Lab Testing

Medical Effects of Terpenes and Cannabinoids

            Cannabis contains over 120 Active Turpenoids.   cannabinoids and terpenes are both types of Terpenoids.  Ethnobotanica currently tests for only five of the most prominent and psychoactive of these Cannabinoids.  Our current lab will begin testing for levels of various turpenes beginning Spring/Summer of 2013. 

            Until then patients should use the known properties of terpenes and cannabinoids to guide their medicinal choices.  Below, we give a basic description of some of the cannabinoids and Terpenes found in Cannabis.  However, it cannot be understated how complex the relationship between cannabinoids and their terpene cousins.   As it turns out, the science shows that terpenes and cannabinoids not only have a direct psychoactive and health  effect on medical Cannabis patients, but are involved in a complicated web which dictates the end-effect to the medical user.

            The complicated web therefore, should be highlighted before the specific effect of any cannabinoid or terpene.  Since we are not currently testing for terpenes, patients should be cautioned to not take Cannabinoid content in as the sole basis for decision making.  Instead, guide patients to balance the cannabinoid content with the terpene contents.  Patients can more easily identify how a strain will react with them by using their nose than by looking purely at cannabinoid contents.


            For example, Patient A suffers from a brain tumor complicated by diabetes.   Patient A thinks he wants and needs the “most potent thing you have on the shelf”.  As is common, patient A assumes the more psychoactive the effect, the more therapeutic the effects.  Strain A may have 25% THC levels, 0% CBD levels, and 0% terpene levels.  This would give a very strong psychoactive effect, pain relief, anti-emetic, anti spasmatic, and stimulate appetite, but would have little therapeutic effect on his diabetes nor reduce any cranial swelling.  Strain B has 5% CBD, 12% THC, 3% Limonene, and 10% Myrcene (common terpenes), giving the patient a milder set of effects from the THC, but also give the patient the  anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic effects of CBD, limonene, and myrcene, and anti-diabetic effects of the CBD.

            Patients should ultimately trust their own judgment and experience.  If a patient in the past has had a good therapy experience with a strain that smells like oranges, then it is likely another strain which smells like oranges will have a similar effect.  By using terpenes and their smells to help direct choice combined with the known therapeutic values of various terpenes and cannabinoids, patients should be able to get both the desired psychoactive effect and therapeutic values.

What Are Cannabinoids?

             Cannabinoids are a group of terpenophenolic compounds present in Cannabis (''Cannabis sativa'') and occur naturally in the nervous and immune systems of animals.

            The broader definition of cannabinoids refers to a group of substances that are structurally related to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or that bind to cannabinoid receptors.

            The chemical definition encompasses a variety of distinct chemical classes: the classical cannabinoids structurally related to THC, the nonclassical cannabinoids, the aminoalkylindoles, the eicosanoids related to the endocannabinoids, 1, quinolines and arylsulphonamides, and additional compounds that do not fall into these standard classes but bind to cannabinoid receptors.

            The term ''cannabinoids'' also refers to a unique group of secondary metabolites found in the cannabis plant, which are responsible for the plant's peculiar pharmacological effects.

            At the present time, there are three general types of cannabinoids: ''phytocannabinoids'' occur uniquely in the cannabis plant; ''endogenous cannabinoids'' are produced in the bodies of humans and other animals; and ''synthetic cannabinoids'' are similar compounds produced in a laboratory.

What Are the Different Cannabinoids, and What Do They Do?

Cannabidiol (CBD)- With respect to the medical potential of the cannabis, CBD may hold the most promise for many serious conditions. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is believed to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC. Smokers of cannabis with a higher CBD/THC ratio are less likely to experience anxiety. CBD may also inhibit cancer cell growth.

Cannabinolic Acid (CBDA) - The precursor to CBD, CBDA is most often heated to decarboxylate to CBD.  However, CBDA has been shown to exhibit ant-tumor effects on it’s own.  Like THCA, if one desires the effects of CBDA one must not heat or age fresh Cannabis.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - The most abundant and widely known cannabinoid in marijuana, THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the main psychoactive effects patients are familiar with. The compound is a mild analgesic and cellular research has shown the compound has antioxidant activity.  THC is believed to interact with parts of the brain normally controlled by the endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter anandamide.


Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA) - A precursor to THC, THCA decarboxylates to THC when drying, heated when cooked, or smoked.  While THCA does not have psychoactive effects, it does have antiinflamitory and neuroprotective effects.  If high effectual levels of THCA are desired, ingestion of raw, fresh cannabis is required so as to minimize the decarboxylation to THC.

Cannabinol (CBN) - A psychoactive cannabinoid that comes about from the degradation of THC, there is usually very little CBN in a fresh plant.  CBN potentiates the effects of THC. The degradation of THC, into CBN, is often described as creating a "couch lock" effect.

Cannabigerol (CBG) – Testing not currently available - A nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, CBG has antibacterial effects and can alter the overall effects of Cannabis.

Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) – Testing not currently  available - THCV is found in largest quantities in Cannabis sativa strains. It is currently being developed as a treatment for metabollic disorders including diabetes. THCV has been shown to block the psychoactive effects of THC.

Cannabichromene (CBC) – Testing not currently available - More common in tropical cannabis varieties. Effects include anti-inflamatory and analgesic.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes (C5H8)-medicinal molecules and important building blocks in nature

-pronounced (TUR-peen)

-diverse group of organic HydroCarbons (C5H8), produced by a wide variety of plants

-terpenoids are terpenes which have been chemically modified.  They are important building blocks for certain odors, hormones, vitamins, pigments, steroids, resins, essential oils, and CANNABINOIDS!

