There is A LOT to this discussion. There will be deeper blogs on this topic as it is critical to using cannabis as a medicine. Without understanding terpenes, what they do, and their power, you cannot fully utilize the medicinal properties of cannabis.
As always, a basis for conversation needs to be laid. So, let’s look at pharma. How do they develop a drug now? Everything in pharma always starts with Nature. Back in the 1990’s many pharma companies had folks all over the jungles in central America looking at medicinal plants. What they would do is find a plant with good properties, let’s say pain relief. They might talk to the local shamans and indigenous about what plants they have used for centuries for healing. They would take the plant back to a lab. They would isolate the molecule that had the medicinal properties. They would copy the molecule to a new molecule with similar properties. They would patent that new molecule. Then they would create a drug from that new molecule. This is called “drug development” and what pharma has been doing since the 1930’s. COPYING Nature. Pretending to control health.
So, let’s look at cannabis in a “drug discovery” way. What is the medicinal molecule? Well, cannabis is one of those rare plants that have several medical molecules. In fact every major and minor cannabinoid could be considered a medicinal molecule as could each terpene expressed. There are very few plants on the earth with as many “active” molecules as cannabis. “Active” molecules are what would cause pharmaceutical change within our bodies. So cannabis is RICH with medicinal molecules. There is not just one, there are many. The great news is that we actually test for most of them!
So, if you are a physician, or a patient, who wants to understand how to use cannabis, how do you decode the information? Well, that leads to entirely different discussion on the endocannabinoid system and how it interacts with, and controls, all other neurological systems. Cannabis can express every terpene known to man. Terpenes have effects that are finer than the endocannabinoid system. You have major controls, like metabolism, energy status, temperature control, and feeding status. Then you have finer controls like an immune response in a specific area, or an inflammation response in a certain area. All of these can be helped with cannabis if we know what we are doing.
So, with cannabis our major knobs and levers are the cannabinoids. These are BIG KNOBS. For instance THC-A affects our peroxisome and tells our bodies that conditions are favorable for the most efficient use of our mitochondria. THC mimics our main control molecule called anandamide. Simple engineering principals would indicate the more anandamide/THC we have, then more control over our bodies functions. The cannabinoids that affect the CB2 receptor can cause stem cell differentiation to immune cells and would be super helpful if we are sick or inflamed. Lesser cannabinoids like CBN appear to affect our sleep wake cycle.
Terpenes are the “fine” control. Terpenes generally do not affect the endocannabinoid system. Instead terpenes affect the pharmaceutical channels we are familiar with. Things like GABA and the TRP channels are very affected by some terpenes. The TRP channel interacts with the serotonin channel and is a good way to influence serotonin action. Terpenes like linalool and a-pinene will affect GABA-A. This is the same receptor that alcohol affects. It is also the same receptor that benzo’s affect and it is actually called the “benzo receptor”. Alcohol and benzo all provide a pharmaceutical effect we can feel. That “feeling” translates to medical and pharmacological action. Linalool and a-pinene provide this same affect. Strains high in linalool and a-pinene can be used to replace alcohol or benzos and can be used to medicinal treat anything those drugs could be used for.
A terpene like limonene has very different actions. The therapeutic effects of limonene have been extensively studied, proving anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antinociceptive, anticancer, antidiabetic, antihyperalgesic, antiviral, and gastroprotective effects, among other beneficial effects in health. Limonene affects the TRP channel which has many actions of finer control, like inflammation, oxidative stress remediation, and many immune functions.
Every terpene in cannabis has medicinal properties and can be used in synergy with the major actions of the cannabinoids. This is how cannabis can be used to target and hone in on specific conditions. This will be an entire area of medicine and study in the future. There are millions of combinations of cannabis medicines based on the cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
At GnuPharma we teach the basis of understanding of this Natural system of medicine God has given us with the cannabis plant. Find us and get educated!