By Nathan Spaulding
Terpenes are volatile compounds produced by many plants, see as well as some insects. Plants that produce terpenes often possess smells and flavors we find pleasing and are known as aromatic herbs. These aromatic plants have been used by cultures around the world, cialis not only for perfumery and cooking, treatment but also as medicine. The distinctive flavor and smell of each aromatic plant is caused by its unique blend of terpenes. 120 distinct terpenes are produced by the genus Cannabis, with the relative concentrations of the individual terpenes varying greatly among the 700 distinct strains currently in cultivation. Aside from taste and smell differences between varieties, this helps contribute to the broad diversity of potential medical applications of Cannabis. Laboratory experiments have shown that the full range of psychoactive and medical effects of Cannabis resin cannot be re-created simply with the use of pure cannabinoid type drugs like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Marinol and Dronabinol, two drugs containing synthetic THC that have demonstrated limited medical benefits when compared with the use of Cannabis material containing the full range of cannabinoids and terpenes. These observations indicate that in addition to the psychoactive properties present in Cannabis resin, secondary components including terpenes are either psychoactive themselves, or are able to modulate or potentiate the affect of the cannabinoids when ingested in combination. GW Pharmaceuticals has invested extensive research into Cannabis based medicines, concluding that terpenes played a significant role in the effectiveness of the medication. GW is now manufacturing the most widely used medical marijuana product in the world an oral spray called Sativex, which contains a standardized mixture of Cannabis terpenes in addition to a mix of THC and CBD (Canabidiol).
From a chemical standpoint, terpenes are a large and varied class of hydrocarbons that make up a majority of plant resins and saps. The name “terpene” comes from turpentine, a terpene-based solvent distilled from pinesap. Essential oils, composed primarily of terpenes, have a long history of topical and internal medicinal use. Cannabinoids like THC are chemically classified as terpenoids, meaning they are derived from terpenes themselves. This explains the common practice among marijuana users of judging the quality of dried cannabis or hashish based largely on the quality and intensity of the smell. In high-THC cultivars, because the THC is made from terpenes, their content is usually correlated with psycho activity.
The resinous trichromes of the cannabis plant contain both the cannabinoids as well as the terpenes, which are constantly being replaced as they evaporate from the resin. The resin of high THC cannabis contains approximately 20 percent terpenes, and 50 percent cannabinoids by weight. The essential oil has traditionally been used as a treatment for skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, as a topical antibiotic agent, and to increase circulation. In addition to these topical uses, it is now known that terpenes present in Cannabis do possess neurological effects, altering the production of the neurotransmitters seratonin and dopamine, as well as acting as type 2 cannabinoid receptor agonists. Another significant action when used in combination with cannabinoids is their ability to alter the permeability of both cell membranes and the blood/brain barrier, causing THC and other active cannabinoids to have a faster onset and more thorough absorption. Myrcene and several other terpenes are known to act as mixed agonist/antagonists of cannabinoid receptors, modulating the effects of THC in a similar fashion to CBD (cannabidiol).
The Major Terpenes of Cannabis Resin and Their Effects
Borneol – Borneol is a major component of cannabis resin that can also be found in cinnamon and wormwood (Artemesia spp). In Chinese medicine herbs containing borneol are recommended for fatigue and overstress. Borneal is mentioned to be a calming sedative.
Corryphyllene – Corryphyllene is a major component of cannabis resin that can also be found in black pepper and cloves. It is a fairly weak agonist of the type 2 cannabinoid receptors (cb2). As a constituent of a salve or lotion corphyllene is an effective anti- inflammatory and analgesic. Drug dogs are trained to specifically sniff out corphyllene epoxide, a similar compound produced only by cannabis.
Cineole/eucalyptol – Cineole/eucalyptol content is quite variable across varieties of Cannabis, but is often a major component of the essential oil. It is also found in rosemary and eucalyptus and is used to increase circulation, and reduce pain and swelling when applied topically. It readily crosses the blood/brain barrier, possibly helping cannabinoids to cross more readily as well. The effects of cineole, when combined with oral or smoked Cannabis, are reported as being very uplifting, noticeably increasing mental and physical energy. This terpene, or others like it, may be responsible for the reported difference in effect between indica and sativa strains with a similar cannabinoid profile.
