Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects by Ethan B Russo, MD, is a scientific article in the British Journal of Pharmacology calling for cannabis research to broaden into cannabinoids other than THC, terpenoids, and their effect when used together (entourage effect). Russo is a board-certified neurologist, psychopharmacology researcher, and former Senior Medical Advisor to GW Pharmaceuticals. He wrote the article in 2011, since then CBD has exploded. Russo states that there is ‘immense potential for cannabis to be used as a pharmaceutical drug helping people with depression, anxiety, fungus, acne, and to counter the psychoactive effects of THC.’
Click here to read Russo’s full article about the entourage effect.
The high created by THC has been the reason for cannabis prohibition and the suppression of cannabinoid research. Thanks to Ethan Russo and other cannabis researchers, cannabis has become a major player in natural medicine over the past decade. We have made progress in cannabinoid research. However, there still is much to learn and more benefits to be discovered. Click here to read more about the history of cannabis prohibition and research.
All plants contain terpenes. They are responsible for the plant’s aroma. Plants possess different smells to deter herbivore’s from eating them, consequently making them essential to the plant’s survival and evolution. So far, scientists have discovered over 20,000 terpenes. Cannabinoids are known as the chemical compounds responsible for cannabis’ healing properties. But terpenes also play a major role by amplifying the benefits of cannabinoids. In addition, the terpenes found in cannabis share many of the same medical benefits as CBD. Russo’s article analyses research suggesting that cannabinoids and the terpenes with medical properties are the best way to use the cannabis plant for medicinal purposes.
Myrcene is the most common terpene in cannabis. It’s also common in hops. Cannabis with a strong myrcene presence is considered Indica. Giving the strain relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties. ‘Myrcene is a recognized sedative as part of hops preparations, employed to aid sleep in Germany. Furthermore, myrcene acted as a muscle relaxant in mice, and potentiated barbiturate sleep time at high doses’ (meaning myrcene helped other
sleep aids in lab tests with mice).
Limonene is another prominent terpene in cannabis. The terpene is responsible for the citrus smell in many plants, therefore it’s a popular additive in cosmetics, foods, and household products. ‘Studies with varying methodology and dosing in citrus oils in mice suggest it to be a powerful anxiolytic agent, with one essential oil increasing serotonin in the prefrontal cortex, and dopamine in hippocampus mediated via 5-HT1A.’
Russo is stating that mice exposed to essential oils with limonene increase serotonin and dopamine. Two neurotransmitters in the brain that help regulate one’s mood. Serotonin contributes to a person’s well-being and happiness. Dopamine helps regulate movement, attention, learning and emotional responses in the center of the brain (hippocampus). Limonene’s benefits can be enjoyed topically through the compound’s aroma. For example, ‘two citrus essential oils primarily composed of limonene inhibited Propionibacterium acnes, the key pathogen in acne.’
THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT
The science suggests that when together, cannabinoids and terpenes offer promising psychopharmacological applications. ‘Abundant evidence supports the key role of the ECS in mediating depression, as well as anxiety, whether induced by aversive stimuli, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or pain, and psychosis.’ Russo goes on to support the role of terpenes, ‘possible therapeutic synergies operative with phytocannabinoids-terpenoid combinations.’ CBD has proven to affect the neuroreceptor (5-HT1A) responsible for anxiety and depression. Russo says that ‘psychopharmacological effects of limonene, pinene and linalool could putatively extend benefits in mood in such patients’ suggesting that the positive results in CBD and psychological disorders will increase with the presence of these terpenes.
Terpenes can also inhibit the effects of cannabinoids. Dr. Russo cites ancient cannabis antidotes that include lemon, calamus plant roots, pine nuts, and black pepper, all strong-smelling plants rich in terpenes to mediate the psychoactive effects of THC. Russo advocates that THC is an agonist of endocannabinoid receptors that could cause THC’s negative psychological side-effects. While no one has died in result of a THC overdose, everyone has heard of someone freaking out, having a panic attack, increased heart rate, paranoia, and even hallucinating. Cannabis research noted in Russo’s article support CBD’s ‘modulatory effect of THC-associated adverse events such as anxiety, tachycardia, hunger and sedation in mice and humans,’ by regulating endocannabinoid receptors. Because of these properties, it is believed that CBD has the potential to alleviate these conditions in subjects who aren’t high on THC.
In conclusion, Dr. Russo states that in order to use cannabis medically, we need cannabinoid and terpene rich strains in absence of THC. CBD has reached the masses and isn’t slowing down. More research is happening, therefore more cannabinoids will come to light and be used for their medical benefits.
It’s truly a tragedy that THC has stolen the spotlight the past 100 years, suppressing research and warping the public’s perception of cannabis. Russo ends the article with hope stating ‘selective cross-breeding of high-terpenoid- and high-phytocannabinoid-specific chemotypes has thus become a rational target that may lead to novel approaches to such disorders as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, drug dependency, dementia and a panoply of dermatological disorders, as well as industrial applications as safer pesticides and antiseptics. A better future via cannabis phytochemistry may be an achievable goal through further research of the entourage effect in this versatile plant that may help it fulfill its promise as a pharmacological treasure trove.’ Thank you, Ethan B Russo, MD.