Terpenes and the entourage effect go hand-in-hand. To be clear, terpenes are what give various cannabis strains their unique flavors and effects. In fact, without terpenes, many people would experience cannabis as bland and uneventful, regardless of the THC content. That’s because terpenes work alongside cannabinoids to produce unique effects – uplifting or sedative sensations, for example – by interacting with the same receptors that cannabinoids do.
What is the Entourage Effect?
The Entourage Effect is a term first coined by Dr. Ethan Russo in his 2011 paper, Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. In the review, he explains how terpenes like linalool and myrcene interact work synergistically with cannabinoids to exert unique effects. For example, he discusses myrcene, the most prominent terpene in cannabis, and its proven anti-inflammatory applications and analgesic qualities in mice models. As such, it is quite likely that the combination of myrcene with cannabinoids like THC provide a deeper, more complex therapeutic potential than THC alone.
Moreover, one of the most well-documented side effects of acute THC overconsumption is anxiety and paranoia. However, some terpenes (like limonene) help dull these uncomfortable sensations. In fact, people have been using acidic fruits for centuries as an antidote for acute marijuana intoxication, as well as pine nuts, black peppercorns, and certain plant roots.
Given what we know about cannabinoids and terpenes, Russo has called for more research regarding their synergistic qualities. He also highlighted the importance of advanced cannabis breeding to select cultivars with strong, strain-specific terpene profiles.
Why Terpenes and the Entourage Effect are So Important
Terpenes are the fragrant oils that develop in plants (and even some bugs!). Scientists have identified more than 20,000 terpenes so far, more than 100 of which grow in the resinous trichomes of cannabis flowers. Interestingly, terpenes develop in the same resinous glands that cannabinoids do, making the resin a desirable substance for cannabis concentrates. Terpenes not only improve the flavor of concentrated cannabis material, but they improve the overall experience, as well. Hence, when it comes to effectiveness, terpenes and the Entourage Effect are a pretty big deal.
Now, thanks to modern advances in cannabis breeding and production methods, consumers can customize their cannabis experience by choosing the terpene profile that works best for them. For example, those who seek a mood-boosting experience might choose a terpene profile that includes limonene, β-caryophyllene, or terpinolene. Conversely, those who just want to relax pain-free might choose strains high in myrcene, linalool, and nerolidol.
For reference, here’s a list of the most common cannabis terpenes and their proposed effect on the body.
Myrcene is common in cannabis as well as hops, thyme, mango, and lemongrass. It is a proposed anti-inflammatory and analgesic, making it ideal for those who suffer from pain and sleeplessness.
Limonene is an acidic terpene common in rosemary, mint, pine, and citrus fruits. Studies suggest it might help reduce anxiety, depression, and bacterial infections. Moreover, including limonene terpenes and the entourage effect is great for those seeking an uplifting, creative experience.
Linalool is common in herbs and flowers like lavender and exerts anti-inflammatory, slightly sedative effects. Those who seek comfort and rest will fare well with linalool-heavy cannabis varieties.
Pinene often develops in trees and pine nuts and has a piney, basil-like flavor and scent. It is also highly sedative and may reduce the adverse effects of THC overconsumption.
β-caryophyllene (or just caryophyllene) is an herbal, spicy terpene common in black pepper, rosemary, and hops. Research suggests it might help reduce the severity of anxiety and depression and reduce joint inflammation.
Getting the Most Out of Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
Terpenes are the key to unlocking cannabis’s full potential thanks to their contribution to the Entourage effect. Importantly, the best way to get the most out of terpenes and the Entourage Effect is to vape the delicate substance rather than burn it with a lighter or torched dab rig.
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