The Cannabinoid Receptors and PTSD

We’ve talked about the endocannabinoid system in a past blog, but only briefly touched on the cannabinoid receptors. In this blog, we’d like to explore the cannabinoid receptors just a bit more before we move on to another topic. Research scientists are always eager to pounce on things that are waiting to be dissected, analyzed, broken down to their smallest component. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is one of those things and it is a malady that affects thousands of military personnel and average citizens alike. According to NYU researcher Alexander Neumeister, “There’s not a single pharmacological treatment out there that has been developed specifically for PTSD.”

A recent study done at NYU School of Medicine concluded that there might be a connection between the effects of PTSD, marijuana and the number of cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Cannabinoid receptors are mechanisms that are part of the endocannabinoid system. They are uniquely structured to be able to bind only with cannabinoids from the marijuana plant and endocannabionoids that are generated naturally within the body. There are two known cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, numbered in the order in which they were discovered. The cannabinoid receptors play a role in signaling messages from the brain to the body and they transmit information about memory, pain, mood and appetite, among other things.

Previous studies have shown that when CB receptors are combined with cannabis they can reduce anxiety, which is a major element of PTSD. The NYU study had 60 participants; some of them had PTSD, some had experienced trauma but were not diagnosed with PTSD, and some had experienced no trauma but were diagnosed with PTSD. They were all given a tracer to illuminate their CB1 receptors, then they underwent a PET scan. It was found that the PTSD sufferers had more CB1 receptors than the healthy subjects in the parts of the brain that produced anxiety and fear.

Since the PET scan was able to show the abundance of CB1 receptors in the brains of people with PTSD and showed those without the disorder having much less, the study suggested that their findings could lead the way to diagnosing PTSD accurately. Today, PTSD diagnoses are derived only from subjective observations, without any physical techniques, which makes it difficult to diagnose it with accuracy. The NYU research offered a biological interpretation for the disorder by showing the concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which in turn points to the discovery of a way to actually “see” PTSD in patients.

The lead researcher for the study, Alexander Neumeister had this to say, “There’s a consensus among clinicians that existing pharmaceutical treatments such as antidepressant simply do not work.” He also added, “that anecdotal evidence has shown that some PTSD sufferers who use marijuana, a cannabinoid, experience more symptom relief than with antidepressants.”

Cannabinoid receptors are miraculous and integral parts of our bodies. They play a role in our health and well-being and our physical healing. Now they might be able to play a role in healing our heroic military men and women who suffer from PTSD.

The Endocannabinoid System: Our Body’s Unique System for Maintaining Health

Some scientists and researchers believe that the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the human body is one of the most important finds in recent medical history. That is saying a great deal, especially since there have been thousands of other medical breakthroughs in our time. It’s also very interesting because the endocannabinoid system was named after cannabis sativa, the marijuana plant.
Why is this system so important? The researchers who are involved in the study of this incredible network of receptors say that it has a hand in influencing many of our bodily systems such as, the musculoskeletal system, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and our metabolism. They also tell us that they see great potential in the treatment of insomnia, nausea, cancer, arthritis, glaucoma, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, stroke, obesity and other ailments through the modulation of the activity of the endocannabinoid system.
Dr. Ralph Mechoulam, an Israeli researcher, discovered the endocannabinoid system in the 1990s. He was also the scientist who identified THC as marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient. Dr. Mechoulam discovered two endocannabinoid receptors, cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2). These receptors (in the nervous system and brain) are uniquely designed for accepting and distributing cannabinoids from the marijuana plant. It was also observed that the human body can produce endocannabinoids very much like the body produces its own endorphins, which cause a euphoric effect. Endocannabinoids are simply cannabinoids that we produce ourselves, inside our own bodies, and cannabinoids come from outside the body and are an important pain relieving and medicinal components in marijuana.
The receptors have different functions. When ingesting marijuana, CB1 receptors are responsible for our perception of being “high” and for the feeling of pain. When the cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) reaches the CB1 receptor, the pain is diminished greatly and the “high” is experienced. CB2, on the other hand, is compatible with other cannabinoids such as CBD (cannabidiol), which can reduce anxiety and spasms along with reducing the number of epileptic seizures a patient might have. When CBD plugs into the CB2 receptor it also works as an anti-inflammatory and antipsychotic medication among other benefits.
Most of the research on the endocannabinoid system has shown that it is indeed a very important and necessary physiological system that works in conjunction with our own endocannabinoids and with outside cannabinoids from the marijuana plant. The system’s receptors then disseminate all of the cannabinoids’ and marijuana’s healing aspects throughout the body. Research on the endocannabinoid system is ongoing in Israel and several other countries. When our government decides to take marijuana off of the dangerous drug list then more research will take place here. Until then, know that your body has an incredible system that is constantly working to keep you healthy.

