Terpenes are cannabimimetic and selectively enhance cannabinoid activity
Evidence suggests that the terpenes found in Cannabis sativa are pain relieving and may produce a “entourage effect” whereby they modulate cannabinoids to improve results. This new study found that the α-humulene, geraniol, linalool and β-pinene terpenes produced cannabinoid tetrad behaviors in mice, suggesting multifunctional cannabimimetic activity that provide conceptual support for the entourage effect hypothesis and could be used to enhance the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids.
Terpenes produce unique effects when paired with cannabinoids
Terpenes, which are the building blocks of essential oils found in many plants, have been used for thousands of years for therapeutic purposes. They also provide the flavor and aroma of cannabis and other plants. Cannabis sativa is a dioecious plant belonging to the Cannabaceae family, along with another popular plant, Humulus lupulus (hops). This plant itself is a “biopharmacy” containing hundreds of phytochemicals, many of which have medicinal indications. Of these, phytocannabinoids and terpenes have been the most studied with regard to their medicinal and therapeutic properties.
This recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona, shows that terpenes stimulate cannabinoid receptors in the brains of mice and produce unique effects when combined with cannabinoids. According to these results, terpenes produce cannabinoid-like behaviors in humans at high doses, says co-author John M. Streicher, adding that the observed effects were clear and unambiguous.
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Identifying specific combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids may create new ways to improve medical therapy, study suggests
The research, published in the Scientific Reports journalshows that the terpenes often found in cannabis sativa target the cannabinoid CB1 receptor specific for THC and the adenosine A2a receptor linked to inflammation.
“In addition, the cell culture experiments we performed looked at human cannabinoid receptors, suggesting that terpenes may impact human CB1 receptors in the brain,” Streicher explains.
The study provides evidence for what’s known as the entourage effect, where non-cannabinoids like terpenes produce unique effects when paired with cannabinoids like THC. The author notes that previous research has also attributed pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties to different terpenes.
In principle, this suggests that terpenes could be used to enhance the analgesic properties of cannabis / cannabinoid therapy, without worsening the side effects of cannabinoid therapy.
For the study, the mice were tested for their reactions to pain, their absence of spasm as well as the blockage caused by THC and hypothermia. The researchers measured the painful behavior by counting the seconds it took for the mouse to pop its tail out of the hot water.
The mice received doses of different chemical treatments using different combinations of terpenes, and cannabinoid or adenosine receptor blockers. Terpenes tested include α-humulene, β-pinene, linalool, geraniol and β-caryophyllene.
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Geraniol and α-humulen were moderately effective in pain tests, while β-pinene was less effective.
Α-humulene, β-pinene, geraniol, and linalool all reduced movement and caused significant hypothermia, but β-caryophyllene did not cause hypothermia.
Cannabis is a “biopharmacy” containing hundreds of medicinal phytochemicals
Terpenes are the compounds that interact with the receptors in our nose to produce the sensation of smell. They are abundant in conifers: β-pinene gives pines their distinct scent.
Α-humulene gives grass its earthy and woody smell, and β-caryophyllene is commonly found in the hops used to make beer.
Linalool, a terpene found in cinnamon, mint, and other flowers, showed different molecular effects in male and female mice, but not in behavior.
“There may be differences in the way linalool interacts with traditional cannabinoids, since these cannabinoids activate the CB1 receptor, while linalool may differ in the CB1 interaction in males and females,” he said. he adds.
The article mentions that other studies have attempted to test the entourage effect but found no evidence of this effect. This could be due to the type of cells chosen for the study and the lack of behavioral tests, notes the current study.
The study author says his team’s ongoing research looks at the effects of inhaling or ingesting terpenes, as well as other studies focusing on terpenes as non-opioid treatments and non-cannabinoid chronic pain.
“So far, our unpublished results suggest that they may be viable treatments, with reduced side effects compared to cannabinoids and opioids”