-they are naturally released from plants when temperatures are higher, helping to seed clouds which then cool the plants

-they interact with each other synergistically for a range of different smells/qualities/effects


Effects when ingested by an animal can be:

-anti-microbial, anti-carcinogen, anti-oxidant, analgesic (painkiller), anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxer, anti-depressant, psychoactive (active molecules in Wormwood/absinthe, Salvia, and Cannabis), anti-anxiety, sedative, vasoconstrictant, vasorelaxant, sensory enhancer…

-some are poisonous to varying degrees and act as natural pesticides (poison hemlock)

Terpenes In Cannabis

-over 120 different terpenes can be manufactured by Cannabis, some only in trace amounts with others in double-digit percentage

-produced in the Trichomes, the same glands where THC is produced, comprising between 10 and 20 percent of the total oils produced by the glands

-about 10-29 percent of marijuana smoke resin is composed of terpenes/terpenoids

-drug sniffing dogs are able to smell odorous terpenes, not THC

-age, maturation and time of day can affect the amount and ratios of terpenes.  They are constantly being produced but are vaporized by heat and light of the day… so harvest in early morning!

-climate and weather also affect terpene and flavonoid production. The same variety, even genotype, can produce a different terpene profile when grown in different soils or with different fertilizers.

-in addition to many circulatory and muscular effects, some terpenes interact with neurological receptors

-a few bind weakly to Cannabinoid receptors

-others seem to alter the permeability of cell membranes and allow in either more or less THC

-others affect serotonin and dopamine chemistry (neurotransmitters)

Common Terpenes Found In Cannabis

Borneol - menthol, camphor, pine, woody.  Can be easily converted into menthol. Found in Cinnamon and Wormwood.  It is considered a "calming sedative" in Chinese medicine. It is directed for fatigue, recovery from illness and stress.

Caryophyllene - spicy, sweet, woody, clove, camphor, peppery.  Found in black pepper(15-25%), clove(10-20%) and cotton(15-25%). It binds weakly to CB2 receptor.  As a topical it is one of the constituents of clove oil, an anti-inflammatory and analgesic treatment for toothache.  In high amounts, it’s a calcium and potassium ion channel blocker.  As a result, it impedes the pressure exerted by heart muscles.  Since THC does not have a smell, drug dogs are trained to find one, very smelly molecule called Caryophyllene-epoxide!

Cineole/Eucalyptol - spicy, camphor, refreshing, minty.  Found in rosemary, eucalyptus.  It is used to increase circulation, pain relief and easily crosses the blood-brain-barrier to trigger fast olfactory reaction. Eucalyptus oil is considered centering, balancing and stimulating. It is possibly the stimulating and thought provoking part of the cannabis smoke stream.

Delta3Carene - sweet, pine, cedar, woodsy, pungent.  A constituent of rosemary, pine and cedar resin. In aroma therapy, cypress oil, high in D-3-carene, is used to dry excess fluids, tears, running noses, excess menstrual flow and perspiration. It may contribute to the dry eye and mouth experienced by some marijuana users.

Limonene- citrus (orange, tangerine, lemon, and grapefruit), rosemary, juniper, peppermint.  Repulsive to predators.  Found in the rinds of many fruits and flowers.  With the presence of other certain terpenes, Limonene can be an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-depressant and anti- carcinogen.  It can synergistically promote the absorption of other terpenes by quickly penetrating cell membranes. The result can be increased systolic blood pressure.  Since Limonene is such a potent anti-fungal and anti-cancer agent, it is thought to protect against aspergillus fungi and carcinogens found in cannabis smoke streams!

Linolool - floral (spring flowers), lily, citrus and candied spice.  Possesses anti-anxiety and sedative properties (also in lavender). 

Myrcene – clove like, earthy, green-vegetative, citrus, fruity with tropical mango and minty nuances.  The most prevalent terpene found in most varieties of marijuana, it is also present in high amounts in Mangos, hops, lemon grass, East Indian bay tree, verbena and Mercia.  Myrcene is one of the most important chemicals used in the perfumery industry. Because of its pleasant odor, it is occasionally used directly.  It’s a building block for menthol, citronella, and geraniol.  It possesses antimicrobial, antiseptic, analgesic, antioxidant, anti-carcinogen, anti depressant, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxing effects.   Myrcene affects the permeability of the cell membranes, allowing more THC to reach brain cells.

Pinene - Alpha: pine needles, rosemary Beta: dill, parsley, rosemary, basil, yarrow, rose, hops, the familiar odor associated with pine trees and their resins. It is the major component in turpentine and is found in many other plant essential oils including rosemary, sage, and eucalyptus.  Pinene can increase mental focus and energy, as well as act as an expectorant, bronchodilator (the smoke seems to expand in your lungs), and topical antiseptic. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier where it inhibits activity of acetylcholinesterase, which destroys acetylcholine, an information transfer molecule, resulting in better memory. It may counteract THC's activity, which leads to low acetylcholine levels.  Largely due to the presence of pinene, rosemary and sage are both considered "memory plants."  Concoctions made from their leaves have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to retain and restore memory.

Pulegone - mint, camphor, rosemary, candy.  It is implicated in liver damage in very high dosages. It is found in tiny quantities in marijuana.  Pulegone is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. That is, it stops the action of the protein that destroys acetylcholine, which is used by the brain to store memories.

Sabinene - Found in oak trees, tea tree oil, black pepper and is a major constituent of carrot seed oil.

Terpineol - floral, lilac, citrus, apple/orange blossoms, lime.  It is a minor constituent of many plant essential oils. It is used in perfumes and soaps for fragrance.  It reduces physical motility 45% in lab rat tests… Couch-lock effect?  

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