Many of us have come to appreciate cannabis for certain cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. But other remedial aspects of cannabis are often neglected, such as the healing power of terpenes and even flavonoids. Though scientists are proficiently isolating cannabinoids for their healing properties, the cannabis plant is made up of over 400 different compounds, each with its own healing properties. The combined effect of all 400 compounds is called the entourage effect, considered by herbalists and naturopaths to be the most effective way to consume cannabis.
The cannabis market is flooded with products, many of them labeled with terms that many people haven’t caught up with yet. Full-spectrum is a term thrown around often, but not many appreciate the true definition of a full-spectrum product and why it is superior to a single-cannabinoid product. As the industry continues to expand, education and information are imperative to the public understanding of cannabis and how to use it.
What Are Terpenes?
If you’ve ever walked into a cafe and been delighted by the smell of freshly ground coffee, then congratulations, you’ve experienced terpenes before! The easiest way to describe a terpene is that it is what is responsible for the aroma of almost everything. It works the same way for cannabis, where what you smell and taste is largely due to its terpene profile.
At first, it might not make sense how terpenes can be remedial. But there are entire alternative remedial disciplines based on the healing effects of terpenes, aromatherapy being the most prevalent of them all. Essentially, terpenes and terpenoids are the volatile, aromatic metabolites found in basically every plant on earth.
What Do Terpenes Do?
Different terpenes have different effects on the body, even if they are consumed outside of the context of cannabis. The mechanism by which they work is hugely misunderstood and understudied in the scientific context. Rather, the effect of terpenes on the body has mostly been appreciated and studied by herbalists and mystics of the past.
What science does know about terpenes is that they act on the same receptors as cannabinoids. Even though they may behave differently on cannabinoid receptors, they still affect those receptors. This is also the same reason that they affect the way that the body responds to cannabinoids such as THC and CBD!
On their own, terpenes may affect neurological activity, such as the reuptake of serotonin and the release of dopamine. This is why aromatherapy is often used as a way to treat anxiety or increase focus. Each terpene has different effects on neurological activity, and this might also be why different cannabis strains have different effects.
Common Terpenes And Their Effects
As we mentioned, just about every plant in the world contains terpenes, from ginger to rosemary to cannabis. Some of the most common are:
Pinene is probably the most common terpene in the world. It is found in basil, parsley, pine needles, and cannabis. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to promote mental clarity and alertness.
Myrcene is most commonly found in mangoes. Interestingly, it is known for increasing the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, making the effects of cannabinoids stronger. It is the most prevalent terpene in cannabis. It is also an anti-inflammatory as well as being a sedative and a relaxant.
If you’ve ever smelled a lavender bush, then you’ve felt the effects of linalool. This terpene is often used in aromatherapy as a sleeping aid and as a relaxant. It is a stress-reliever and an antidepressant. It is thought that the effects of linalool counteract some of the anxiety-inducing effects of THC.
As the name suggests, limonene is a citrusy-smelling terpene. It is found in lemons and limes as well as cannabis. It is a mood enhancer as well as being anti-microbial and effective in the treatment of sores and wounds.
What Is Full Spectrum CBD?
You might already be familiar with the term “full-spectrum”, especially if you’re no stranger to dispensaries. Along with full-spectrum products, there are also single-cannabinoid products such as CBD isolate, CBD oil, and even THC oils or tinctures.
The main characteristic of full-spectrum CBD products is that CBD is not isolated for the manufacture of the product. Rather, hemp is used as the main source of CBD because its THC concentration is negligible. Then, the whole plant is extracted, keeping the terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids intact. In CBD-only products, CBD is isolated using sophisticated extraction techniques, and there are no terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids or other cannabinoids in the final product.
Full-Spectrum CBD, Terpenes & The Entourage Effect
So how does it all come together? Well, it’s quite simple. When cannabis is consumed as it is, then the person is exposed to the entourage effect. The entourage effect is the combined effect of cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids when they are not removed from their original context: the whole cannabis plant.
Herbalists and naturopaths around the world seem to hold a general consensus that whole plant medicine is infinitely superior to extracts. Even scientists are just beginning to understand the healing properties of the entourage effect, whether it is applied to cannabis or other plants. Fundamentally, the plant is considered to be most effective when all of its parts are working together rather than just a single compound.
For western medicine, reductionism is common practice. It is how biomedicine arrived at opioid medication and many other pharmaceutical drugs. The idea of the entourage effect is an old concept among traditional healers but a new one among western medicine practitioners. At the root of it, it requires an appreciation for the inherent intelligent of the plant, as it is, with all of its compounds intact. That is the principle behind full-spectrum CBD medicine and why it is deemed to be more effective than single cannabinoid products.
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