The whole of a medical marijuana product is generally is greater than the sum of its individual parts. The primary active ingredient in the product will always be tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”), but the effects of that ingredient are enhanced or modified by several other terpenes that are present in the cannabis plant. THC and terpenes each deliver desirable medical efficacy, but the combination of those compounds has a multiplier influence that enhances the therapeutic benefits of the whole product. The THC-terpene combination is responsible for what is commonly referred to as the entourage effect.
As more information and research on medical marijuana becomes available, cannabis cultivators will be better able to tailor their plants to control relative concentrations of THC and terpenes. This will further enable them to develop custom cannabis strains that target specific pathologies and ailments. Independent cannabis testing laboratories, including Modern Canna Science in central Florida, will play a crucial role in this process.
Terpenes and Cannabis
Terpenes are volatile organic compounds that are found in almost every plant species. They are also the essential oils that give cannabis and other plants their characteristic flavors and aromas.
Cannabis plants contain approximately 200 different terpene compounds. Roughly thirty of those terpenes will be predominant in most cannabis plants, while the remaining compounds are more likely to be found in trace quantities. The relative concentrations of those terpenes will change as a function of a plant’s growing environment, including its exposure to sunlight and water and the composition of soils and fertilizers applied to the plants while they are being cultivated.
Recent research indicates that terpenes do more than just create the characteristic aromas and flavors of different strains of cannabis. Certain terpenes, for example, have anti-inflammatory capabilities that operate with different mechanisms and along different receptors in a patient’s body than those affected by THC. Other terpenes can enhance brain function, improve respiration, and alleviate anxiety and stress.
Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
The cannabis-terpene entourage effect arises from the interactions of the multiple different active or volatile compounds in a typical cannabis plant. Some terpenes are known to enhance THC absorption and metabolism. Others regulate and control THC’s psychoactive effects.
Researchers have studied the isolated effects of individual terpenes and are now turning toward gaining a better understanding of the cumulative reactions of terpenes with each other and with THC compounds. That research will inevitably lead to hybrid cannabis plant strains that have targeted and controlled amounts of specific terpenes.
At present, the entourage effect presents a unique opportunity for patients who show benefits from using medical marijuana. A patient might react more positively to one strain than to an alternate strain. A physician who understands the relative concentrations of THC and terpene components in the more effective strain can then adjust the patient’s prescription to include strains that emphasize the components that cause that more effective response.
Modern Canna Science: The Leading Florida Testing Laboratory for Medical Marijuana
When Florida and other states approved the use of medical marijuana, regulators might have foreseen a day well into the future when designer cannabis plant strains could be harvested to treat specific disease pathologies and ailments. This prospect is becoming a reality more quickly than was likely anticipated by many regulators.
Professional medical marijuana testing laboratories, like Modern Canna Science in central Florida, are providing the necessary cannabis plant analysis that is enabling this process. We help Florida cannabis cultivators to standardize their products and to understand how to control growing conditions to produce specific cannabis strains that have targeted THC and terpene concentrations.
Please call our offices or see our website for more information about the terpene entourage effect, and our professional Florida testing lab for cannabis.
- projectcbd.org: Terpenes and the “Entourage Effect”. https://www.projectcbd.org/science/terpenes/terpenes-and-entourage-effectncbi.gov
- www.ncbi.gov: Cannabis, a Complex Plant: Different Compounds and Different Effects on Individuals. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736954/
- liwts.org: Why Cannabis Terpenes are Vital to the “Entourage Effect” https://www.liwts.org/blog/cannabis-terpenes-vital-entourage-effect/