By Lauren Beatrice, Owner Seed Sound Herbals.
There are more than 700 chemical constituents produced within the cannabis plant. These include both phyto-cannabinoids and terpenoids (terpenes). In this article, we focus on 5 phyto-cannabinoids of more than 200 found in the cannabis plant. These include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene). We will also talk a bit about the CBN (cannabinol). Terpenes are produced and can be derived from many other plants in the environment. When you smell a lemon or a lavender plant, these are specific terpenes flooding your senses and interacting with receptors in your body to produce different effects.
Different strains of cannabis produce unique combinations of terpenes, interacting with the cannabinoids present and producing the “Entourage Effect,” where all constituents work in unison to produce the beneficial effects we value. By learning about these two groups of compounds, we can better understand the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
THC, the most well-known cannabinoid is a psychoactive and anti-inflammatory. THC is also an analgesic, a neuro-protectant, can reduce intra-ocular pressure and muscle tension. It interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system. The acid form of THC, THCA, is also anti-inflammatory. In addition, THCA is an immune-modulator, a neuro-protectant and tumor preventative.
CBD, the next most popular of the cannabinoids is an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cell protectant. CBD connects with CB1 and CB2 receptors. It also interacts with many other receptors in our body, making it diverse in its healing ability. CBDA, the acid form of CBD, is a superb nausea remedy. CBG is great for appetite stimulation and chemotherapy-induced cachexia. It helps with inflammatory bowel disease and provides antibacterial and anti-tumor benefits. The cannabinoid CBC is produced in the early flowering stage of the cannabis growing cycle. By collecting the immature flowers (about 6 weeks early) you can harvest this lovely cannabinoid, which acts as an antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antidepressant.
Lastly, CBN is a sedative, especially when combined with THC. Interestingly, CBN is not produced by the plant. It is a result of exposing THC to oxygen over time. It is best taken orally, like a tincture, because the liver converts it to bind more effectively to our CB1 receptors. It can be used as an antibiotic and a burn treatment. You can use your old flower from years past and extract CBN oil for internal or external use.
Now on to the more than 200 terpenes produced by the cannabis plant; here we focus on the primary six.
Pinene is found in pine trees, responsible for the lovely scent of woods in the spring. It has been found to protect short term memory and can be used as an anti-biotic, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor. A couple examples are strains like Kona Gold and Blue Dream.
Limonene is found in lemons, giving us that euphoric effect. It is a wonderful anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor. This terpene increases the effects of both THC and CBD and can be found in strains such as Tangerine Dream, Gelato, OG and Bubba Kush.
Myrcene is found in hops. This terpene gives us a sedated feeling, couch lock, and it can enhance sedative drugs. It has been found to be an antioxidant, a muscle relaxant, analgesic, anesthetic. You can find this terpene in cultivars such as ACDC, AK47, and Purps strains.
Beta-Caryophyllene is found in black pepper and copaiba. This terpene is extra special because it functions in our bodies as a cannabinoid and activates our CB2 receptor. Used for its anti-inflammatory properties, it works well with arthritic ailments. You can find this terpene in strains like GG4 and Cookie strains.
Ocimene is found in sweet basil and allspice. This terpene is interesting because of its release in response to spider mite attack, attracting predatory mites to control infestation. This anti-inflammatory terpene, found mainly in Skunk strains, is balanced in its sedative and stimulating effects.
Linalool is found in lavender and is mildly psychoactive on its own. When you come into contact with this terpene you will feel the calming and anti-anxiety effects from it. You can find it in strains such as Bubba Kush and a few of the purple indicas. You will find the effects to be sedative, analgesic and an aesthetic.
Terpinolene, is found in allspice, tea tree, black current buds and juniper. This terpene is super stimulating. Medicinal benefits include anti-bacterial and possibly anti-tumor. You can find this in uplifting strains such as Jack Herer and Trainwreck.
This is just a small taste of what the cannabis plant has to offer. Think of all the combinations created with differing level of both cannabinoids and terpenes. Think about the labeling of the thousands of strains currently available.
Since the beginning of coffee shops in Holland, we have been labeling strains as “indica” or “sativa” or “hybrid.” With all the combinations of current cannabinoids and terpenes, this kind of labeling doesn’t make sense. Studies were conducted to find the cause of differing effects we feel from different strains.
Not surprising, the terpenes that cause the sedation and relaxation were found in strains labeled as “indica” while the uplifting and anti-depressant terpenes were found in those labeled “sativa.”
Nowadays with all the crossbreeding going on, almost everything out there is a “hybrid.” However, we can get an idea of how the strain will affect us by looking at the cannabinoid and terpene profile. Luckily, we have the technology to send off buds to be tested for this profile.
I am looking forward to the day when we categorize our strains by their profiles, rather than the three categories we currently have. When a patient finds a strain that works well but isn’t available anymore, we could look at the profile of the strain. This way, we could compare it to something similar in the profile to make sure our patients always have the medicine that works for them.
What a world we live in! I am so grateful to be a part of this intricate ever-growing plant medicine field.