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Researchers are looking for new and innovative ways to use the terpenes found in cannabis to open new doors to functional ingredients that benefit the human mind, body, and mood.
Terpenes have long been known for their role in essential oils and as the building blocks of aroma and flavor. But now, a growing body of research reveals why and how forest bathing in Japan, soaking in a tub with essential oils, or smoking a joint with a specific blend of terpenes, can change the way a person thinks and feels.
Thanks to science, we’re finding out much more about terpenes’ broad spectrum of effects and benefits.
Related: Why Does Everyone Keep Talking About Terpenes?
Terpenes and pain relief
A recent review by researchers at the University of Arizona concluded (with the caveat that there’s much more research to be done) that terpenes may be highly effective in developing pain medications, especially because they are safer than traditional painkillers. Terpenes are low on the toxicity scale and present few side-effects.
According to the study’s authors, “The terpene biochemical diversity present in cannabis and their co-expression with phytocannabinoids is unique and remarkable.” So unique and remarkable that they’ve decided to deepen their research.
Humans have a built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS), one of the most important physiological systems involved in maintaining health. Cannabinoids, terpenoids, other essential fatty acids, spices, chocolate, and herbs play an important role in stimulating and enhancing our ECS.
Years ago, scientists discovered that certain terpenes found in cannabis may target THC-specific cannabinoid receptor CB1 and inflammation-related receptor adenosine A2a in the human body. For this study, researchers focused on terpenes like β-Myrcene, geraniol, and limonene to determine their direct benefits and effects.
They found that limonene (the terpene found mainly in citrus fruits and cannabis) holds strong anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties but lacked evidence as a painkiller. On the other hand, geraniol (commonly found in many fruits, vegetables, and herbs) is associated with anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and anti-pain properties.
They also found that cannabis terpenes can mimic the effects of cannabinoids when used by themselves, including the reduction in pain sensation. When researchers combined the terpenes with cannabinoids, they discovered pain relief without harmful side effects.
Terpenes and brain health
Scientists have sought to understand how the terpenes pinene and linalool affect the mind and body, and their findings were quite profound.
Pinene, a clear liquid associated with the sap and aroma of pine, is one of the most highly occurring terpenes on earth and in cannabis. Several plants high in pinene have been used in various medicines to treat seizures, gastrointestinal challenges, hypertension, fungal infection, etc.
Recent research shows that when inhaled and/or taken orally, pinene is an anti-inflammatory, helps relieve depression, lessens the chance of seizures, and may reduce a person’s chance of stroke.
Likewise, the same research (mostly preclinical) found that linalool (commonly found in cannabis, lavender, basil, and rose) may offer neuroprotection and help treat Alzheimer’s, diabetic nephropathy, stroke, bacterial infections, and systemic inflammation.
Terpenes for cancer treatment
Extensive research is also being done to understand the role terpenes play in cancer treatment. The terpene myrcene, which is found in hops, bay, verbena, lemongrass, citrus, and cannabis, may help fight human cervical, breast, and colon cancer while helping to reduce DNA damage by about 50 percent.
Likewise, caryophyllene (found in black pepper, oregano, cloves, basil, rosemary, and cannabis) is showing promise in lung cancer and ovarian cancer. Also, humulene (found in cannabis, hops, and several herbs) may inhibit cell production and may be an effective agent in fighting colon cancer.
Finally, limonene has been shown to reduce tumor growth. One study also found to decrease the incidence and metastasis of gastric cancers, decreased DNA synthesis, and inhibit pulmonary adenoma formation in mice.
Next steps for terpene research
Thankfully, the world of science is finally starting to shift its viewpoint and acknowledge that terpenes can play a serious role in health and wellness. At ABSTRAX, we have invested in a scientific approach to terpene research, extraction, and product formulation. ABSTRAX’s 3D analysis allows us to fully understand the complete spectrum of 500+ compounds within a plant and then use a terpene extraction process that isolates individual compounds that can be used for multiple purposes.
Much more lies within a terpene than its aroma and flavor, and we’re all just beginning to scratch the surface of the potentially life-changing benefits.