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  • Post Time Posted October 29, 2018
With cannabis concentrates now available in nearly every form, it’s a wonder people still consume whole flowers. The fact is, while products like oils, edibles and tinctures have become increasingly popular over the last number of years, patients continue to unequivocally side with whole flowers as the choice method of medicating with cannabis. 

There are obvious answers to why people still gravitate to whole flowers. The first and most blatant example is simplicity. Using a lighter and pipe, bong paper or accessory, cannabis flowers can easily be smoked. This method, inhalation by combustion, is certainly not the healthiest consumption method, but it does quickly pacify acute symptoms1.

The versatility of the cannabis plant also applies to the consumption of whole flowers, whether by combustion or not. Easily the most popular cannabis accessory on the market today, vaporizers represent another likely reason that whole flowers remain popular among patients. While eliminating most of the toxins and impurities emitted during combustion, vaporizing allows patients to medicate safely using cannabis flowers.

But this still begs the question: with so many other options – dabs, elixirs and drinks – why do so many people still favour whole flowers to every other consumption method? The answer, while not scientifically conclusive, has been a truth among connoisseurs for decades: that only when cannabinoids and terpenes are consumed together can the true holistic potential of the plant be explored.

Coined the entourage effect, this phenomenon describes the inscrutable impact of consuming flowers in whole form. More specifically, the entourage effect is the interactive synergy produced when all of the chemical components of cannabis flowers are consumed in tangent. Rather than only containing specific cannabinoids, say THC and CBD, as some consumer products do, whole flowers have a natural concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes2.

Despite the fact the entourage remains more cultural truth than scientific fact, some research has suggested that the synergy between cannabinoids and terpenoids can be therapeutically beneficial. Researchers have established connections between the use of whole flowers in the treatment of conditions like anxiety, depression, inflammation, bacterial infections and cancer, among others.

The phenomenon may simply come down to a numbers game. At last count, the cannabis plant contained over 100 cannabinoids and more than 200 terpenes. When concentrated cannabis products are manufactured, most of these cannabinoids and nearly all of the terpenes are lost to the extraction process. By contrast, anyone consuming whole flowers can access every one of those compounds with the flick of a lighter3.

Much of the mystery behind the entourage effect can likely be attributed to the infancy of medical cannabis research. Outside of the dozen or so cannabinoids that have been isolated and studied so far, the specific function of the vast majority of those compounds is still uncertain. Where the medical viability of molecules like THC and CBD has been well documented, the effect of dozens of others has yet to be studied. And the findings could prove significant. 

As concentrates become easier to access and, likely, even more popular, it will be interesting to see whether whole flower maintains its seat at the proverbial table of the discussion of cannabis consumption. But, whether it be for its efficacy, or that esoteric phenomenon known as the entourage effect, whole flowers continue to hold a special place in the lives of both adult-use consumers, and medical patients. 
  1. Some of the parts: is marijuana's "entourage effect" scientifically valid? https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/some-of-the-parts-is-marijuana-rsquo-s-ldquo-entourage-effect-rdquo-scientifically-valid/
  2. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/
  3. Marijuana and the entourage effect. https://www.leafscience.com/2017/12/08/marijuana-entourage-effect/

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