How does cannabis work?
There are endocannabinoid receptors located throughout your brain, glands, organs, connective tissues, and immune cells. Cannabinoids, the active constituents of cannabis seek out and bind to the endocannabinoid receptors and bind to them, causing an effect on:
- Bone density
- Bone development
- Cardiovascular function
- Emotional states
- Energy homeostasis
- Immune function
- Muscle movement
- Psychiatric disease
- Psychomotor behavior
- Sleep cycles
- Synaptic plasticity
Medical Marijuana, & Cannabis Dispensary in Philadelphia, PA
If you have ever wondered what is the difference between your strains of dry flower, the answer is terpenes! Terpenes are the essential oils found in cannabis and are naturally occurring aromatic compounds commonly produced by plants and fruits. Terpene profiles determine the fragrances of the flower and contribute to the mental effects of different strains. Terpenes can produce stimulation or sedation and are the main reason why sativas and indicas have their effects. The full role of terpenes is still being discovered. Recent studies have shown us that terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid and even mediate the flow of cannabinoids into the bloodstream, through the entourage effect.
- Bisabolol – Alpha-bisabolol (also known as levomenol and bisabolol) is a floral terpene that is used often in the cosmetic industry. Besides being found in cannabis, bisabolol can also be found in chamomile and candeia. Bisabolol has powerful medicinal effects, especially in bacterial and wound treatment. It is an effective antibacterial, analgesic, and anti-irritant. This terpene can be found in strains like ACDC and Harle-Tsu.
- Caryophyllene – Caryophyllene and beta-caryophyllene are best known for their black pepper and spicy taste. This terpene can also be found in black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, basil, oregano, and rosemary. There are many benefits to this terpene, including anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties. Unlike any other terpene, B-caryophyllene can bind to CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. For this reason, caryophyllene, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, will be found in many topicals and creams. Some studies have used caryophyllene in alcohol rehabilitation studies, with some promise. Mice-based research showed that when administered caryophyllene, there was a reduction in voluntary alcohol intake. Future research will be done to test caryophyllene’s role in treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- Humulene – Humulene has an earthy, woody, and spice aroma, and along with myrcene and pinene, is one of the most herbaceous and powerful terpenes in contributing to aroma. Besides being found in cannabis, this essential oil can be found in black pepper, sage, basil, and clove. One of the more surprising benefits of humulene is its appetite suppression potential. This can help combat the munchies associated with THC-rich products. In addition, there is potential for using humulene for weight loss, especially when combined with the cannabinoid THCv, which is also known for appetite suppression. In 2016, a study found that humulene, along with caryophyllene and other phytochemicals, have antitumor properties. Humulene is also a pain reliever, inflammation reducer, and antibacterial. Strains high in humulene include White Walker, Headband, and Sour Diesel.
- Limonene – Limonene is the second most abundant terpene in cannabis and has a citrus and lemon smell. It is no surprise that this terpene is also found in many citrus fruits, like lemons, limes, and oranges. It is also commonly used in cosmetics and cleaning products. Limonene will often be found in high quantities in strains named “lemon” or “sour”. Therapeutically, limonene boosts mood and reduces stress and has been found to increase serotonin levels in the brain. Additionally, limonene has antifungal, antitumor, and antibacterial properties. Limonene has been studied for its tumor-reducing properties.
- Linalool – Linalool is a relaxing terpene that can be described as both spicy and floral, due to the aroma created when mixed with myrcene. This pungent terpene can also be found in coriander, lavender, cinnamon, and mint. The sedating effects of linalool make it extremely beneficial for patients suffering from insomnia or seeking relaxation. Patients have also found linalool helpful for arthritis, depression, seizures, and cancer. Lavender, Master Kush, and Amnesia Haze are some strains with high linalool profiles.
- Myrcene – Of all the terpenes naturally found in cannabis, myrcene is the most abundant. Its aroma can be described as earthy, musky, and fruity, similar to cloves and red grapes. In nature, myrcene is found in mangoes, hops, bay leaves, lemongrass, thyme, and basil. Myrcene is very sedating, in fact, strains that contain 0.5% of this terpene are typically indicas. In addition, myrcene is also anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antimutagenic, and an analgesic. Although it is therapeutic for many conditions, cancer patients may find a lot of powerful pain relief from this sedating terpene. Strains high in myrcene include 707 Headband and Bio Jesus. There is some evidence to suggest that eating a mango about 45 minutes before consuming cannabis products will result in a more intense effect. This is due to the fact that mangoes contain high concentrations of myrcene, which allows more cannabinoids to cross the blood-brain barrier.
- Pinene – Pinene’s distinct woody, pine-scented aroma comes from the twin terpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Rosemary, orange peels, basil, and parsley also contain high concentrations of pinene. Pinene has an anti-inflammatory effect and has been seen to improve airflow, indicating it may be beneficial for those with asthma. Those suffering from other inflammatory disorders, such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and certain cancers, may also find relief from pinene. This terpene can be found in strains like Jack Herer, Island Sweet Skunk, and Blue Dream.