What Exactly is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis?

An interesting condition known as Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome has been popping up around the country. It involves nausea and cyclical vomiting and doctors rarely know how to diagnosis the cause of the symptoms because this phenomenon is so new to the medical world.

When someone comes into the emergency room complaining about throwing up for several hours each day, the physicians immediately begin quizzing the patient about their eating and lifestyle habits. The medical professional knows from years of medical school that nausea and cyclical vomiting could be any of a number of maladies including food poisoning, stomach flu, intolerance to certain foods or even gall stones, among a host of other things. Yet even though the ailment is sitting right there in front of them doctors are seldom able to pinpoint the correct name for it: Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, or CHS.

That vomiting disorder with the funny name that sounds so much like cannabis and so often slips through the cracks of medical expertise has been unrecognizable and untreatable until now. (By the way, CHS was named after the cannabinoids in marijuana because even though researchers aren’t quite sure why this syndrome is caused by pot, they are very sure that it is). Nausea and cyclical vomiting in people with CHS is always accompanied by very hot showers or baths to alleviate the pain and the vomiting. The hot water helped ease symptoms but only temporarily. Some patients had to go back to the hospital more than ten times with still no diagnosis. Patients underwent tests of all kinds that came back with negative results. When the patients stayed in the hospital for several days, however, for dehydration due to vomiting, their symptoms went away and they felt much better.

Soon, some pretty smart doctors saw a pattern in all the patients’ behavior: Nausea, vomiting, hot showers and…marijuana. When someone thought of asking if the patient smoked marijuana that became the Bingo moment. All the patients with CHS had marijuana in common with each other. They all had long-term use of cannabis in common with each other. “No predisposing factor is known except the length of the exposure to cannabinoids, with an average of around 10 years with daily usage,” explains Omri Braver, an internal medicine physician at the Soroka Medical Center and Faculty of Health Sciences in Beer Sheva, Israel who has treated several cases. “There might be some other factors—but they haven’t been described yet.”

Medical experts agree that long-term chronic use (or overuse) of marijuana, especially on a daily basis, increases your chances of becoming a CHS sufferer. They simply don’t know at this time who is more prone to it than others, but the upside of all this vicious, violent vomiting is that as soon as you stop smoking marijuana your symptoms will go away. So, if you have imbibed the herb everyday for a great many years and you start to become nauseous unexpectedly, CHS may be the name for it. Set your herb aside for a day or two and you may feel a lot better.

 

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CBN & THCV: Cannabinoid Profile

Cannabinoids, as we’ve talked about in previous blogs, are chemical compounds unique to cannabis that bind with cell receptors in the brain and body and either get one ‘high’ or have some healing benefit. The two most popular cannabinoids of the over 80 so far discovered in marijuana, and the ones which have been researched the most are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

THC, the psychoactive element in the herb, is a very effective pain reliever, appetite stimulant, reduces nausea and vomiting, calms asthma attacks, relieves intraocular pressure (Glaucoma), and is a sleep inducer.

CBD is non-psychoactive (doesn’t get you high) and has been shown to be an antioxidant, antiemetic (diminishes nausea and vomiting), antipsychotic, anti-tumor (fights cancer), and the most remarkable and most talked about remedial property of CBD is its very successful use in lessening the number of epileptic seizures people have.

These two stars of the cannabinoid universe have been rightly singled out as miracle workers because of all the things that they can do for human health. However, researchers are now shining the light of science on several other here-to-for unmentioned and unknown cannabinoids for their potential medicinal attributes.

CBN (Cannabinol) is a cannabinoid that is formed when the oxidation of THC occurs. It can happen because of poor storage or through extensive handling, any process that exposes THC to UV light (ultraviolet) and oxygen in the air. CBN will also be formed at a faster rate if it is subjected to higher than normal heat temperatures. Since CBN is created from THC it has some of the basic characteristics of that most famous cannabinoid. CBN is psychoactive but with a very low potency, about 10% the strength of its cousin THC. Still, it can lower the heart rate, cause dizziness fatigue and disorientation. CBN can also attenuate (lessen) the potency of THC along with the anxiety that THC may bring with it.

