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While there is still a great deal to be discovered and understood, what you should know is that cannabis is a medicine which relies on the synergy between many different chemical compounds (terpenes and cannabinoids) working together; This phenomena is known as The “entourage effect”.
The term “entourage effect” has become an important piece of vocabulary in the cannabis community to describe the relationship between terpenes, cannabinoids, and other phytochemicals (chemicals made by plants) which are responsible for the vast therapeutic potential of cannabis.
By now, most people have heard about cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. While these compounds have a range of medical benefits, they are only part of what makes cannabis medicine so effective and have proven to be less effective on their own then when combined with other phytochemicals like terpenes.
Both cannabinoids and terpenes affect receptors in the endocannabinoid system which is what allows cannabis to act therapeutically in the human body, this action in some cases also produces the “high” which most are familiar with.
It is the terpenes in cannabis which modulate (modify or control) the effect that the cannabinoids in each sample will have on the user, This is why strains of cannabis effect each user uniquely. For example, if you have 2 different types of cannabis and both have 15% THC, but one gives you energetic effects and one gives you sedative effects, this is largely due to the different terpene profiles.
Terpenes such as Myrcene, Nerolidol, and Terpinolene, have sedative qualities while Alpha Pinene is known to be uplifting. Cannabinoids and terpenes each have effects independently, but together, they have proven to be vastly more effective at treating human health conditions than in isolation.
To learn more, look into the research and writing of our favorite cannabis researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo.
You can read the whole version of Dr. Ethan Russo’s 1st paper on terpenes “Taming THC” here.