The cannabis plant is made up of a wide variety of chemicals and compounds. About 140 of these belong to a large class of aromatic organic hydrocarbons known as terpenes. You may have also heard people talk about terpenoids. The words terpene and terpenoid are increasingly being used interchangeably, although the terms have different meanings. The main difference between terpenes and terpenoids is that terpenes are hydrocarbons (that is, the only elements are carbon and hydrogen), while terpenoids are denatured by oxidation (drying and curing the flowers) or chemically modified.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are common components of flavorings. Terpenes, unlike cannabinoids, are responsible for the flavor of cannabis. The FDA and other health authorities have generally recognized terpenes as “safe”. Terpenes act on receptors and neurotransmitters. They are very vulnerable when it comes to pooling or dissolving in lipids or fats. They act as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (similar to antidepressants such as Prozac). They improve the activity of norepinephrine (similar to tricyclic antidepressants such as elavil). They increase dopamine activity. And they complement GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). However, more specific research is needed to be able to make more accurate predictions and predictions.
The terpenes in cannabis are synthesized in the secretory cells of the glandular trichomes and their production is increased with additional lighting. These terpenes are mainly found in high concentrations in unfertilized female cannabis flowers prior to aging (a condition or process that deteriorates with age). The essential oil is extracted from plant materials by steam distillation or evaporation. Many terpenes evaporate at about the same temperature as THC (which boils around 157 ° C), but some terpenes are more volatile than others. Terpenes also play an incredibly important role in the natural defense of plants against bacteria and fungi, insects and other environmental stresses.
It is widely known that cannabis can affect the mind, emotions and behavior. The main psychotropic cannabinoid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been extensively studied. However, many of the other cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids found in medical marijuana that play an important role in the therapeutic effects of cannabis remain underestimated.
Research by Carlini et al showed that there is a potentiation (a form of synaptic plasticity essential for learning and memory) of the effects of THC from other substances present in cannabis. A double-blind study found that cannabis with the same or higher levels of CBD and CBN relative to THC had two to four times the effect expected when THC alone was injected.
These assumptions were supported by a study published by Wilkinson et al. Research conducted to determine if there is any benefit to using hemp extracts over using isolated THC. Standardized cannabis extract THC, CBD and CBN (SCE), one with pure THC and one with non-THC extract (CBD) have been tested in a multiple sclerosis (MS) mouse model and an epilepsy rat brain slice model.
The researchers found that SCE suppressed spasticity in the MS model to levels comparable to THC alone, and that muscle relaxation began earlier and the time to maximum effect was shorter than with THC alone. CBD did not suppress spasticity. However, in the epilepsy model, SCE was a much stronger and faster-acting anticonvulsant than isolated THC. However, in this model, CBD has also shown anticonvulsant activity. CBD does not suppress seizures or modulate THC activity in this model. Hence, for some of the manifestations of cannabis (e.g. anti-spasticity), THC was an active ingredient that could be altered by other components. However, for other effects (eg, anticonvulsant properties) THC, while active, may not be required for the observed effect. Most importantly, these results indicate that not all therapeutic effects are available. The cannabis plant can be classified as containing THC.
Dr. Ethan Russo also supports this theory with scientific evidence, demonstrating that non-cannabinoid plant compounds such as terpenes act as inhibitors of the intoxicating effects of THC, thereby increasing the THC therapeutic index. This “synergy of phytocannabinoids and terpenoids,” as Russo calls it, increases the potential of medicinal cannabis extracts for treating pain, inflammation, fungal and bacterial infections, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, and even cancer.
What are flavonoids?
Flavonoids are one of the largest families of nutrients known to scientists and contain over 6,000 compounds that have already been identified. About 20 of these compounds, including apigenin, quercetin, canflavin A and cannflavin B (formerly unique to cannabis), β-sitosterol, vitexin, isovitexin, kaempferol, luteolin, and orientin, have been found in the cannabis plant. Flavonoids are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They also contribute to the vibrant color of many foods (such as blue in blueberries or red in raspberries).
Several flavonoids extracted from the cannabis plant have been tested for pharmacological effects. The clinical results are promising, but more research is needed to understand what role flavonoids may play in the overall therapeutic effects of cannabis treatment, in particular how they interact with cannabinoids, enhancing them synergistically or decreasing their effects.
Terpenes have been found to be important building blocks of complex plant hormones and molecules, pigments, sterols, and even cannabinoids. First of all, terpenes are responsible for the pleasant or less pleasant aroma of cannabis and the physiological effects associated with it. When choosing a medicine, patients are often asked to smell cannabis. The idea is that certain scents help identify different strains and their effects.
As a study by Casano et al shows, medical marijuana varieties can vary widely from one source to another, and even from one crop to another. However, those with a relatively high concentration of certain terpenes make it easier to identify by smell. Most agree that strains with a musk or clove scent have a calming, relaxing effect (high terpene levels in myrcene). Resinous taste promotes mental alertness and memory skills (high content of terpene pinene). Lemon scent improves overall mood and uplifts mood (high lime content).
In spectral analysis done by Green House Seed Co., they were able to identify all the terpenes in their strains. They then developed a “scent wheel” to help medical marijuana patients choose their preferred strains based on the desired effect. While one of the wheel’s primary goals was to promote various seeds for this particular company, the concept used is becoming an invaluable tool for medical marijuana patients, caregivers and cultivators.
Since then, several companies have developed their own terpene and flower wheels, albeit for the same reasons, to promote their product or service, and that’s okay. By mapping terpene profiles, we can predict and even manipulate the effects and medicinal value of strains, giving growers endless opportunities to grow new, highly regarded cannabis flowers, making breeding decisions based on real-world analytical data. The more we can communicate in one language, the easier it is for everyone to clearly understand what medications they are taking.