The many therapeutic benefits of CBN have surprised most researchers who have been ignoring these “minor league” cannabinoids for all these years. Some of the beneficial effects of CBN are:

• Pain reliever – more effective than THC and several times stronger than aspirin.

• Anti-inflammatory

• Antispasmodic – reduces convulsions and seizures.

• Stimulates bone growth

• Lessens symptoms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)

• Immunosuppressant – helpful in organ transplants and for treating HIV.

The other cannabinoid that has sat quietly in the shadows until now is THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin). This cannabinoid, as its name suggests, is closely related to its big brother THC, but the effects it produces are a bit different. THCV is psychoactive and it enhances the euphoric effects of THC but for a much shorter duration. It is also gives one a burst of energy and a clear-headed buzz.

Some of THCV’s medical uses are:

• It is an appetite suppressant – no munchies here – but it is good for weight loss.

• THCV is being tested on diabetes and is showing very positive signs of being able

to reduce insulin levels and regulate blood sugar in patients.

• It also appears to be able to suppress emotions and is being tested on PTSD

patients who have anxiety attacks.

• THCV stimulates bone growth.

• THCV is being tested on Alzheimer’s sufferers and it is improving brain lesions,

motor control and tremors in patients.

While these are all positive and very promising test results, there is still much work to be done in the study of cannabinoids and marijuana in general. Scientists are also coming to the conclusion that even though individual cannabinoids demonstrate marvelous medical capabilities, they are almost always more effective when they work in conjunction with other cannabinoids in the marijuana plant. That is called the entourage effect. More on that later.

CBC (Cannabichromene): Emerging from the Shadows Into the Spotlight of Science

The more research that’s done on marijuana, the more interesting this wonderful plant becomes. We’ve all heard of the chemical compounds in cannabis known as cannabinoids, the therapeutic miracle workers, and we’ve also known that the two most talked about and most thoroughly studied cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). Well, it appears it’s time for these two stars to move over and share the spotlight with another cannabinoid that is fast becoming the toast of the marijuana research laboratories: Cannabichromene, or CBC.

While there have been over a hundred cannabinoids isolated in the marijuana plant so far, many of their individual functions are still unknown to scientists. Cannabichromene, however, has demonstrated several distinctive traits that indicate potential medicinal properties.

One of the benefits cannabichromene has exhibited, is its ability (and perhaps its fundamental purpose) to augment and even intensify the effects of THC. Some researchers have theorized that higher levels of CBC can boost the potency of a dominant THC strain of cannabis. Since CBC isn’t psychoactive like its cousin cannabinoid THC, it acts in conjunction with the THC to enhance its overall effect. This synergistic bonding of the two cannabinoids (along with other cannabinoids and terpenes) is important medicinally because it creates an even more vigorous pain reliever than either one could produce on their own without the aid or the entourage effect of its helper.

CBC is also being looked at quite seriously in regard to cancer research. The way it interacts with anandamide, which is a naturally occurring chemical neurotransmitter or messenger in the brain, shows great promise in the battle against cancer because it increases the ability of the immune system to use its own chemical compounds (like anandamide) to fight cancer.

CBC is one of those cannabinoids that acts as a catalyst when it is combined with other cannabinoids. When it mixes with other compounds an entourage effect or synergistic effect takes place. Synergy and the entourage effect are extremely important concepts when dealing with the medicinal effects of marijuana because researchers are noticing more and more that the way to get the most out of one cannabinoid is to blend it with another, different cannabinoid. The terms synergy and entourage effect basically mean that when you combine two or more components together, the resulting effect is more than the sum of their individual effects. In general, cannabinoids need other cannabinoids to bring out their full potential and the full range of medicinal healing powers.

Besides being a helper of sorts with other cannabinoids, CBC has also been shown to be able to galvanize bone growth and decrease inflammation. However, its real value apparently lies in its potential to fight cancer. And that in itself is bringing this hitherto unknown cannabinoid out of the shadows and into the limelight of marijuana research. CBC may one day outshine both THC and CBD – if we’re lucky.

The Interesting Entourage Effects of Cannabis

Have you ever wondered why individual strains of cannabis affect you differently?

