Cannabinoids are a range of compounds produced by plants in the cannabis family with THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana, being the most abundant as well as the most well-known. Most of these compounds, including THC, have been found to have a variety of health benefits, with most of them producing minimal to zero psychoactive effects.
For quite a while, there has been a theory about how cannabis, when consumed as a whole, is much more effective compared to when the cannabinoids are taken separately. Dubbed the “entourage effect,” this theory states that the sum of the cannabis plant, including terpenes and flavonoids as well as cannabinoids is greater than its individual components.
A recent study from the University of Arizona Health Science has uncovered evidence to back this theory, especially regarding cannabis’ pain-relieving capabilities. The researchers found that using cannabinoids alongside terpenes had a much more impactful effect on pain, potentially providing individuals suffering from chronic pain a treatment option that would need fewer doses and result in fewer negative effects.
John Streicher, PhD, the study’s lead researcher and an associate professor of pharmacology at the College of Medicine in Tucson, Arizona, and a member of the UArizona Health Sciences Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center, says the researchers wanted to see if they could boost THC’s “modest pain-relieving” abilities by leveraging the entourage effect. Terpenes, which are produced by many plants, not just cannabis, and are responsible for marijuana’s pungent aroma, provided interesting results.
The researchers found that cannabis terpenes mimicked cannabinoids when taken by themselves, leading to a moderate level of pain relief. Once they were used together with cannabinoids, their pain-relieving impact was boosted without any negative side effects. Since terpenes can be found in numerous plants, the researchers did not expect them to affect pain the way cannabinoids do, says Streicher, who noted that the researchers used four cannabis terpenes: linalool, beta-pinene, alpha-humulene and geraniol as well as a synthetic cannabinoid capable of stimulating the body’s cannabinoid receptors called WIN55,212-2.
Cannabinoids such as THC interact with the endocannabinoid system, binding to either CB1R or CB2R receptors. According to the researchers, the four terpenes they used attached to the CB1R receptors, with behavioral studies using mice proving that once the terpenes had interacted with the receptors, they caused three of the four classic cannabinoid effects. Those effects were reduced sensitivity to pain, reduced movement, lower body temperature and catalepsy.
Streicher hopes that the research may eventually lend a hand in the fight against the opioid crisis, especially in regard to cancer-related pain. By developing therapies that combine cannabinoids and terpenes, he would like to offer people suffering from different types of cancer-related pain a low-dosage, minimum-risk treatment option.
With the increasing availability of technologies such as the IoT dose-measuring devices being made by RYAH Group Inc. (CSE: RYAH), researchers could find it even easier to study how phtyocannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds affect human health.
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