Cannabinoid and Terpene Education
In order to get the most out of your experience with medical cannabis, you should have a good idea of what makes the different medical cannabis products interact with your body. You might have a preconceived idea of what this looks like but it can be a little more complex than you first imagined.
The Science of Cannabinoids
You’ve probably heard of THC and CBD but you may not have fully realized what they are in relation to cannabis. THC and CBD are just two examples of cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis and are what helps the user feel different effects between strains. The different cannabinoid functions within our minds actually make up a system called the endocannabinoid (EC) system as Scholastic reports. The cannabinoids in marijuana interact with the receptors that normally interact with the endocannabinoids, which are the molecules made by your own body.
What this means is that when you introduce cannabinoids from medical cannabis, you are introducing additional levels of cannabinoids into your body where they attach to the existing endocannabinoid receptors to make you feel the various effects of the boost in cannabinoids in your system.
For instance, joint research done between King’s College and the University of San Paulo has found that CBD at higher concentrations can influence the serotonin receptor and what this does is it can help to lower feelings of anxiety in the user. On the other side of this equation, THC at lower concentrations can also simulate this effect but at higher levels can actually increase a person’s anxiety. Of course, there are other receptors that cannabinoids can interact with such as orphan receptors, vanilloid receptors, and nuclear receptors. It all depends on the type and quantity of the cannabinoid.
Terpenes and their relationship to cannabinoids
Terpenes, to put simply, are the oils in plants that help to give that particular plant its unique scent. Terpenes can be as simple as the smell of pine or the citrus scent in your orange. Depending on the plant, there might only be small amounts of terpenes in your particular medical cannabis but increasingly growers are trying to incorporate more terpenes into their products. There are hundreds of terpenes in cannabis but only some of them are in quantities large enough to be sensed.
Why, you might be asking, do terpenes matter if they just influence the smell of the marijuana? Well, there is growing research that terpenes actually interact with cannabinoids in the EC system, so if you know the particular terpenes associated with the strain and its cannabinoids, you are on the road to understanding its effects on your body. Many dispensaries will have this information available but some may not. You can always ask to get a better sense of what type of product you are buying.
When considering all the components that makeup cannabis, there are a lot of variables that can dictate the specific effects of a particular strain. The idea of how all these separate compounds come together is called the “entourage effect” which essentially means the “medicinal impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts” as Project CBD writes. Much like baking a cake, all of the ingredients, or cannabinoids in this instance, help to make the final product what it is.
The best way to understand the effects between terpenes and cannabinoids on your system is to pay close attention to the molecular makeup of the medical cannabis that you are consuming. Try to pay attention to the information of the strains you are purchasing and ask the budtender for information on terpenes or other cannabinoid make up details so that you can make a smart purchasing decision. You want to be able to begin to build a base for what you expect from medical marijuana and the only way to do that is to have information about the strains you are buying. You might even take it a step further and create a spreadsheet that shows the different cannabinoid makeups and your reaction to them. In the long run, this will help to give you a much better idea of what you are looking for out of your medical marijuana experience.