Although THC and CBD get most of the spotlight, there are over 100 different cannabinoids present within marijuana plants, and over 120 terpenes identified. These chemical compounds are what make every strain a unique experience- with many even providing health benefits. Though some of them remain undiscovered, science has proven that both cannabinoids and terpenes contribute to treatment against ailments like nausea, loss of appetite and even reducing seizures. We’ll be discussing how these compounds target inflammation, specifically.
What are cannabinoids, exactly?
All active, naturally occurring chemical substances in cannabis are referred to as cannabinoids or phytocannabinoids. The amounts of various cannabinoids vary between different kinds of cannabis plants and products on the market. That’s how some strains exhibit high THC, while others have lower THC and are therefore less psychoactive. Other cannabinoids have beneficial effects that won’t produce a “high” but will aid in the body’s functions.
This is where the endocannabinoid system comes into play. All mammals have an endocannabinoid system, which is why our brains can respond to cannabis in the first place- we have receptors that can take in these compounds.
Humans also naturally produce their own cannabinoids, like Anandamide, which helps regulate dopamine and various parts of the nervous system. Another example is 2-arachidonoylglycerol, a long name for a chemical that also helps out in regulating the nervous system.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are naturally occurring in all plant species. They are found within cannabis flowers, but none are psychoactive. These molecules create certain aromas and tastes for the user. They do more than just provide flavor profiles, though; they are currently being scientifically researched just like cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids and inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s way of responding to either infection or some kind of wound. It’s the immune system sending white blood cells to fight off foreign viruses or bacteria, or repairing damaged tissues. This is a very normal process, but problems arise when the immune system becomes overactive and inflammation becomes chronic; this can often lead to certain illnesses.
Many illnesses have been linked with chronic inflammation; Chrohn’s disease, arthritis, and heart disease are just a few examples. Luckily there are many small ways to help decrease the level of unnecessary inflammation in your body, like maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy, and keeping stress levels low. And now more recently, cannabinoids and terpenes have been shown to have properties that can lower inflammatory responses.
Research published on ScienceDirect found that people who had consumed cannabis within the previous month had lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein that, in high amounts, indicates a higher risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. High amounts of CRP might also mean the presence of cancer.
CBD, or Cannabidiol, is the most popular cannabinoid for a wide variety of reasons. Research has been able to provide enough evidence for it to be considered as a prototype for possible anti-inflammatory drugs. This study discusses how CBD has much promise in helping treat and prevent diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome, neuropathic pain, and many more.
This bit of research found that cannabinoids can target irritation in the colon and small intestine, alleviate liver inflammation, and has anti-tumor effects specifically for thyroid, brain, and prostate cancer. They do this by reducing inflammatory proteins called cytokines and increase the number of T-regulatory cells (Tregs) to prevent auto-immune disease and protect the body from cancer cells. Reducing inflammation of any kind means less pain, too!
Terpenes and Inflammation
Surprisingly, these aromatic oils have quite a few health-promoting qualities. Bisabolol, or Alpha Bisabolol, is a flowery essential oil found in both cannabis and chamomile and is primarily used in skincare. It also prevents the overproduction of cytokines the way cannabinoids do and has thus been proven to reduce skin irritation. The antioxidants of this oil help fight against free radicals which can damage cells’ DNA and contribute to aging and chronic inflammation. Its antimicrobial properties make it ideal to increase the longevity of skincare products’ shelf life.
Myrcene is earthy-smelling and is the most abundant terpene in cannabis. One study found that Myrcene is capable of protecting mice’ brains from free radical damage after a stroke. It has also been considered as a treatment against the breakdown of cartilage in cases of osteoarthritis due to its strong anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Other terpenes with similar effects are Alpha and Beta-Pinene, both shown to be capable of improving respiratory function in humans. Alpha-humulene also affects the airways, with recent evidence pointing to its potential for treating allergic reactions.
Although these scientific discoveries are exciting, keep in mind that every cannabis product and plant has varying degrees of certain cannabinoids and terpenes. The method of consumption can completely change your experience of these natural compounds, so it’s always a good idea to take time to find what works for you.