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Many people who smoke weed bank their high on THC percentage. But a new study may confirm what many of us knew all along: potency alone doesn’t really matter.
The folks at cannabis mega-brand PAX teamed up with Canadian neurotechnology company Zentrela to explore the so-called entourage effect. This is the theory that when all parts of the cannabis plant work together, it creates a more powerful and robust experience than consuming only THC.
If the research results are any indication, the entourage effect is indeed a thing—and shopping based on THC levels may mean consumers are actually missing out on a better high.
Study authors use brainwaves to measure participants’ “highs”
PAX study participants have brainwaves read with EEG Photo: PAX & Zentrela
To assess the entourage effect theory, the research team measured the brainwaves of 28 study participants after they had consumed one of two different PAX-branded oils. Using a PAX Plus Era, half of the group vaped Blue Dream Live Rosin (a full-spectrum oil containing more of the cannabis plant’s active ingredients), and the other half received Berry Gelato High Purity THC (a distillate-based product mainly comprised of THC).
Subjects inhaled two hits (approximately 8mg of oil), with brainwave data recorded roughly every five minutes for 30 minutes via Zentrela’s non-invasive EEG machines. Additional scans happened at the 45-minute and 90-minute marks (a calibration scan was also done before consumption).
The team then deployed Zentrela’s Cognalyzer® AI-based EEG analysis, which uses machine learning to recognize brainwave changes. The AI then converted data to psychoactive effect levels (PEL) on a standardized scale.
The truth about THC
The research team discovered that participants who consumed the full-spectrum live rosin had a quicker onset time and nearly double the psychoactive effects versus the distillate group. The findings echo the theory that the whole plant matters more than just THC levels.
Brian Witlin, vice president of product development at PAX, hopes the study illuminates the importance of the entourage effect—and dispels the idea that more THC equals better than.
“Consumers looking for psychoactive effects typically shop for cannabis products based on THC, which is a bit of a fallacy,” Witlin said in a press release. “We wanted to demonstrate through scientific study how full-spectrum products with the full range of terpenes and cannabinoids have a more profound impact on the onset and ultimate cannabis experience.”
While the PAX study was not peer-reviewed and used a limited sample size, it’s not the only evidence supporting the entourage effect theory. A 2018 analysis found that epilepsy patients using full-spectrum CBD had more success than those using isolate.
Still, the results of the PAX inquiry may shift market perceptions around THC and get people thinking about the benefits of whole-plant products.
“We hope this type of insight helps consumers understand that shopping for products based on THC percentage alone is not the leading indicator of expected experience,” Witlin said.