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 are a cornerstone of healing with cannabis. 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. They’re considered to have medicinal properties, like the calming effect of lavender. 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. Anecdotal evidence suggests that THC-A can be useful for is attributed to increasing appetite, alleviating nausea and combating insomnia. It has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. THC-A is the most abundant cannabinoid in raw cannabis. When THC-A is heated by a flame or vaporizer, it immediately converts to THC - a breakdown process known as decarboxylation. 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. THC is best known as a cerebral stimulant; it can increase mental acuity and focus. THC is also an antidepressant and relaxant, especially when used in tandem with CBD. Patients also use THC to alleviate moderate pain, nausea, and inflammation.
Cannabinol (CBN) naturally occurs when THC is exposed to heat and oxygen. It’s typically found in amounts less than 1%. CBN has sedative effects that can can be used to treat insomnia and in some cases, lower heart rates. Evidence suggests that it has anti-emetic and anticonvulsant properties, making it a potentially effective treatment for nausea and seizures.
Cannabichromene (CBC) could possibly be an anti-anxiety powerhouse. Research is still limited, but initial studies show that it can be up to ten times as effective as CBD in treating stress and anxiety symptoms. CBC helps regulate mood and promote relaxation.
Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THC-V) is the strongest psychoactive cannabinoid. The effects are more pronounced than THC, but last for about half as long. It can reduce feelings of panic and anxiety and can be highly effective in treating psychological disorders, like PTSD. THC-V functions as an appetite suppressant and can be used in the treatment of metabolic disorders, like diabetes.
Cannabidivarin (CBD-V) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid with significant anti-epileptic and anticonvulsant effects. It is being researched for its potential in treating epilepsy. CBD-V has shown to be an effective remedy for nausea, as well as appetite suppression.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It has calming and sedative effects and is used for treating stress, depression, and sleep disorders. It’s 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 anti-epileptic properties which can be immensely helpful for those treating muscle spasms, seizures, and epilepsy.
Cannabigerol (CBG) is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is found in minimal amounts (less than 1%) in medical cannabis. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can be useful for pain management. Some studies show that it can promote neurogenesis, the development of new brain cells. This can be beneficial in treating elderly patients and those struggling with neuropathic conditions.
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
This terpene can be used to treat insomnia, pain and muscle spasms. Found in lemongrass, thyme, and hops, myrcene also increases the psychoactive effect of THC, making for a more intense cerebral high.
Found in: Granddaddy Purple, Amnesia, Trainwreck
The energizing, citrus scent of this terpene can be used to combat gastric reflux and heartburn, and to elevate mood and reduce stress. Limonene occurs naturally in lemons, limes, and oranges.
Found in: Hindu Kush, Lemon G, Strawberry Banana
Humulene is found in abundance in common hops (humulus lupulus) but can also be found in ginseng, sage, clove, and basil. It’s often used as an appetite suppressant but also has anti-biotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties.
Found in: Black Cherry OG, GSC, Death Star
Found in hundreds of plants including cinnamon, lavender and coriander, linalool has a delicate, floral aroma. It’s an age-old remedy for sleep disorders and can be used in treating psychosis, depression, and anxiety.
Found in: Kosher Kush, Romulan, Sour Kush
Beneficial to those with asthma and other respiratory conditions, pinene has anti-inflammatory effects and can be used as a bronchodilator. Pinene is commonly found in in pine needles, rosemary, basil and sage.
Found in: Purple Kush, Bay Dream, AK-47
Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to react with a cannabinoid receptor. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and occurs in black pepper, rosemary, oregano,
Found in: GSC, GG4, Fire OG