Entourage Effect, Not THC, Main Indicator of Potency, Brainwave Study Confirms

A study by Zentrela and PAX measured brainwaves to determine the main factor that causes psychoactive effects.

While consumers are getting smarter about cannabis selection in general, a new study—based on brainwaves—confirms that the entourage effect is the determining factor of potency, not the delta-9 THC percentage, as many still believe. 

According to an Oct 3. announcement, new study by researchers associated with Zentrela, and in collaboration with PAX, found that the entourage effect of multiple cannabinoids and terpenes caused twice the psychoactive effects than products only high in delta-9 THC.

The study was conducted by Upmanyu Sharma, Israel Gasperin Haaz, Dr. Dan Bosnyak, Ricardo Zelidon, Dr. David Faulkner, and Dr. Echo Rufer to help define the cannabis experience. How is it possible to confidently measure psychoactive effects? Haaz, who is also founder of Zentrela, and others published peer-reviewed analysis in the March 2022 issue of Neurology and Therapy on a novel way to measure psychoactive effects using electroencephalogram (EEG) data to translate into psychoactive effect levels (PEL). 

The research team with Zentrela theorized that the combined synergy of many cannabinoids and terpenes are the real indicator of potency versus THC alone—and EEG technology is the key to proving it.

Courtesy Zentrela

Entourage Effects vs. Only THC Effects

Professors “Father of Cannabis Science” Raphael Mechoulam, who passed away last March, and Shimon Ben-Shabat, coined the term “entourage effect” in 1998 because it was immediately apparent that multiple compounds in the cannabis plant are needed for the best effects. It would take time to learn more about how these compounds interact.

Researchers turned to EEG data, in which sensors measure brainwave activity. The study used EEG-based analysis for quantifying the psychoactive effects, including onset time and maximum strength. Study participants consumed PAX’s Live Rosin with Natural Diamonds and High Purity THC Cannabis Products. Live Rosin preserves the original terpene profile and cannabinoids of the plant—something that would’ve been destroyed in other concentrates.

Researchers observed 28 participants who vaped the concentrates with a PAX Era Pro device. They each took two hits, or 8 mg, of either the full-spectrum or pure THC concentrates from a vape manufactured by PAX, which was followed by brainwave analysis provided by Zentrela. This study compared results after participants vaped PAX Live Rosin with Natural Diamonds in Blue Dream with average 85 percent THC, or PAX High Purity THC in Berry Gelato, a distillate oil product with 82-85 percent potency—with very different results despite having similar delta-9 THC potencies. 

“Key findings suggest that whole plant, full spectrum products can produce a statistically significant faster onset and more than double the psychoactive experience than distillate products with comparable Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potencies due to the ‘entourage effect,’ or presence of additional whole plant compounds like phytocannabinoids and terpenes,” the announcement reads.

“Consumers looking for psychoactive effects typically shop for cannabis products based on THC, which is a bit of a fallacy,” said Brian Witlin, VP of Product Development at PAX. “In the spirit of continuing to advance cannabis research and understanding of the plant—which has been far too limited for much too long—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. We hope this type of insight helps consumers understand that shopping for products based on THC% alone is not the leading indicator of expected experience.”

Measuring Brainwave Activity

Zentrela’s non-invasive portable EEG device recorded data from eight brain regions—before and after vaping. Cognalyzer® AI-based EEG analysis uses machine learning on large EEG datasets to detect specific brainwave changes and was employed to convert EEG data into psychoactive effect levels (PEL) on a standardized scale.

The participants were measured to determine their baseline with the EEG device before vaping. The first study group reached a 39% PEL based on the Cognalyzer® brainwave scale at minute 15, post product inhalation. The maximum PEL of the second study group was 19% PEL and it also happened at minute 15, post product intake. This makes the difference in the highest point of the PEL among the two study groups at the 15-minute mark at 20%. Statistical analysis was conducted to validate with “90% level of confidence” this notably distinct difference between the two study groups.

“Our mission at Zentrela,” said company founder and CEO Israel Gasperin, “is to help consumers better understand the experiences that cannabis products create. PAX is a great partner because we share a dedication to innovation and a commitment to use the most advanced scientific research techniques to expand our understanding of cannabis effects.”

Zentrela is an independent research organization that utilizes novel non-invasive neurotechnology to accurately and objectively quantify and classify the effects cannabis products create for consumers.

You can read the study in full, which is published on Zentrela’s website.

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