Marijuana has been around for thousands of years, and to this day, we do not fully understand it. With federal legalization gaining traction, the industry is beginning to see more and more research taking place. Many consumers have no idea why cannabis makes consumers feel the way it does. Those who do think they know, most likely refer to the compounds THC and CBD. These are the two most abundant cannabinoids (compounds) found in the marijuana plant. However, the cannabis plant is far more than just these two compounds. It contains a full network of chemical compounds called cannabinoids and terpenes. While THC and CBD have a substantial effect on our bodies by themselves, cannabis is far more beneficial and effective when consumed as a whole. This concept is otherwise known as the Entourage Effect.
History of Cannabis Research
It’s 2018, and we’re still trying to figure out how cannabis works. This plant has been on our earth for thousands of years, and we’re just now understanding its chemical compounds. It was nearly 55 years ago when renowned cannabis scientist first discovered and isolated the cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his colleagues were the first to pinpoint and isolate the active ingredient, THC. This revolutionary discovery helped bring our knowledge of marijuana to where it is today.
CBD, another abundant cannabinoid, was discovered about 20 years before THC. Keep in mind, our technology was limited. It wasn’t until around 1963 that the structure of CBD was discovered.
Even though both THC and CBD were discovered years ago, we just recently began to understand how they interact with our body and with each other. It wasn’t until the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in 1992, that we started to understand how cannabis actually works.
For those who do not already know, the ECS is a bodily system within every human being. The ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis throughout our bodies. Scientists have discovered our bodies produce natural endocannabinoids that mimic the effects of cannabinoids found in marijuana. This remarkable discovery of the ECS is what has led scientists to begin studying the entourage effect of marijuana.
Understanding the Entourage Effect
Mechoulam was the first to discover the potential Entourage Effect of marijuana compounds back in 1999. From these findings, we now have a general idea of what components within marijuana work together to cause its effects. In fact, it has been narrowed down to the hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes found in every cannabis plant. It’s the synergy of cannabinoids and terpenes that cause specific effects on our bodies. To understand how these work together, we must first know how they work on their own.
THC – Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana. THC has been the primary focus of cannabis research for many years. Marijuana has been bred for a high THC content, but new studies show it works best in conjunction with terpenes and other cannabis components. THC has been found to benefit patients with nausea, stress, anxiety, chronic pain, and depression.
CBD – Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid and has recently been the topic of discussion with the rise of industrial hemp. CBD has been found to have a multitude of potential medical benefits, and has been helpful in reducing chronic pain, reducing muscle spasms, relieving seizures, and reducing addictive behaviors. These are just a few of the therapeutic qualities CBD has, and we are continually learning more and more.
CBN – CBN, Cannabinol, is a moderately-psychoactive cannabinoid that is the result of THC oxidizing. Older and dry buds tend to have high CBN counts. CBN does not necessarily cause any “high” effects, but it can leave consumers feeling fatigued and groggy. Due to this, CBN has been found to be an excellent sleep aid and can potentially relieve anxiety, muscles spasms, and side effects of glaucoma.
THCV – Tetrahydrocannabivarin, THCV, is the closest cannabinoid to THC and shares many of the same traits. Unlike THC, tetrahydrocannabivarin can help suppress appetites. THCV may also have the potential to regulate blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, meaning it may be an excellent treatment for diabetes. Patients have also used THCV for helping with Alzheimer’s, panic attacks, and stimulating bone growth.
Pinene – Pinene is a common cannabis terpene that produces woody or “piney” flavors and aromas in many strains. This natural terpene is also found in orange peels, basil, and even spruce trees. Anyone looking for a focused and alert effect from their cannabis should use strains with Pinene. Pinene is also known for having potent anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial to patients who have arthritis, cancer, or Crohn’s disease.
Myrcene – Myrcene is a natural terpene found in many strains of cannabis. Myrcene is known for producing an earthy, spicy, and floral flavor and aroma. This terpene is a primary factor for the intense body high caused by many indica strains. Myrcene is considered to be anti-inflammatory, an antibiotic, and a sedative.
Limonene – Limonene is a popular terpene found in cannabis that is the source of most citrusy, lemon, and sour flavors and aromas. Limonene is known for producing uplifting, creative, and energizing effects commonly associated with sativa strains. Along with its stellar taste, Limonene has a variety of medical properties. Limonene is an anti-fungal and an antibacterial terpene.
Are Multiple Cannabinoids More Effective?
Specific cannabinoids react with each other in different ways. Take a look at CBD and THC, for instance. There was a study done to determine the difference between using CBD and THC alone versus together. This study had two groups, and each group had two placebo subjects. In both groups, there was a mouse that took only THC, a mouse that took only CBD, and a mouse that took both CBD and THC together.
The results found both groups of mice that took solely THC saw an increase in anxiety over time. The mice that exclusively received CBD saw no increase in anxiety. When THC and CBD were taken together, the CBD seemed to prevent the rise of anxiety, with the THC still present. What this shows is that CBD helps to balance the adverse effects of THC without counteracting its full range beneficial traits. In conclusion, THC and CBD may be more productive as a whole and are meant to be taken together to receive its full effects.
There are many studies that show whole plant extracts are far more effective than isolated extracts. Meaning, that a THC or CBD isolate will have limitations to its range of benefits and effects. Whole plant extracts contain a full cannabinoid and terpene profiles, which provide consumers with the full potential benefits of marijuana. It is safe to say consumers will begin to see more products that contain a ratio of various cannabinoids. As we learn more and more about the entourage effect between specific cannabinoids and terpenes, the medical potential of marijuana will continue to expand.
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