While some types of marijuana make you feeling lethargic and half asleep, others give you a burst of creative energy allowing you to be active all day or into the night. There are hundreds of other specific reactions to pot depending on which variety you consume. All of this is definitely not rocket science but it is actually very scientific.

Many of the hippies and cannabis entrepreneurs from the 1960s “turned on, tuned in and dropped out” back then and moved up to Washington, Oregon and Northern California, and other places to escape the prying eyes of law enforcement and those who have no empathy for marijuana users. They began their own cannabis plantations and many of them have been experimenting with marijuana for decades. And by experimenting we mean they have been scientifically mixing and matching marijuana plants to come up with their version of what the ideal bud breed is.

Most people, when they classify a marijuana strain simply tell you it’s either sativa, indica or a hybrid of the two. One strain may be sativa-dominant , which means that the effects will be uplifting and move you to be creative, or it will be indica-dominant, which is just the opposite, that is, relaxing and sedating – you may doze off a bit. However, just because the strain is heavy on one versus the other, doesn’t tell us what’s really going on inside that bud you’re about to grind down to pop in your bowl. There’s a lot more to it than indica and sativa.

We’ve talked about cannabinoids and terpenes previously in this blog. Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds in marijuana that interact with the endocannabinoid system in our brains and bodies and can produce feelings of euphoria along with providing healing properties such as stopping pain and reducing epileptic seizures. Laboratory research scientists have uncovered over 80 cannabinoids in marijuana so far and currently, the most famous cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

Terpenes, the cannabinoid-like aromatic hydrocarbon compounds in marijuana, produce the unique fragrance of each marijuana plant. They also aid in the production of the plant’s resins, hormones, and pigments among other things. When certain terpenes are combined with specific cannabinoids, their focus and strength is much stronger than if they were operating alone.

The most famous terpene in marijuana is myrcene. It is found in a number of other plants such as mangos, lemon grass and hops. This terpene is a true medicinal element in cannabis because it’s not only an antiseptic and antimicrobial, but it is an antioxidant and anti-carcinogen also. Myrcene, by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and body, much like cannabinoids do, can regulate the permeable membranes of the cells, thus controlling the amount of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids that get into the cells. This terpene “helper” allows the effectiveness of the medicinal cannabinoid, whether it is the pain reliever THC or the epileptic seizure stopper CBD to do its job more powerfully than if the cannabinoid had to travel alone to the body’s receptors. This synergistic effectiveness between Cannabinoids and terpenes has been documented in several studies: GW Pharmaceuticals in 2008, The University of Jordan in 2007, and a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid Entourage Effects.” The study concluded by saying, terpenes have been found to have medical efficacy typically considered to be delivered only by cannabinoids.

So, in the future, you may see cannabis strains labeled very specifically with all the things you could ever want for your medicinal and recreational needs. The pot strain may be sativa-dominant with a small amount of THC and a large helping of CBD, along with a high percentage of myrcene for added synergistic effect. That day may not be too far away because the government is getting close to decriminalizing cannabis, which means that there will be more research being done on developing the perfect bud just for you.

Growing Tip Number 141: Location is Key

We’ve already talked about how outdoor and greenhouse grows are the best in so many ways, but an important factor in both outdoor and greenhouse cultivation is the choice of location. Location, location, location. Yes, we all know those famous words about real estate and they also apply to cultivating cannabis if it’s an outdoor or greenhouse grow. Humboldt County, California, is a great location for growing marijuana, no doubt, it is part of the legendary Emerald Triangle that encompasses three northern counties in California, Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity. People have been cultivating cannabis there since the 1960s and it is, according to the Field Guide to California Agriculture, “likely the largest value crop (by far) in the state’s lineup.” In 2013, Emerald Triangle cannabis was estimated to be worth over $30 billion, and that was just the outdoor product, indoor grows weren’t even included in that figure. The monetary value of all that pot was worth more than the top 10 legal crops that California farms produce and California is the top agricultural producer in the United States.

A couple of years ago some growers bought some land in Humboldt County along the Eel River about thirty miles south of Eureka. It was beautiful country surrounded by Redwoods and only 500 feet from the river. They laid out the property for several RVs, a urt and growing space for two-hundred cannabis plants. 140 of those would be strictly outdoor plants and the remaining 60 would be tended to in homemade greenhouses. Clones were potted, fertilized, watered and re-potted as they got larger and the greenhouses had fans at either end to control airflow. The weather was perfect and after a while all that was needed to maintain the thriving herbs was watering on a regular basis.

