As medical research continues to establish the beneficial potential of plant compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes, more people are turning away from synthetic drugs and towards natural medicine. With quality terpenes more readily available for sale than ever before, it’s never been easier for patients and consumers to try the therapeutic properties of terpenes out for themselves.
What are terpenes?
The word “terpene” is actually short for “terpenoid,” a common name given to a diverse group of organic chemicals that all have an oxygen-carbon backbone formed from isoprene units, which are created when two isoprene molecules bond together. Terpenes are found in nearly every type of fruit, flower, spice or vegetable you can think of — though they’re most commonly associated with citrus fruits like limes, oranges and lemons. Terpenes can also be found in hops, the cannabis plant itself, conifers and other common plants like lavender.
Many people don’t know that terpenes are found in cannabis too, but they can offer some benefits on pain relief and mood improvement without getting you high like THC does. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that terpenes alone may be able to reduce chronic pain symptoms better than prescription drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Let’s examine how terpenes come together with cannabinoids to create beneficial so-called “Entourage Effects” — as well as the latest scientific findings on the matter — to help you decide if trying out terpenes is right for you.
A Crash Course on the Entourage Effect
Terpenes are known for providing therapeutic effects when combined in the right doses with other cannabinoids, such as THC or CBD. This is called the Entourage Effect.
The Entourage Effect is a term that is used to describe how terpenes and cannabinoids work together synergistically, rather than in isolation. It has been hypothesized that the various benefits found with CBD come from this combined effect. The difference between THC and CBD is that when you ingest the latter, your body metabolizes the compound and eliminates it from your system at a much slower rate than THC. This allows for the CBD to affect your body for a longer period of time.
When consumed, cannabinoids like THC, CBD and terpenes bind to receptors throughout the body known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. When certain molecules lock into these receptors, they can have different effects on our bodies depending on which receptor is activated.
Research has shown that when your body is exposed to both CBD and a terpene such as myrcene, the effects of CBD can be amplified due to the terpene’s ability to alter your bodies’ chemical makeup. This means the Entourage Effect can allow for greater anxiolytic, analgesic or even anti-inflammatory potential for patients using CBD as a form of self-medication or health supplementation.
New Study Substantiates Key Proposed Mechanics of the Entourage Effect
While many within the scientific community rule out the Entourage Effect as pseudoscience, a new University of Arizona Health Sciences study by LaVigne, Hecksel, Streicher and Keresztes shows the opposite. The April study “is the first to show that terpenes and cannabinoids can produce an additive effect when combined. It is also the first to identify the CB1, CB2 and A2a receptors as terpene targets, and describe the role of these receptors in producing terpene cannabimimetic effects in vivo.”
According to Streicher et al., terpenes and cannabinoids have thus far only been hypothesized to interact and produce a resulting entourage effect because very few studies have attempted to identify targets or mechanisms for these compounds at a molecular level.
The Need for Further Medical Research into Terpenes & Cannabinoids
If anything, this article has just given us a glimpse of the tremendous potential for terpenes and the Entourage Effect to positively change the future of medicine. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done in order to fully understand how cannabinoids and terpenes can affect a great number of other neurophysiological conditions.
Further study into the Entourage Effect is needed so we can help patients looking for alternative remedies that provide therapeutic effects without psychoactivity, or the dangerous side effects associated with synthetic drugs.