Cannabinoids and Terpenes: How do they Interact?

Cannabinoids and Terpenes: How do they Interact?

In our blog posts, much of the focus is on CBD and THC. However, inside the cannabis and hemp plant, there are some fantastic molecules with essential functions: 

They are called Terpenes.

When we observe a cannabis plant, one of the first things that we notice is its distinctive aroma. For this, we must thank terpenes, which are responsible for giving all plants and flowers their unique scents.

cannabis and terpenes

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic oils that are secreted from the glands responsible for producing both CBD and THC. They help to give individual strains of cannabis their distinct pine, berry, mint, and citrus flavors.

As with other strong-smelling flowers and plants that occur in nature, the development of terpenes holds the primary purpose of repelling predators and luring pollinators. Several factors can influence a plant's natural development of terpenes, including soil type, weather, climate, age, and even the time of day.

Within the cannabis plant, over 100 different terpenes have been identified, with individual strains hosting unique terpene compositions and types.

It's thought that terpenes could play a vital role in differentiating the effects of cannabis strains. However, much more research is required to find out how, and to what extent.

The most abundant terpene in the Cannabis sativa plant is myrcene, common also in verbena or citronella and used in the perfume industry, due to its particularly delightful scent. Limonene, instead, is the second terpene for quantity present in cannabis and is known for its citrus fruit aroma.

 

What is the Entourage Effect?

Until recently, scientific research concentrated exclusively on the investigation of the properties of cannabinoids present in the plant (like cannabidiol, CBD), while paying little attention to the role played by its terpenes. Today, instead, we know that the interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes of Cannabis sativa gives rise to what has been denominated the entourage effect: the combined action of the whole of substances which make up cannabis.

The entourage effect can significantly modify the action of the different active principles of cannabis. Some terpenes would bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system, affecting some functions of our organism, others are said to modulate cell permeability controlling, for example, the absorption of THC.

Terpenes: Interaction with the Endocannabinoid System

Terpenes, when taken, interact with the endocannabinoid system, working in synergy with cannabinoids.

Myrcene, besides giving the plant a scent similar to that of cloves, has the capability of increasing cell permeability and, as a consequence, to make the absorption of cannabinoids faster. Limonene, instead, is widely studied by the scientific community and is used in many areas, amongst these, the medical sector.

In 2014 a study published in Food Chemistry demonstrated how limonene had strong anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, a study published in 1999 by researchers of the Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis, showed some chemo-preventive properties of limonene, arisen after the terpene was administered to some animals in the laboratory.

Terpenes can act on neurotransmitters in the brain, influencing, for example, neurotransmitters that regulate mood.

 

Other Popular Terpenes and Their Effects:

Terpinolene:

This terpene harbors a smokey or woody aroma and has been known to produce slightly sedative, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antibacterial effects.

Beta-Caryophyllene:

This terpene has both gastroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects with a woody, peppery taste.

Alpha and Beta-Pinene:

Both energetic and therapeutic, this terpene is commonly found in pine needles. If you've ever wandered through a forest and felt "exhilarated", it's probably because of this terpenoid!

Humulene:

This popular terpene is the main constituent of hops has strong anti-inflammatory effects while also acting as a hunger-suppressant.

 

Medical Evidence Discussing the Effects of Terpenes:

Frontiers in Neurology review found that people with epilepsy that took a CBD-rich extract improved their symptoms and had fewer side effects than those who took pure CBD. This suggests that the other components in cannabis, such as terpenes, may impact how the body uses CBD.

There is a wealth of medical research on isolated terpenes themselves, and some of these terpenes may eventually be used to treat a variety of conditions. A study in Chemico-Biological Interactions noted that multiple terpenes have beneficial effects on the body and could be used as alternative therapies or medicine.

 

Medical cannabis, CBD and pain free guide

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