CANNABINOIDS & TERPENES
Cannabis is made up of hundreds of active chemical compounds, over 60 of which are cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are naturally-occurring chemical ingredients that are found in the highest concentration in the female buds of the cannabis plant. These chemical compounds play an important role. They interact directly with the cannabinoid receptors found throughout the human endocannabinoid system. The medicinal benefits of cannabis can be attributed to the phenomenon of cannabinoids activating the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the brain and body.
Terpenes are the compounds responsible for a plant’s scent and flavor. Unlike other botanical species, each strain of cannabis has a unique terpene profile. Terpenes and cannabinoids work together to develop a strain’s particular flavor and resulting high, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.
Cannabinoids and terpenes develop in the resin glands, or trichomes, on the flower and leaves of cannabis plants. Today, growers aspire to breed strains with high concentrations of both compounds due to their prized therapeutic effects.
Most medical cannabis research focuses on the study of cannabinoids. They are similar in structure to the neurotransmitters in our central and peripheral nervous system. So similar, in fact, that when we consume cannabis, cannabinoids can communicate on a cellular level with these neurotransmitters, which we call “endocannabinoids.” The network of these endocannabinoids in our bodies is called the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids help maintain homeostasis, or a sense of equilibrium, in the human body, providing a consistent, stable environment for cells to function optimally. This is a key process in ensuring the body’s overall health. Some scientists and doctors speculate that certain conditions, such as migraines, arthritis, IBS and fibromyalgia, are possibly the result of an endocannabinoid deficiency. When this nervous system falters, cannabinoids derived from cannabis can help our bodies regain their natural balance and stability. This concept is the foundation of cannabis as medicine.
You might have heard of the high CBD strain, Charlotte’s Web. It was developed for a young girl named Charlotte who suffered from Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. A tincture derived from this strain helped reduce the hundreds of weekly seizures Charlotte endured to only a few. This was an unbelievable feat that catalyzed the medical marijuana movement. It is also a prime example of how impactful cannabinoid therapy can be.
Most Common Types of Cannabinoids
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THC-A) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. THC-A is the most abundant cannabinoid in raw cannabis. When THC-A is heated to a high enough temperature, it immediately converts to THC. This process also occurs naturally as fresh cannabis dries and cures.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known cannabinoid and the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Cannabinol (CBN) naturally occurs when THC is exposed to heat and oxygen. It’s typically found in amounts less than 1%.
Cannabigerol (CBG) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is found in minimal amounts (less than 1%) in medical cannabis. It can be useful for chronic pain management. It can be beneficial in treating elderly patients and those struggling with neuropathic conditions.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THC-V) is the strongest psychoactive cannabinoid. The effects are more pronounced than THC, but last for about half as long. It can be highly effective in treating psychological disorders, like PTSD.
Cannabidivarin (CBD-V) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid with significant anti-epileptic and antiseizure effects. It is being researched for its potential in treating epilepsy.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is sometimes celebrated as a “wonder drug” because of its versatility. The non-intoxicating properties make it more applicable to those who need and want to stay clear-minded. High CBD strains have antispasmodic and antiseizure properties which can be immensely helpful for those treating seizures and epilepsy.
Understanding terpenes is key to navigating cannabis for beginners; they are as important as cannabinoids when it comes to self-medicating. Research shows us that we can no longer just consider the potency of THC and CBD in a strain. The concentration of terpenes can provide as many benefits as potency and cannabinoid content.
Terpenes are responsible for the scent and flavor of cannabis. Tangerine Dream and Super Lemon Haze have distinctive citrus aromas, while Blackberry Kush and Strawberry Cough have sweeter, fruitier notes. Take a whiff of Sour Diesel and you’ll see why people love strong, skunky buds. To date, researchers have identified over 100 different terpenes, but below is a list of the most common ones.
Most Common Types of Terpenes
β–Myrcene can be used to treat insomnia, pain, and muscle spasms. It is unique because it allows chemicals to cross the blood-brain barrier more easily, allowing for cannabinoids to have a faster onset. β–Myrcene also increases the psychoactive effect of THC, making for a more intense cerebral high. β–Myrcene is found in lemongrass, thyme, and hops. Some people claim that eating a mango, which has significant β–Myrcene, before consuming cannabis will result in a stronger, more sustained high.
Limonene has an energizing, citrus scent. It can be used for combatting gastric reflux and heartburn. Limonene has antifungal, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be powerful for elevating mood and reducing stress. Limonene is often found in common cleaning and cosmetic products, but occurs naturally in fruits, like lemons, limes, and oranges.
Humulene is found in abundance in its namesake Humulus Lupulus, or common hops. It is present in ginseng, sage, clove, basil and sativa strains. Used in ancient Chinese medicine, humulene can be an effective appetite suppressant. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties. Recent studies have shown promise that it can help kill cancer cells.
Linalool has a delicate, floral aroma and is found in hundreds of different plants. Linalool is present in lavender, cinnamon, birch, and coriander. It is an age-old remedy for sleep disorders and can be used in treating psychosis, depression, and anxiety. Linalool can be used as an analgesic and is a great all-natural insecticide.
Pinene has a fresh, pine-y fragrance. It has anti-inflammatory effects and is most commonly used as a bronchodilator and is beneficial to those with asthma and related conditions. Walk into a pine forest, take a deep breath and see for yourself. It also has antibiotic and gastroprotectant abilities. Pinene is most common in pine needles, rosemary, basil, and sage.
β–Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to directly interact with a cannabinoid receptor. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. β–Caryophyllene naturally occurs in black pepper, rosemary, oregano, and cloves. Luckily, β–Caryophyllene can counteract the intoxicating effects of THC. So if you ever feel too high, hunt down some black peppercorns and try eating a few — it may help you come down.