CBD and THC are thought to interact with each other as well as with the brain’s receptors. This interaction has been labeled “the entourage effect.”

Cannabis (marijuana) plants contain more than 120 different phytocannabinoids. These phytocannabinoids act on your endocannabinoid system, which works to keep your body in homeostasis, or balance.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the more well-researched and popular phytocannabinoids. People take CBD and THC in a variety of ways, and they can be consumed separately or together.

However, some research suggests that taking them together — along with smaller organic compounds in the cannabis plant, known as terpenes or terpenoids — is more effective than taking CBD or THC alone.

This is due to an interaction between phytocannabinoids and terpenes called “the entourage effect.”

Entourage effect

This is the theory that all the compounds in cannabis work together, and when taken together, they produce a better effect than when taken alone.

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So, does that mean you should take CBD and THC together, or do they work just as well when taken separately? Read on to learn more.

Taking phytocannabinoids and terpenes together may provide additional therapeutic benefits

A number of conditions have been studied in conjunction with the entourage effect. A 2011 review of studies in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that taking terpenes and phytocannabinoids together may be beneficial for:

CBD may help reduce unwanted effects of THC

Some people experience side effects like anxiety, hunger, and sedation after taking THC. Rat and human studies covered in the same 2011 review suggest that CBD may help reduce these side effects.

Phytochemicals like terpenes and flavonoids could be beneficial to brain health

Research from 2018 found that certain flavonoids and terpenes may provide neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Researchers proposed that these compounds could improve CBD’s therapeutic potential.

More research is needed

Like much of what we know about medical cannabis, the entourage effect is just a well-supported theory right now. And not all research has found evidence to support it.

A 2019 study tested six common terpenes both alone and in combination. The researchers found that the effects of THC on the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 were unchanged by the addition of terpenes.

This doesn’t mean that the entourage effect definitely doesn’t exist. It just means that more research is needed. It’s possible that terpenes interface with THC elsewhere in the brain or body, or in a different way.

While it may be that THC and CBD work better together than alone, it’s important to remember that cannabis affects everyone differently — and everyone’s goals for cannabis use are different.

A person with Crohn’s disease who uses cannabis-based medicine for nausea relief will probably have a different ideal ratio of THC to CBD than a weekend warrior who uses it for muscle pain. There’s no one dosage or ratio that works for everyone.

If you want to try taking CBD and THC, start by talking to your healthcare provider. They may be able to provide a recommendation, and can advise you of potential drug interactions if you’re taking any medications.

Also, keep in mind that both THC and CBD may cause side effects. THC is psychoactive, and it may cause fatigue, dry mouth, slow reaction times, short-term memory loss, and anxiety in some people. CBD may cause side effects like weight changes, nausea, and diarrhea.

Another important thing to note is that cannabis is illegal on a federal level, but legal under some state laws. If you want to try a product that contains THC, check the laws where you live first.

Tips for trying CBD and THC

  • Start with a low dose and increase if needed: For THC, try 5 milligrams (mg) or less if you’re a beginner or infrequent user. For CBD, try 5 to 15 mg.
  • Experiment with timing to see what works for you: You may find that taking THC and CBD at the same time works best. Or, you may prefer using CBD after THC.
  • Try different delivery methods: CBD and THC can be taken in a number of ways, including capsules, gummies, food products, tinctures, and vapes.

A note about vaping: Keep in mind that there are risks associated with vaping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people avoid THC vape products. If you choose to use a THC vape product, monitor yourself carefully. See your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, fever, and weight loss.

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Some people don’t want to take THC, but are interested in trying CBD. There’s still plenty of research that suggests CBD may be beneficial by itself.

If you want to try CBD but don’t want to take THC, look for a CBD isolate product rather than a full-spectrum CBD product. Full-spectrum CBD products contain a broad range of cannabinoids and may have up to 0.3% THC. That’s not enough to produce a high, but it could still show up on a drug test.

Before you make a purchase, be sure to check the ingredients to be sure of what you’re getting.

Cannabinoids and terpenoids in cannabis are thought to interact with each other as well as the brain’s receptors. This interaction has been labeled “the entourage effect.”

There’s some evidence that the entourage effect makes taking THC and CBD together more effective than either alone.

However, the entourage effect is still a theory. More research into the cannabis plant and its chemical composition is needed before we can know the full extent of its potential medical benefits.

Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

Raj Chander is a consultant and freelance writer specializing in digital marketing, fitness, and sports. He helps businesses plan, create, and distribute content that generates leads. Raj lives in the Washington, D.C., area where he enjoys basketball and strength training in his free time. Follow him on Twitter.