- Terpinolene – Terpinolene is a terpene known for its pine tree, woody, floral, and occasionally sweet or citrusy aroma. Due to its pleasant smell, it can often be found in soaps and perfumes. It can be found in nature in plants such as nutmeg, conifers, apples, cumin, and lilacs. Medically, terpinolene is an antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal. Terpinolene is also used for its digestive aid and anti-tumor properties. This terpene is most commonly found in sativa-dominant strains, such as Jack Herer and West Side Surprise.
What are cannabinoids and what do they do?
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring molecules in the cannabis plant that are the cornerstone of what makes cannabis a medicine. While THC, CBD, and CBN are typically the most recognized cannabinoids, there are at least 113 others. They are located in the leaves and stems and stored in larger amounts in the trichomes of the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids interact directly with the endocannabinoid system, a regulatory system found in mammals. Researchers continue to learn more about the wide variety of cannabinoids and their benefits.
- THCa – Tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCa) is the most abundant cannabinoid in live cannabis plants and is the precursor to THC. On its own, THCa is non-psychoactive. When heat is applied to THCa, it degrades into THC through a process called decarboxylation (essentially cooking the plant). Because most cannabis products go through a heating process, while in use or during extraction, it can be difficult to attain a product with THCa. Juicing the live cannabis plant is currently the best way to extract this cannabinoid. THCa provides potential relief from inflammation, muscle spasms, nausea, and vomiting, and it has anti-tumor, appetite-stimulating properties.
- THC – Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known cannabinoid. It is psychoactive and responsible for the euphoric effects of cannabis. THC directly interacts with the endocannabinoid system, a vast regulatory system found in all mammals, to produce full-body symptom relief. It has a great deal of medical potential, including, but not limited to: pain relief, nausea and vomiting relief, combating muscle spasms, and anti-inflammation. Additionally, it can potentially be helpful for those who suffer from migraines, sleep apnea, appetite loss, and diabetes.
- CBDa – Cannabidiol acid (CBDa) is the non-psychoactive precursor to CBD. The highest concentrations of CBDa can be found in live cannabis plants. Adding heat to CBDa will cause it to degrade into CBD through a process called decarboxylation (essentially cooking the plant). This cannabinoid is often used in creams and lotions for its skin benefits. CBDa may have potential in treating anxiety and nausea, as well as having tumor-inhibiting effects and antioxidant potential.
- CBD – Cannabidiol (CBD), the second most well-known cannabinoid in cannabis, is non-psychoactive on its own. When combined with THC, CBD can decrease the associated psychoactive effect, as well as uncomfortable possible side effects (i.e. paranoia, racing heart, etc). Using a strain containing CBD can be beneficial for treating mood disorders, inflammatory conditions, epileptic seizures, Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, chronic pain, and more, as well as providing a more balanced experience.
- CBC – Cannabichromene (CBC) can be helpful for pain relief and decreased inflammation. This cannabinoid is being studied as a potential treatment for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s (because it can potentially increase brain cell growth) and cancer (because it can potentially inhibit new cancer cell growth). It also has the potential to be helpful in relieving anxiety and stress. A unique quality of CBC has demonstrated the ability to block sebum production, meaning it has the potential to help treat acne.
- CBG – Cannabigerol (CBG) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. It does not naturally occur in large amounts, although products extracted three-quarters of the way through flowering typically have more CBG. The precursor to CBG, CBGAa, is considered the “mother” of all cannabinoids, because it breaks down into THC, CBD, CBN, CBG, and CBC. So far it has demonstrated a great deal of medical potential, some of which include reducing intestinal inflammation, which can help with IBD, as well as having neuroprotective properties that can be helpful to those with neurodegenerative diseases. Additionally, CBG has the potential to be helpful in treating mood disorders, glaucoma, appetite loss, as well as potentially stimulating cell growth, and is antibacterial and antifungal.
- THCv – Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) is typically non-psychoactive but can be psychoactive in higher doses. One of the most notable effects of THCv is its ability to suppress appetite, the effects of which can be increased when combined with certain terpenes, like humulene. For this reason, THCv is viewed as a possible weight loss and diabetes aid. It has also demonstrated potential as an anti-anxiety aid, which can be helpful to those who suffer from PTSD and panic attacks.
- CBN – Cannabinol (CBN) is only mildly psychoactive to non-psychoactive. It is formed as THC degrades due to temperature, sunlight, heat, and extended periods of time. CBN works most powerfully in the presence of THC and can produce sedating effects, making it a potentially helpful sleep aid. On its own, it does not have these sedating effects but has potential as an anti-bacterial, appetite stimulant, neuroprotectant, anti-inflammatory aid.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been reviewed for accuracy by the FDA. As always, seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider when considering trying a new treatment. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your doctor first.