's brain infographic
  • A 2011 review in the British Journal of Pharmacology is often cited as the first serious inquiry into the entourage effect. It supports the idea that breeding cannabis to increase phytocannabinoid and terpenoid content may “strengthen and broaden clinical applications and improve the therapeutic index of cannabis extracts,” especially when used to treat anxiety and skin conditions.

  • The paper notes how certain cannabis compounds can increase the effects of other compounds. For example, some terpenes seem to increase skin permeability, making it easier for cannabinoids to affect the body when applied topically. Other terpenes like limonene may increase CBD’s ability to alleviate anxiety.

  • Several recent studies, including ones from 2014 and 2020, show non-THC and CBD cannabinoids are neurochemically active and affect cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system.

  • In a 2010 study, patients with cancer pain treated with a 1:1 mix of THC and CBD reported greater pain relief than patients treated with pure THC.

The final woof

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, research into the entourage effect will become more established and may tell us why some secondary compounds seem to increase the effects of CBD.

For now, though, we know that dogs taking rich full-spectrum products do seem to stand a better chance of experiencing cannabis’s anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory benefits.