When it comes to understanding how medical marijuana relieves the symptoms of various conditions, many attribute the effects to cannabinoids, but some may overlook the fact that terpenes enhance these benefits. Terpenes are aromatic chemicals found in the essential oils of plants. Over 20,000 terpenes have been identified, of which 140 have been found in cannabis. Some terpenes are beneficial on their own, but they also work well supplementing other cannabinoids and terpenes. For example, the terpene caryophyllene can directly activate CB2 receptors in the body, allowing it to provide therapeutic benefits on its own. The terpene pinene is a bronchodilator, which has positive effects for asthma patients. Other terpenes, like linalool, can work as a buffer for cannabinoids, like counteracting the anxiety that THC might produce in some patients.
Medical marijuana researcher Ethan Russo believes that these synergistic effects could also be effective in combatting pain, inflammation, depression, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, and infections. For example, Russo believes whole-plant extracts that contain high amounts of the cannabinoid cannabigerol (CBG) and the terpene pinene provide anti-MRSA effects. Additionally, the terpenes pinene, linalool, and limonene in combination with CBD-rich cannabis produces a wide-range of benefits in the treatment of Alzheimer's. Cannabis containing the terpenes myrcene, pinene, and caryophyllene would have a powerful effect in the treatment of addiction. Terpenes can also influence the efficiency of medical marijuana ingestion, especially when it involves inhalation methods. Terpenes have been found to dilate capillaries in the lungs, which is beneficial in enabling cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream. Another terpene, nerolidol, can penetrate the skin, which could help with the absorption of cannabinoids through topical applications.
This information has adapted from Medical Jane and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.