The ‘entourage effect’ or ‘hodge-podge hashish’: the questionable rebranding, marketing, and expectations of cannabis polypharmacy

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Introduction: The concept of a cannabis ‘entourage effect’ was first coined as a hypothetical afterthought in 1998. Since then, multiple scientific reviews, lay articles, and marketing campaigns have promoted the effect as a wholly beneficial manifestation of polypharmacy expected to modulate the therapeutic effects of cannabis and its derivatives. There is reason to wonder at the authenticity of such claims. Areas covered: A broad definition of the entourage effect is presented, followed by brief summaries of the nature of cannabis polypharmacy and the commonly cited contributing phytochemicals, with special attention to their attendant adverse effects. A critical analysis is then offered of the primary literature that is often portrayed as suggestive of the effect in existing reviews, with further studies being drawn from PubMed and Google Scholar searches. A final discussion questions the therapeutic value of the entourage effect and offers alternate perspectives on how it might be better interpreted. Expert opinion: Claims of a cannabis entourage effect invoke ill-defined and unsubstantiated pharmacological activities which are commonly leveraged toward the popularization and sale of ostensible therapeutic products. Overestimation of such claims in the scientific and lay literature has fostered their misrepresentation and abuse by a poorly regulated industry.

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