10 Facts: Study Confirms Terpenes Boost Cannabinoids

Sometimes, a study slides across our desk that we just can’t ignore. Science is the only thing pushing the hemp industry forward, and new research published in the April edition of Scientific Reports adds credence to the reality of the entourage effect, a proposed synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes.

To help you understand the impact of this landmark study, we’ll summarize the 10 most important points:

1. This study summarizes the latest research

Published in April 2021, the study “Cannabis sativa terpenes are cannabimimetic and selectively enhance cannabinoid activity” constitutes the most up-to-date research into the relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes. What’s more, this was an experimental lab study, not just a review of evidence other scientists have accumulated.

The researchers used a specialized pharmacokinetic tool to model the activity of selected terpenes in conjunction with cannabinoids. As far as results go, they were stunning.

2. The relationship between terpenes and cannabinoids has been researched for a long time

This wasn’t the first time scientists have looked at the potential of a synergy existing between cannabinoids and terpenes. Coined sometime in the 2010s, the term “entourage effect” refers to this theorized synergy, and it’s become something of a pop-culture reference in the hemp and cannabis communities.

One of the first recorded mentions of the entourage effect in a scientific paper was in 2014, and serious research into this phenomenon soon followed. Touted by revered cannabis icon Dr. Ethan Russo as one of the defining benefits of the plant, the entourage effect had become popular enough as an idea to receive significant research funding by 2020.

3. This study confirms that terpenes boost the effects of cannabinoids

This new study by Levigne et. al. provides some of the first concrete pharmacological evidence of the entourage effect’s reality. To be clear, we aren’t talking about synergy with any one cannabinoid, but synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids in general regardless of their regulatory status.

In the study, it was demonstrated that, when combined with a cannabinoid agonist, selected terpenes provided enhanced activation of cannabinoid-targeted neuroreceptors. If that seems like a lot to unpack, don’t worry, we’ll make it clear as we go.

4. It also indicates that terpenes could be cannabimimetic

Perhaps even more importantly, this study is one of the first pieces of hard evidence that terpenes have cannabimimetic properties. That’s another hardcore piece of jargon for you: “cannabimimetic” means a substance that mimics cannabinoids.

So, if a substance has cannabinoid-like properties but isn’t strictly a cannabinoid, it’s cannabimimetic. Scientists have long speculated that terpenes might have cannabimimetic properties, but Levigne et. al. have now provided concrete experimental data suggesting they do.

5. The 4 terpenes studied were humulene, geraniol, linalool, and pinene

Let’s be clear — this study implies that all terpenes are cannabimimetic and synergistic with cannabinoids, but it only actually examined four. These terpenes were α-humulene, geraniol, linalool, and β-pinene, which are all reasonably abundant in cannabis of all varieties. They’re all about equally common as well.

6. A cannabinoid agonist was used

These four terpenes were applied in conjunction with WIN55,212, a synthetic cannabinoid agonist. As a refresher of high school biology, an “agonist” is a substance that activates a neuroreceptor while an “antagonist” blocks its activation.

The researchers used an agonist instead of an antagonist to see how terpenes worked together with cannabinoids. Instead of using an actual cannabinoid, they used a synthetic substance that only activates specific receptors rather than providing a holistic effect.

7. The terpenes had an additive effect with the agonist

The scientists observed that the selected four terpenes increased the effectiveness of the cannabinoid agonist, suggesting that they offer similar activity when combined with real cannabinoids. Specifically, the event observed was enhanced activation of cannabinoid-targeted neuroreceptors that could not be accounted for by the administration of the cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN55,212.

If real cannabinoids had been used, these results would have been worthless. Since the operating parameters of WIN55,212 in the human body are so thoroughly understood, though, the results of this study are compelling.

8. Terpenes are “multifunctional cannabimimetic ligands”

What does all this mean about terpenes, cannabinoids, and how they work together? We think the best way to start explaining is for you to read the primary findings of the study for yourself:

“Our findings suggest that these Cannabis terpenes are multifunctional cannabimimetic ligands that provide conceptual support for the entourage effect hypothesis and could be used to enhance the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids.”

9. The case for the entourage effect is strengthened

So, let’s see. Instead of just being aromatic but basically useless substances, terpenes in hemp flower serve multiple important purposes while also mimicking the effects of cannabinoids once they enter your body. Furthermore, the fact that terpenes mimic cannabinoids makes it all the more likely that these natural, aromatic compounds truly do have the power to enhance the benefits of cannabis.

Further-furthermore, the fact that terpenes can enhance the benefits of cannabis indicates that hemp or cannabis products with higher concentrations of terpenes, such as hemp flower or terpene-boosted vape cartridges, are more beneficial than products with fewer terpenes. That might take a moment to sink in.

10. Natural hemp is more important than ever

For years, the pharmaceutical industry has tried to lead cannabis and hemp toward the dark side. Isolating cannabinoids, making them into synthesized drugs, and forcing consumers to accept the ensuing reduced quality has been the playbook for so long that Big Pharma is operating on autopilot at this point.

Studies like these prove, though, that the Cannabis sativa plant is at its best when kept together as a cohesive whole. The second you begin messing around with what nature designed, the secret mysteries of life start evaporating.

As the showdown between natural hemp products and junky pharmaceuticals looms, we need to know where we stand. Whichever way hemp is most helpful, it’s our job to get it to the people who need it most. Knowing about terpenes and how amazing they are will make that sacred task a little easier.

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Tyler William, Founder and Ceo