Cannabinoids and terpenes are both lipid soluble, which means that they are able to dissolve into the fatty membranes of the body. This property allows them to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly and to have long lasting effects on our health. Since the two chemicals have similar molecular structures, the absorption of each substance is highly efficient, although it is difficult to quantify this by conventional tests. It is however accepted that cannabis-derived terpenes perform a greater therapeutic benefit in reducing symptoms related to inflammation than do delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
Terpenes are thought to be responsible for the entourage effect. The term comes from the group of terpenes, which includes all of the naturally occurring thc molecules. All of the previously listed substances have been shown to interact with inflammatory mediators, reducing their ability to cause inflammation. While the exact mechanism is not yet understood, it is believed that the presence of terpenes results in an increase in the inflammatory response, resulting in an increased number of pain sensors and T cells.
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One of the most common sources of terpenes is cannabis. The leaves of the cannabis plant contain high levels of thc and other aromatic compounds. These compounds are then broken down to provide the oils which are used for the production of many topical lotions. When these oils are applied to the skin, they act as natural antibiotics, reducing the chances of infection occurring. It is now believed that the same properties found in the cannabis plant, which also contain terpenes, work in a similar fashion to achieve this same end.
In a paper published by J. M. Stickley and J. R. Popper (eds), “The Use of Terpenes to Treat Chronic Disease”, the authors discussed how the use of these chemicals created a domino effect, which resulted in the reduced inflammation seen in chronic degenerative diseases such as arthritis. They noted that these same chemicals are also able to target the nervous system, creating less pain. This new view on the relationship between terpenes and the immune system goes a long way towards supporting the idea that they may have a positive effect on certain health problems. For instance, the reduction in inflammation seen with the use of terpenes may lead to fewer cases of headaches, according to some recent studies. More research is needed to confirm this finding.
Currently there are no known side effects associated with the use of terpenes, although there have been instances of irritation in some people. It is not known if these chemicals act on the nervous system or pain sensitive tissues directly. Only a small number of the active components are known, and they consist mainly of cinnamic acids and thc, with a very small amount of other chemicals. There is also some evidence that the compounds provide some protection against HIV. It is however believed that the entourage effect seen with these chemicals is responsible for their benefit on inflammatory bowel diseases and Crohn’s disease.
Terpenes appear to be effective against certain inflammatory diseases. More research is needed to evaluate the safety of use with these agents in cancer patients. The compounds do not appear to interfere with the immune system when used in limited doses. There is much more work to be done on these cannabis molecules. The research on these terpenes is likely to continue for some time.