Terpene Testing

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Did you know that the unique smells (terpenes) that distinguish one strain of Cannabis from another actually work with or against the cannabinoids, (i.e. THC, CBD, CBGA,) to provide you the unique effects that differentiate one strain of herb from another?  Terpene molecules are the essences of all smells and the Cannabis plant produces terpenes, called terpenoids that are currently shedding light into how Cannabis interacts with our internal endo-cannabinoid system and why a certain strain will make you feel up and alert versus groggy and sedated, and vice-versa..  A better understanding of terpenes will ultimately further the inner-Canna-seur in us all, as well as assist future consulting with patients to pin-point a specific strain chemical profile (chemotype) for their specific medicinal needs.

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Scientists and researchers from around the world are increasingly tuning in more and more to what the legendary Cannabis researcher, Ethan Russo, has coined as the entourage effect, describing the phytocannabinoid-terpenoid interaction that takes place within varieties of Cannabis.  Interestingly, terpenes can enhance the good effects of Cannabis, while reducing the negative effects that THC can have when alone, as seen in the well known, pharmaceutical single-molecule isolate, Marinol, or synthetic THC.  Marinol, largely, was an epic failure in comparison to whole plant Cannabis extract because what was anecdotally found from within the patient community, was that pure THC, alone, is actually quite unpleasant.  Conversely, when THC is together with the other minor cannabinoids and the unique terpenes that a certain strain will exude (whole-plant,) a more pleasant and user-friendly effect is experienced.

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Currently, the Cannabis community is confined by an old and somewhat archaic way of describing Cannabis as either being an “Indica, Sativa,” or  “Hybrid” while being completely subjective from collective to collective in what strains are called with popular names, like OG Kush, which have been known to be described as indica, sativa, hybrid, and even all three terms to describe OG Kush in the same collective!  This “name-game” is not helpful to patients and we need to further educate ourselves, as a community, in the entourage effect to better understand how a strain will affect oneself.  Due to the fact that the mass hybridization of Cannabis breeding over the past few decades has worked to increase yields, decrease flower times, and breed for intoxicating/ qualitative properties, virtually ALL strains are hybrids and have more or less homogenized to have high levels of THC and very little to no CBD or other minor cannabinoids.  The slight nuanced differences, there in, that describe why a 19% THC OG Kush makes you feel different from a 19% THC Jack Herer, lie in the unique terpenes that one strain will exude versus another.

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Certain strains of Cannabis, like Super Lemon Haze, the lemon phenotype of Jack Herer, and Girl Scout Cookies, have elevated levels of a terpene, called Limonene (found in citrus.)  This terpene works synergistically with THC, CBD, and the other minor cannabinoids to add an anti-depressant effect to strains high in it.  Other terpenes, like Myrcene, the smell of hops, can add a muscle-relaxant, or analgesic effect.  The smell of clove, Beta-Caryophyllene, has shown to have anti-tumor effects, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal affects, and is also a potent activator of the CB2 receptor in the human endo-cannabinoid system.  This information is of the upmost importance in the evolution of how Cannabis varieties are framed and dispensed to patients, and can greatly assist in helping to identify the perfect strain for you.  Moving beyond the outdated and obsolete descriptions of indica and sativa, and truly beginning to wrap our minds around the entourage effect of the cannabinoids and terpenoids, is reawakening mankind to the profound diversity that is held within the Cannabis plant and encouraging the re-emergence of land-race, indigenous qualities that the plant had prior to the great Cannabis hybridization project.  Know Your Terpenes?  Know Your Medicine..

Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects

  1. Ethan B Russo*

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