There’s no denying the popularity and availability of cannabis for medicine. Once thought of as a dream or a joke in the early days of cannabis activism, you may now find a medical marijuana dispensary in 31 different U.S. states, including Guam, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C.
Just under 2.2 million U.S. patients receive cannabis for medicine, according to Statista, with over 900,000 patients representing California’s medical marijuana program alone. As public sentiment climbs onward toward cannabis acceptance, researchers and cannabis doctors uncover more details about medical marijuana capabilities and efficacy.
Here, we take an in depth look inside cannabis flower itself, breaking down your favorite buds to understand what makes them tick. Specifically, we will focus on cannabis terpenes. These oil compounds inside cannabis flower produce the plant’s aromatic elements, like smell and taste.
Terpenes concern more than good scent, however. When imbibed, cannabis terpenes inform how your body experiences cannabis. Terpenes intermingle with chemicals like THC and CBD, allowing them to produce medical marijuana’s well known effects through a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.
Cannabis’ psychoactive effects occur when cannabis chemicals interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS. This system plays a vital role in how your body regulates itself during processes like your mood, hunger, pain sensation, and memory.
You can find ECS receptors all across the human body. When cannabis chemicals, like THC or CBD, bind to these receptors, they inform your body’s regulatory processes in a unique way, creating what is known as cannabis’ “high.” Terpenes play a big role in this process.
First, terpene oils within cannabis help important chemicals like THC reach the surface of buds.
If you’ve ever admired a cannabis bud, you’ve seen small crystal like structures that appear like white hairs. These are trichomes, which contain THC. Terpenes push these trichomes up to the bud’s surface. Without the push from the terpenes, cannabis would be full of medical potential, but inert.
Just like THC and CBD, terpenes also bind to your ECS receptors. As a result, THC and other chemicals may be blocked from certain ECS receptors or have access to others. The various combinations of receptors binding and being blocked map out the psychoactive and medical effects of a particular strain.
So what do particular terpenes do, and what medical efficacy do they help provide cannabis?
On the brighter side of cannabis flavors, limonene stands out. Found in high quantities in citrus fruit like lemons, limes, and tangerines, limonene can be found in many sativa dominant strains, especially in cannabis with lighter hues. A favorite amongst patients treating depression, anxiety, stress, and fatigue, limonene offers an uplifting effect.
Moreover, limonene has many more critical medical benefits. For example, studies have found limonene may reduce the destruction of the RAS gene, a known contributor to tumor growth. Alongside it’s cancer killing strengths, the terpene has shown to be a promising anti inflammatory agent for those suffering from Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Alzheimer’s, and fibromyalgia.
Myrcene has the highest concentration of any terpene found in cannabis, and its effects are famous the world over as “couch lock.” Known for more sleepy, body focused strains, cannabis indica contains high concentrations of this feel good terpene. When imbibed, Myrcene increases the amount of connections possible within your ECS, acting in synergy with THC to amplify your high.
Myrcene offers anti inflammatory properties, but really shines when it comes to pain management and sleep aid.
Perhaps one of the more interesting terpene profiles, Pinene can be found in abundance in the needles found on coniferous pines and firs. Within cannabis, however, Pinene does more than simply smell like tree resin.
You will find pinene in high concentrations within darker cannabis buds that give off a skunky, musky smell. When smoked, these strains often produce a thick cloud of smoke that often brings many to fits of coughing. If the cannabis has made you choke, it may be high in pinene.
Cannabis heavy in this terpene acts as a bronchodilator when smoked, expanding the lungs and helping open airways for people who suffer from CoPD, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
Terpenes indeed inform and color the benefits patients receive from medical cannabis. It’s important to continually learn and research about these compounds so their properties may further contribute to medical cannabis’ efficacy. Do you have a favorite terpene?
About the Author
Chris Matich is a professional writer, journalist, and editor living in Pittsburgh, PA. Chris blogs for Schenley.net. His writing interests include LGBT+ people/issues, sports writing, and blogging. Chris currently writes about web optimization, blogging practices, medical cannabis, and cannabis lifestyle. He writes fiction and creative nonfiction in his spare time. Linkedin, Twitter