The greenhouse plants grew at just about the same rate of speed and girth and height as the outdoor ones and as the growers walked through their wondrous garden admiring their very healthy trees, they couldn’t help but smile at each other because of the success of their endeavor. The buds started to form and the gardeners started to get ready for the harvest, which would come fast once the buds reached a certain size. They readied the drying racks and the dehumidifiers, along with calling friends who would be the trimmers for that particular harvest, which was going to be huge. Two plants matured before all the others and the limbs were cut off and the branches were dried and the buds were trimmed. They were perfect and they yielded high-quality cannabis with better than average levels of THC. They each gave up two pounds of high-grade trimmed pot.

One morning the growers were sleeping dreamily when they were awakened by loud shouts to “Get Up! Come out Here!” by one of the partners. They all came rushing outside to see that he had two branches in his hand that apparently had just been cut off of one of the trees. “Look at this,” he said solemnly. As they gardeners all leaned in to look, they saw black mold covering some of the buds. “It’s mold,” he said. “It’s mold.”

One of the guys jumped to action and yelled, “What are we waiting for? Let’s go!” Everyone knew what he meant and ran to catch up with him as he bolted to the two hundred plants. He told everybody to go to different groups of trees and start checking them out. If they found mold on any of them they were to cut the whole tree down and toss it over to an area that was far away from the other plants. One of the farmers started digging a hole where the moldy plants were being thrown and when it was deep enough he tossed the bad plants into it to keep them from infecting the good ones. The other partners were frantically rushing from plant to plant to see if any of them could be saved. It was like firefighters trying to fight an unbeatable, fast-spreading wildfire.

Two hours later saw the gardeners sitting down for a breather and none of them looked very happy. There were only about ten or twelve plants standing and the rest filled the several new holes that were dug to isolate the bad from the good. As they drank their coffee, one of them got up and walked over to inspect the still upright plants. He walked from tree to tree, looking carefully at each branch before moving on to another one. When he came back, he slowly brought his coffee cup to his lips and quietly said, “They all have mold.”

The growers had a good start with their two hundred plants and initially, it looked as though they had everything going for them – good source material (the clones), terrific weather and a great piece of land for their legal grow. The constant moisture from the river, however, popped their happy balloon and gave them one of the major disappointments of their lives. There was just too much humidity in the air. They did have the four pounds from the first two plants they harvested, though. But after selling those, the only thing the money was able to cover was the cost of the clones, the fertilizer, water, and the plastic sheeting for the greenhouses. The idea that mold could poison their harvest so quickly and so overwhelmingly never even occurred to them. While it’s difficult to approach people and ask them if marijuana can grow in an area, perhaps a bit more research into humidity, growing next to a river, etc. may have provided some much-needed information for these growers and saved them not only heartbreak but also financial loss.

Good luck next time.

INDOOR VS. SUNGROWN

When I first started looking into the comparisons of indoor grows vs. outdoor and greenhouse grows I was surprised at all the differing opinions that were out there. Many of them felt one type of growth was better than the other because of the quality of the end product and others were convinced that the most natural way was the only method for a self-sustaining industry to continue in a sane business manner. Once I started digging into the subject (no pun intended) I began discovering some interesting information. By the way, we are not talking about or including in this conversation the destructiveness of illegal outdoor grows on public lands. In order to keep those illegal grows hidden from the view of sheriff deputies in helicopters and Fish and Game officers, along with the DEA, the uncaring and greedy growers destroy water resources, local creeks and the toxic fertilizers and pesticides they use completely destroy the environment. We are concerned with legal grows and in seeing which is ecologically better: greenhouses and outdoor grows or indoor cultivation.

If you drive on certain little-used roads in several counties in Northern California, Oregon and Washington State you will see more than a fair share of legal grows standing right out in the open air for everyone to notice. The first two or three grows you glance at will leave your mouth open with surprise because there are so many healthy cannabis plants concentrated in one area. But then as you cruise along and see even more of those beautiful green trees, the novelty will soon wear off. You’ll also notice greenhouses all along those back streets that are made of PVC plastic pipe covered with plastic and shaped like Quonset huts.

