A new U.S. study lends credence to the belief that using the whole cannabis plant, rather than individual parts, is a more effective approach to pain relief and that terpenes offer significant promise when it comes to future pain therapies.
Researchers determined that using cannabis sativa terpenes on their own “mimic the effects of cannabinoids, including a reduction in pain sensation,” notes a statement from the University of Arizona Health Sciences.
But when terpenes were combined with cannabinoids, “the pain-relieving effects were amplified without an increase in negative side effects,” investigators report.
In a paper first published online in Scientific Reports this April, researchers investigated four terpenes — alpha-humulene, geraniol, linalool and beta-pinene — each on their own and in combination with the cannabinoid agonist WIN55,212, which “stimulates the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors.”
There was a greater reduction in pain sensation together than either the terpene or WIN55,212-2 alone.
Researchers write in the study that all four terpenes “produced cannabinoid tetrad behaviours in mice, suggesting cannabimimetic activity.”
Specifically, the behavioural studies in mouse models showed all four terpenes on their own lowered pain sensitivity, as well as at least three of the four classic cannabinoid side effects: reduced pain sensation, lowered body temperature, reduced movement and catalepsy, or a freezing behaviour related to the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids.
In laboratory experiments, all four terpenes were found to activate the body’s CB1R cannabinoid receptors, just like THC, the university reports.
Cannabis has no monopoly on terpenes; these aromatic compounds are found in many different plants. But cannabis contains high concentrations of them.
As for the entourage effect, the idea is that combining different weed compounds produces a stronger effect than what would result individually.
“We’re interested in the concept of the entourage effect, with the idea being that maybe we can boost the modest pain-relieving efficacy of THC and not boost the psychoactive side effects, so you could have a better therapeutic,” explains John Streicher, Ph.D., the study’s lead researcher and an associate professor of pharmacology at the University of Arizona.