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By Michelle Calvo
Cannabidiol (CBD) is at the peak of its popularity in the U.S. due to its myriad of therapeutic properties without intoxicating effects. CBD has some pretty amazing benefits as proven by anecdotal reports, but even more remarkable are the many verifiable scientific studies on its ability to relieve pain, anxiety, inflammation, and improve sleep! It sure sounds like it’s almost the perfect elixir for health, but what if there was a way to elevate, improve and possibly customize CBD’s effectivity? Currently, there are a lot of buzzwords being thrown around like terpenes, full-spectrum, phytocannabinoids and a little something called “The Entourage Effect”, but what does it all mean when it comes to CBD?
The "Entourage Effect”
"Cannabis is made up of over 400+ naturally occurring chemicals in varying percentages that are unique to each plant."
Cannabis is made up of over 400+ naturally occurring chemicals in varying percentages that are unique to each plant. The main compounds of interest are found in the sticky, resinous glands of the cannabis flower called trichomes. These compounds include but are not limited to: cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD, as well as fragrant essential oils called terpenes. The buzzword phrase, “Entourage Effect” was first used in terms of cannabis in 1998 by a group of scientists including the “Father of Cannabis research” himself, Israeli Biochemist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. It describes the theory that the effects of an isolated primary compound like CBD, can be enhanced or elevated with the introduction of any of the other cannabis plant compounds! A well-known example is the use of CBD in counteracting the negative side effects that THC may produce when over consumed or when taken together. Dr. Mechoulam was the first to isolate THC from all of the other chemicals within the cannabis plant in 1964. Since then, isolating individual cannabinoids like CBD has been popularized and marketed at the potential disservice to medical marijuana patients and recreational consumers. Fortunately, the dialogue and way we think about cannabis as medicine is changing thanks to Dr. Ethan Russo’s famous 2011 research paper, Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects, where he highlights the importance of the cannabinoid-terpene synergy with respect to the treatments of pain, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, addiction and cancers among other ailments.
What Are Terpenes?
"Over 200+ different terpenes have been identified in cannabis and each individual terpene is associated with a unique effect in the human body."
Terpenes are essential oils produced by many plant sources including cannabis and even some insects! Their primary function is to protect the plant by deterring harmful organisms and attracting helpful ones for pollination and propagation. Terpenes are responsible for the varying fragrances and flavors between cannabis strains and studies now show they may even play a significant role in distinguishing what we call “Indica” vs. “Sativa” strains based on terpene percentage, type, and effects, not parental lineage! Over 200+ different terpenes have been identified in cannabis and each individual terpene is associated with a unique effect in the human body. Here are five of the more common terpenes found in cannabis and their respective effects:
- Myrcene- The most common terpene produced by cannabis, also found in mangos
- Analgesic (Pain relief)
- Sedative (“Couch-lock”)
- α-Pinene- Commonly found in pine needles and rosemary
- Bronchodilator (opens up the alveoli in the lungs)
- Increases alertness & counteracts THC’s negative effects concerning memory
- Limonene- Found in many citrus fruits
- Elevated mood, antidepressant
- Anti-fungal/bacterial (The reason why many cleaning products are citrus scented!)
- Increases the absorption of other terpenes by the body.
- Linalool- Commonly found in flowers, like lavender and spices like cilantro
- Anti-epileptic (seizure)
- β-Caryophyllene- The ONLY terpene known to interact with an endocannabinoid receptor (CB2)
- Gastro-protective & Anti-cancer (some, not all cancers!)
- Reduces alcohol cravings in addicted individuals
Terpenes and CBD
"Terpenes display unique effects when paired with other cannabinoids like CBD."
Terpenes alone are legal and non-intoxicating but they can alter moods and provide relief of certain maladies. Terpenes display unique effects when paired with other cannabinoids like CBD. These effects are completely new and are not seen when a person takes CBD alone. This further strengthens the “Entourage Effect” theory and it effectively widens the therapeutic window for individualized and overall relief of various ailments. How can you take your CBD regimen to the next level with terpenes? Well, for example, pure CBD isolate is non-intoxicating and non-sedative making it perfect for daytime use of pain relief symptoms, but what if you wanted to incorporate CBD into your nighttime pain-relief routine? Coupling your dose of CBD with the terpene myrcene may help you fall asleep faster if you’re battling with insomnia!
Terpenes can ultimately shape the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids like CBD, within the body. Unfortunately, terpenes are often lacking in CBD-only products due to the popularity of isolating compounds. The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, legalizing industrial hemp in the United States is also to blame because most CBD products are isolates that are derived from these hemp plants, and not the federally-illegal cannabis plant. Hemp contains high amounts of CBD but low amounts of everything else, including terpenes. In order to reap the benefits of the “Entourage Effect” in a market full of isolates, terpenes and other cannabinoids must be reintroduced from cannabis, plant-derived, or synthetic sources to make a more well-rounded CBD product. With each passing day, new research and breakthroughs are being made in the cannabis and hemp industries following legalization which ultimately will better serve YOU the consumer in making educated decisions regarding you and your family’s health.
Michelle is an Account Manager for Baked Bros™. She has a B.S. in Biology from Armstrong State University in Savannah, Ga. Her background includes work in customer service, healthcare, research, and secondary education. She has been living in Arizona since 2014 and enjoys educating patients about the many benefits of Medical Cannabis and staying up to date on the latest cannabis research.