These growers, if they have all the required paperwork that allows them to be legal state marijuana growers don’t really have to worry about helicopters spying on them. Once they show their documents to the officials who ask for them they can go back to being cannabis farmers again. The DEA will generally only bother growers if they have more than several hundred plants on their site because they just don’t want to be bothered with small busts anymore – they don’t have the time or the manpower. The local cops are only concerned if you have more plants than your paperwork says you should have – otherwise, they will pretty much leave you alone.

What I learned about indoor grows, and you won’t see any of those while you’re driving on any road or in any state, is that they leave an enormous carbon footprint. Cultivating marijuana indoors takes a lot of energy; high voltage lights, large fans, which control air regulation, and temperature and humidity monitors all use up monstrous energy loads. Legal outdoor grows, on the other hand, don’t use any electricity because they don’t need heavy-duty lighting equipment – they use free energy from the sun. They also depend on the natural air circulation that nature provides and once the shoots are planted (with natural, organic and safe fertilizer and pesticides) little care is needed except for regular watering.

It has been said recently that as much as 10% of Denver’s electricity is going toward indoor grow operations, which continues to increase yearly. Ten percent may or may not sound like a lot for a population of over 700,000, but that means that electricity normally used by 70,000 people goes directly into producing indoor marijuana. To make this concept more understandable, some experts put the cost of electricity for large indoor grows at around $750 per pound of cannabis produced, which, when extended out to a minimum of 100 pounds per growing season, and indoor grows can have several harvests each year, comes to $75,000 spent just on electricity for each harvest. That represents a colossal expenditure of natural resources such as coal and natural gas, which when burned, produces tons of carbon dioxide, which then creates greenhouse gasses and a large carbon footprint, which moves us closer toward global warming.

Carbon footprint: The total amount of greenhouse gasses caused by an individual, organization or event.

Greenhouse cultivators can cut that cost down by 50 to 75% depending on the size of the greenhouse and yet their strains are every bit as good if not better than the indoor brands. They can produce great cannabis at a fraction of the cost of production of the indoor process and create a much smaller carbon footprint, which is better for the environment. Outdoor grows cut the electricity costs by 100% and if done conscientiously, they leave little to no carbon footprint behind. And the quality of legal outdoor grows has never been challenged because the end product is so organically satisfying. Plus, as an incidental bonus, outdoor and greenhouse cultivators’ profit margins shoot way up in comparison to indoor productions cannabis because of their negligible electricity consumption.

Caveat emptor = buyer beware. Since it’s not practical for each end user of cannabis to witness the process of their marijuana supplier, he or she should at least ask basic questions about their product. “How was this grown? Is this product from an indoor grow or was it grown outdoors or in a greenhouse?” This should be standard procedure when purchasing marijuana if you care about the environment. Dispensaries with integrity will welcome these questions because they have nothing to hide and their outdoor and greenhouse grows are not hurting their environment – or yours.

Intro to Terpenes

We’ve talked about terpenes in a previous blog, but we focused only on one, myrcene. Terpenes are aromatic elements in the plant that are found in cannabis resin and which help give each strain of marijuana its distinctive fragrance. Over 200 terpenes have been isolated in the cannabis plant to date, and only a small number of those have been studied to find out what pharmacological properties they can bring to the medicinal table. It appears, however, that each terpene is essentially different from one another and each one produces a different effect.

Limonene, for example, is a terpene that has a relaxing effect and gives a citrus aroma to lemons, oranges juniper and rosemary. It also an anti-depressant, anti-bacterial and possesses anti-carcinogenic and anti-fungal benefits. Limonene passes through cell membranes speedily, which enables other terpenes to be absorbed much faster and more effectively. Limonene’s therapeutic uses range from treating bronchitis and cancer to losing unwanted weight.

Linalool is the terpene that has anesthetic and anti-convulsant properties. It also acts as an analgesic (pain reliever) and has been shown to fight anxiety. Linalool is also found in the herb lavender, which is a highly popular oil used in aromatherapy. This terpene was found to have a very calming effect on experimental mice. When tested on the small rodents, their activity declined by 75%.

Caryophyllene is the terpene in your cannabis that gives off a spicy, peppery, clove-like aroma. It is also found in black pepper, cloves and rosemary – what a coincidence! This wonderful terpene has many healing aspects. It is an analgesic and antibacterial; it is also an anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative, which means that it helps prevent the growth of cancer cells. Caryophyllene also relieves anxiety by being a anxiolytic substance along with being neuroprotective, which protects the nervous system and the brain.