Limonene – Found in cannabis resin as well as tropical fruit rinds, limonene is an anti-bacterial, anti fungal and anti cancer agent. Currently undergoing trials for use as an anti depressant, it is also known to increase the absorption of other terpenes by making cell membranes more permeable. The presence of this anti fungal agent may be helpful in protecting against Aspergillus infection in those with compromised immunity when using spoiled or poorly cured marijuana. Limonene is currently in trials to study its ability to prevent breast cancer formation.
Delta-3-Carene – A component of cannabis, rosemary, pine, and cedar resin. Aromatherapy oils that contain high levels of delta3carene are used to dry excess fluids from the eyes, nose, or mouth. It is thought to be at least partially responsible for the dry mouth and eye problems that are common side effects of the use of cannabis.
Linalool – This major component of cannabis and lavender oils is believed to possess anti anxiety and sedative properties. Strains that are high in linalool and similar compounds may be particularly beneficial for patients who experience insomnia when consuming Cannabis.
Myrcene – Significant concentrations of myrcene are present in cannabis resin. It is also found in mango, hops, lemon grass, East Indian bay tree, and verbena. Because of its appealing fragrance, myrcene is used in the perfume industry. It has a similar modulating effect on the binding of Cannabinoid agonist drugs as Cannabidiol, possibly reducing effects of Cannabis resin that are found to be unpleasant for some medical users. It has anti microbial, anti septic, analgesic, anti oxidant, anti carcinogen and anti-inflammatory properties. It has shown some promise when used as an anti depressant, or as an additive to other anti depressant drugs and is also used in massage therapy as a muscle relaxer.
Terpineol – Minor component of Cannabis resin, used extensively in the perfume industry. Interestingly this terpene decreases motility of lab rats by 45 percent, this observation coupled with the fact that this is a terpene produced primarily in Cannabis indica plants indicates terpineol could play a role in decreased motility sometimes referred to as “couch lock”.
To get the greatest possible benefits from medical Cannabis products, its important to be aware of the common methods being used to produce this medication, and how this will affect the terpene content of the finished product. When Cannabis is exposed to heat the volatile terpenes quickly evaporate, causing the majority of hash oils currently produced for medication to be nearly devoid of terpenes. When purchasing hash oil products it is important to ask if the terpenes have been retained during processing. Ask your dispensary staff if they are aware of the manufacturing processes used in their products, and the properties of the finished medicines.
Cannabis-based salves or lotions have become a popular treatment for skin conditions, and terpenes play a major role in the effectiveness of these at treating a range of skin problems. When purchasing these types of products you should talk to your dispensary about the terpene content of the different products available as well as the cannabinoid content. When topically applied, cannabis terpenes are very effective for treating a range of skin problems. If you are a medical marijuana user who prefers to smoke or vaporize cannabis, you can increase the effect of the terpenes in you’re bud by slowly breaking it up and inhaling the aromas prior to smoking. Some concentrates that have become popular retain very little of the original terpenes. This is true of most hash oils that are extracted or dried with heat, as well as bubble hash that have lost much of the original terpenes to the water used in processing. The most concentrated terpenes are found in freshly dried buds, as well as high quality dry sift hash or kief.
It is now understood that the psychoactive and medicinal effects of the cannabis plant can’t be explained by THC and other cannabinoids alone. In order to develop a more thorough understanding of the range of medical conditions alleviated with Cannabis use, terpenes, flavonoids and alkaloids that are produced by different strains of cannabis will need to be studied to determine how they interact with cannabinoids to produce the unique healing properties of organic Cannabis resin. The importance of terpenes in medicinal cannabis is becoming more evident as the research progresses. They are responsible for many of the subtle differences between strains and in how they perform medically. As patients become more aware of the complexities of the various compounds in cannabis, they will become more discerning when choosing their medicines. Hopefully, as patients become more aware of the full potential of Cannabis preparations, it will help increase the quality of available medications, and the quality of information. Educated patients can be the driving force for further research into the almost limitless potential for the medical uses of this amazing plant.
See the back cover for more information on Flower Of Life Infused Products and ask your local dispensary if they carry Flower Of Life Infused.
For further reading on the effects of many lesser-known chemical constituents of Cannabis visit www.ProjectCBD.org