Terpenes and Their Potential Health Benefits
Terpenes aren’t just the first line of defense and attraction for plants – they’re also beneficial to humans. Cannabis terpenes are renowned for their benefits, and in this article, we dig into what the research reveals about these incredible compounds.
Caryophyllene: Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant
β-Caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene that stands out from the rest because it binds to CB2 receptors in the same way that phytocannabinoids THC and CBD do. Research shows caryophyllene to be a powerful anti-inflammatory able to mitigate acute and chronic pain through both the body’s endocannabinoid and opioid systems. Several studies demonstrate caryophyllene’s ability to protect against metabolic and other disorders characterized by inflammation, as well as its reported antioxidant and anticancer properties. Due to its healing potential, caryophyllene is even being considered for further study as an effective therapeutic and/or preventative treatment against COVID-19.
Humulene: Analgesic, Anti-inflammatory
Humulenemay be abundant in cannabis and hops, but most of what we know about its effects comes from studying essential oils. An isomer of β-caryophyllene, humulene is common across a variety of cannabis cultivars and demonstrates strong anti-inflammatory properties. Studies demonstrate its potential effectiveness in mitigating inflammation within the respiratory system as well as its analgesic properties. Findings also indicate humulene’s effects on digestion, in particular its ability to reduce the expression of bacteria that cause inflammatory bowel disease.
Limonene: Antimicrobial, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Neuroprotective
Multiple studies demonstrate that the abundant monoterpene limonene shows tremendous promise in its ability to mitigate a number of chronic diseases. A known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, limonene could potentially play a neuroprotective role in the treatment of multiple neurodegenerative diseases including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Some findings also suggest the antimicrobial, antidepressant, anxiolytic, antifungal, and other properties inherent to limonene may produce modulating effects on the immune system. One study’s findings also suggest limonene’s potential effects on the cardiovascular system due to its ability to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
Linalool: Anti-anxiety, Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Neuroprotective
Scientific research into linalool spotlights this terpene’s ability to protect against inflammation and oxidative damage and suggests its potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects on the immune system. Evidence indicates that linalool’s antioxidant properties and ability to mitigate inflammation could offer broader neuroprotection against bacterial infections, stroke, pain, and other disease states. Due to its reported impact on oxidative stress and inflammation, and its immunomodulatory properties, linalool may also yield anticancer effects in leukemia, cervical, prostate, and colon cancers. Studies also indicate that linalool could influence anti-anxiety and antidepressant behaviors in the brain.
Myrcene: Analgesic, Anticancer, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant
Multiple studies show β-Myrcene offers potential effects on the immune system due to its antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. Findings also indicate that myrcene may lower resistance and effectively facilitate the passage of cannabinoids across the blood brain barrier and absorption into the brain. Myrcene may also boost the cannabis plant’s analgesic benefits by working synergistically with THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids to enhance activity within the endocannabinoid system, while potentially also increasing its psychoactive impact. Its antioxidant properties demonstrate myrcene may provide oxidative effects on skin and could prevent UVB-associated damage.
Pinene: Analgesic, Anti-anxiety, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Neuroprotective
Research suggests that pinene, one of the most abundant terpenes in nature, may help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Findings have shown the role pinene plays in suppressing inflammatory responses in-vitro, and its ability to promote antioxidant activity and neuroprotection in such illnesses as seizures and strokes. In addition to pinene’s anti-inflammatory properties serving as effective pain relief for migraines, pre-clinical studies also demonstrate its potential anti-anxiety, anxiolytic, and analgesic benefits.
Terpineol: Anticancer, Antioxidant
While terpineol is present in over 150 plants, making it the most abundant monoterpene in nature, there’s still much to learn about its therapeutic properties. Terpineol is known to reduce inflammatory effects on skin, and reportedly has the ability to enhance skin penetration. The antioxidant properties inherent to terpineol may offer protection against free radicals, and as a result may also demonstrate potential anti-cancer benefits.
Terpinolene: Analgesic, Anti-anxiety, Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant
While terpinolene may not be as abundant in cannabis as other terpenes, it is common to multiple cultivars. Terpinolene’s presence in the essential oils of several plants suggests potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Research shows that terpinolene may also have a synergistic effect with other terpenes, producing anti-inflammatory and analgesic relief without causing negative effects. In fact, a recent study indicates cultivars high in terpinolene and myrcene and no CBD may provide stronger therapeutic relief with fewer side effects than varieties with any detectable amounts of CBD.
Clearly, the medicinal potential for cannabis terpenes is extensive – but much of what we know stems from clinical studies conducted on rodents. With legalization comes the opportunity for further research into these compounds and their impact on the human body.
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