Borneol is another interesting cannabis terpene. It has an earthy pine/camphor aroma and is used as a potent pain reliever, antiseptic and bronchodilator, which opens up your lung passages to make breathing easier. Along with also being an anti-inflammatory as well as an antibacterial, Borneol is used as a relaxant and anti-insomnia medication. Borneol is also found in cinnamon and Wormwood and has long been used in Chinese traditional medicine.

Pinene is the terpene that can energize and increase your focus. It’s also an expectorant, a topical antiseptic, a bronchodilator and it’s great for your memory.  Besides being one of the many terpenes in cannabis, Pinene is also found in pine needles, rosemary, sage and eucalyptus among other plants.

Selinene has the fragrance of amber and it is also found in celery seeds. This terpene has antioxidant, analgesic and antifungal properties.

Nerolidol is a terpene that has a subtle fragrance reminiscent of apple, rose and citrus with a touch of a wood-like flavor. It is also found in citronella, citrus peels and ginger. It has been shown to have antifungal properties along with antimalarial effects and antileishmaniasis, which fights leishmaniasis, which is a disease caused by single-celled parasites brought to the skin by sandflies. Nerolidol also has shown to exhibit sedative effects.

We could go on and on and on, but there simply isn’t enough room to go through all of these magnificent terpenes that are found in cannabis. Obviously terpenes present their own unique medical benefits and there are many laboratories that are investigating these very important elements in marijuana. They are doing so with the hope of isolating terpenes even further and pinpointing which cannabis strains contain which terpenes. We are living in an enlightened age of new discoveries as far as the humble marijuana plant is concerned. Brilliant people are exploring cannabis as if it holds the secrets of the medical universe. And perhaps it does. One day we may be able to order terpene pharmaceuticals over the counter, to treat whatever malady we may have.

 

Cover photo courtesy of Allie Beckett.

Terpenes: Intro to Myrcene

THERE IS A LOT MORE TO MARIJUANA THAN WE THOUGHT

Most of us have heard of cannabinoids, those wonderful little chemical compounds in medical marijuana that provide the effects our bodies feel when ingest cannabis. Two famous cannabinoids out of the 85 that have been isolated thus far are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).

THC, of course, is the psychotropic cannabinoid, the one that gives us the “high” and CBD is the one that is not psychoactive and produces many of the medical benefits we receive from medical marijuana.

Cannabinoids have been talked about and praised for some time but now another constituent element in the cannabis plant is coming out of the closet, so to speak, and is headed for the spotlight: terpenes. These cousins of the more famous cannabinoids are what give marijuana (and a lot of other plants and fruits) their aroma. Over 200 distinct terpenes have been cataloged in the marijuana plant to date and apparently each one has a different function of benefit.

Myrcene is one of the most researched terpenes within the cannabis universe. By the way, myrcene gives off a spicy and clove fragrance and along with the other terpenes, helps keep its host plant healthy by repelling bugs and microbes that could be harmful to it. Myrcene also is a natural therapeutic for humans. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and an anti-depressant and an analgesic (pain reliever). The authors of a study, published by the British Journal of Pharmacology, entitled, Taming THC:Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phycannabinoid-Terpenoid entourage effects, also discovered that myrcene, when combined with CBD can have anti-cancer properties. When myrcene is used with the cannabinoid THC, it was a muscle relaxer, reduced pain and acted as a sedative. When coupled with another compound or component, it is called an entourage effect because both of them working together produce a synergistic effect, which only enhances the therapeutic results that couldn’t have been accomplished by wither one independently.

Myrcene can be found in any number of plants and fruits and grains, and it is definitely in one of the most popular fruits on the planet: the mango. An interesting experiment was done with the mango and cannabis that produced some notable and practical results. It was discovered that if you eat some mango forty-five minutes before smoking your medical marijuana, the psychoactive reaction will be much stronger and more intense and it will occur faster than ever before, another entourage effect in the making.

So, next time you eat a mango or ingest some medical cannabis, remember that each one contains a small but powerful element that has immense medical healing potential and when used together can become even more impressive. Terpenes are just waiting to be studied in depth and when more cannabis research is allowed by our government, we’ll see that these microscopic particles will be of great benefit to humankind.