The chemistry of cannabis quite complex. There are over 400 chemicals in cannabis with about 80 unique cannabinoids not found in any other plant. These cannabinoids as well as their terpenes which give plants their smell, are the main focus of research and where most health benefits are coming from —
Cannabis contains over 80 different compounds called cannabinoids where CBD and THC are a couple of the most abundant and well researched. The cannabis flower, present on the female cannabis plant is covered in resin glands where cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are extracted from. Cannabis resin is a dark to light brown substance which is scraped off the surface of the Cannabis Plant and pressed into a solid lump, sometimes referred to as hashish.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most abundant cannabinoid that accounts for approximately 40% of the cannabis resin and is often consumed in the form of an oil. CBD first gained serious media exposure when it was shown to stop epileptic seizures live on television. CBD can affect multiple diferent pathways in the body at once, making it very difficult to isolate effects and interactions, yet all results tend to be a move to homeostasis.
It is non-psycho active because of it’s lack of attraction to CB1 receptors, the ones that cause the high but does play a role on CB2 receptors found through the rest of the body.
Cannabidiol has a strong gene transcription, the ability to upregulate and down regulate a huge range of genes in favour of a healthy outcome. With the endocannabinoid system spread through almost every organ of the human body, and CBD having the ability to influence it, it is easy to understand how it can be so beneficial as it mimics our bodies own endocannabinoids.
As well as engaging cannabinoid receptors, CBD can affects receptors for pain modulation, sleep, mood and stress management.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known cannabinoid, famous for its psychoactive properties. It focuses on the CB1 receptors, found in the brain giving it’s ability to cause a high. THC will only become psychoactive when heated which means full plant extracts when consumed as an oil will not cause a high.
taking pure THC will create a significant psychoactive affect and possibly result in a loss of control and anxiety. However when coupled with CBD, the high is reduced and the absorption and benefits of CBD are greater.
The multitude of compounds have been designed to work synergistically together to enhance the benefits and decrease any negative side effects. Unfortunately due to most regulations around the world, most forms of cannabis oils have the THC completely removed, whereas even at low doses it can improve the quality of the CBD oil and offer benefits in its own right.
Whole plant medicine
While CBD alone is a powerful tool for your health, extracting singular molecules like this is not the best option. When singled out, individual molecules can create side effects and not work as well as the entire plant intended. When acting as a whole plant or a simple, unrefined extract, the effects are amplified, coined the entourage effect. The entourage effect is the notion that combining cannabinoids like CBD and THC so they work together, produce enhanced therapeutic benefits in the body.
Terpenes are the fragrant oils that cannabis produces to attract pollinators which are responsible for its unique smell. They are not unique to cannabis, but are present throughout nature in many plants. Terpenes are what give lavender its aroma or pine forests its fresh smell. As we’ve grown to understand the cannabis plant, terpenes took a backseat to cannabinoids but are now emerging as a whole new element to consider when growing and consuming the best cannabis plant.
Over 100 different terpenes have been discovered in the cannabis plant and are secreted by the resin glands and bind to receptors in our body offering a range of health effects and benefits. All different strains and hybrids not only contain a different cannabinoid make-up, but all differ in terpenes too, giving them unique smells.
These terpenes can bind to cannabinoid receptors and affect their chemical output, such as influencing the amount of THC that passes through the blood-brain barrier or impacting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
5 of the most abundant terpenes found in various strains of cannabis are:
Myrcene – Has a musky aroma, also found in mango, lemongrass, hops and thyme. Myrcene has been shown to have a relaxing affect and used for pain, inflammation, muscle tension and sleeplessness.
Pinene – Has the aroma of pine, also found in pine needles, rosemary, basil and parsley. Pinene has been shown to improve alertness, memory retention and counteract the effects of THC
Limonene – Has a citrus aroma, also found in fruit rind, peppermint, juniper and rosemary. Limonene has been shown to enhance mood, act as an antifungal, reduce heartburn and gastrointestinal complications.
Caryophyllene – Has the aroma of pepper, also found in black peppers and cloves. Caryophyllene has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory, improve arthritis, ulcers, auto-immune and gastrointestinal complications.
Linalool – has a floral aroma, also found in lavender. Linalool has been shown to have an anti-anxiety, anti-depressant and anti-acne affect.