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Terpenes and the Endocannabinoid System

Now that medical and recreational marijuana have been legalized in Canada, there is a lot of interest in both THC and CBD products for various health reasons, as well as in the pharmacology and physiology underlying them. Although Aviva does not currently offer either of those types of products per se, we do carry a product line designed to mimic, or in some cases, enhance the effects of cannabis products, by working on the same biological system as they do.

The following is intended as a primer on the nature of that system and on the mechanisms of action for the substances which can interact with it, be they endogenously produced (in our bodies) or plant-based, either from THC or CBD products sourced from actual cannabis, or from aromatic compounds sourced from other types of plants.

The Endocannabinoid System

Although researchers have only really known about the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) for about thirty years now and there is much to be learned, it not only turns out vertebrates have a whole other bodily system in addition to the cardiovascular, digestive, lymphatic/immune, musculoskeletal, nervous, renal, respiratory, sensory, and other more well-known systems, but it also turns out that this ECS's primary function is to help regulate all those other systems by promoting homeostasis, for the sake of our overall wellness.

That is, in order to help us better adapt to ongoing changes brought about from external events, our own actions, and internal processes, the ECS tries to maintain relatively stable conditions within the body (such as our body temperature and our pH, blood pressure, hormone, and inflammation levels) by counteracting or balancing out some of the potentially harmful automatic responses of the other systems. It does so by using a complex array of messenger molecules; receptor sites; and enzymes to either synthesize or break down those messenger molecules; and by creating more receptor sites or 'down-regulating' or decommissioning some, if necessary.

Cannanda CB2 Oil

CB1 & CB2

The two most well-known receptor sites the ECS uses to achieve this are: CB1 (which are located mainly in the central nervous system and brain, where the activation can produce euphoric effects); and CB2 (which are found primarily in the immune system, gastrointestinal tract, and peripheral tissues, where the activation can produce anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and other effects).

And the two main and most well-known messenger molecules which interact with those, which our bodies can produce themselves (endogenously) on demand (assuming adequate amounts of their materials are available to them) are: anandamide (which this company is partly named after) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), respectively. And of course, the two similarly-shaped "phytocannabinoid" molecules derived from cannabis plants which turned out to be able to do the same things – which is what led to the discovery of this system in the first place – are THC and CBD, respectively.

But as just noted, it's not only the phytocannabinoids THC and CBD which can bind with or interact with the ECS's receptor sites: the endocannabinoids can, too; plus there are aromatic substances known as terpenes which are present not only in cannabis but also many other plants, and some of these – most notably, Beta-caryophyllene – can also selectively activate CB2 receptors, while others can either impart additional effects or modulate some of the unwanted effects of the main ECS activators.

Terpenes

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds which give certain herbs and trees their characteristic scents (and sometimes colours or textures, as well), which either attract beneficial insects (such as pollinators) or repel grazing animals or harmful pests from the plants themselves (either by smell or with bitter tastes), and may also have a variety of beneficial effects when we inhale, ingest, or apply them topically, which is why they have been extracted as essential oils from other types of plants (such as lavender) for centuries.

Over the years, both users and producers and researchers of marijuana have noticed different cannabis strains not only have different odours and flavours owing to the different ratios or profiles of the terpenes present in them, but also characteristics (e.g., sedating, calming, or energizing), even after the levels of the major cannabinoids THC and CBD are taken into account.

This phenomenon involving these other natural constituents in the plant having a synergistic effect to either amplify some of the beneficial effects of the major cannabinoids, or to counteract some of their drawbacks, is sometimes characterized as an "entourage effect." 

The recognition of this phenomenon has not only led to extensive testing to identify which terpenes are present in the most favoured strains and in what concentrations, but also to refinements in both production and cultivation techniques to offer new varieties or forms of marijuana in which particular terpenes predominate.

It turns out that although there may be as many as 200 terpenes in cannabis plants in all, most are only present in trace amounts, while about two dozen are fairly common or appear in relatively large quantities (although collectively they still only make up about 1% of the volume of the entire plants).

Fortunately, most if not all of those more prevalent terpenes also appear in other types of plants, however. For example, Camphene can be found in camphor or cypress oil (among other things – most of the items in this list on nine select types of terpenes have several other members); Caryophyllene is also in cloves; Cineole is in eucalyptus oil; Humulene can be found in sage; Limonene in lemons or other citrus fruit rinds; Linalool in lavender; Myrcene in lemongrass or mangoes; Pinene is also in, yes, pine needles; and Terpineol can be found in either pine or cajuput oil, as well as in cannabis.

Cannanda Logo

Cannanda

Cannada is a Canadian company, based in Ontario. Their tongue-twisting name is a fusion not only of "Canada" and "Cannabis," but also "ananda," a Sanskrit word meaning 'bliss', which one of the most important messenger molecules in the endocannabinoid system is named after.

(Anandamide helps keeps mammals' and other vertebrates' nervous system, immune system, digestive system, and other major organs and systems in homeostatis, and has a role in the pain-reduction aspect of the "runner's high.")

Cannanda has built on that terpene research, carefully selecting a number of types typically found in cannabis products which: 1) have been studied and found to have therapeutic effects, especially in the areas of reducing inflammation, managing pain, fostering immunity, and reducing anxiety; and 2) are all found in other types of plants, as well – which is how they have been sourced in their products.

Products

Cannanda currently offers several different types of advanced aromatherapy terpene blends, designed for somewhat different effects; a salve and a hemp seed oil which incorporate the CB2 blend in particular; a blend to counteract habituation in actual cannabis users; plus several types for pets.

Looking for more? Also see PEA ActivatePEAk Pain Relief and PEAk Antioxidant from AOR. 

Endocannabinoids and the Immune System


Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2019-2020. Aviva Natural Health Solutions.

Supporting Science

Basu S, Dittel BN. "Unraveling the complexities of cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) immune regulation in health and disease." Immunologic Research. 2011.

Gertsch J. "Anti-inflammatory cannabinoids in diet: Towards a better understanding of CB(2) receptor action?" Communicative & Integrative Biology. 2008.

Gertsch J., Leonti M, Raduner S, et al. "Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2008.

Klauke A-L, et al. "The cannabinoid CB₂ receptor-selective phytocannabinoid beta-caryophyllene exerts analgesic effects in mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain." European Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014 Apr.

McPartland JM, Guy GW, Di Marzo V. "Care and feeding of the endocannabinoid system: a systematic review of potential clinical interventions that upregulate the endocannabinoid system." PLoS One. 2014.