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Terpenes produce more than just scents. These secret weapons and major means of communication in the plant world—about 20,000 distinct chemicals have been identified to date—can also exert a wide range of biological effects. There is evidence that some terpenes can improve cognition, block pain, kill harmful bacteria, cause hallucinations, suppress inflammation, fight cancer, make you sick, reduce stress, and get you high.

In the world of cannabis, terpenes are a subject of steadily increasing interest. Project Convention on Biological Diversity I mentioned recently In a new study, analytical chemistry was used to identify key differences between samples of cannabis labeled sativa and indica. The researchers did not reveal any evidence for the common assumption that these two terms represent distinct genetic strains, nor was there a significant difference between them in terms of the cannabis profile. In the end, it was all boiled down to a few terpenes including farnesene, myrcene and eudesmol – compounds that, along with the unstudied flavonoids, simultaneously affect the flavor and effect of cannabis.

As scientists continue to study terpenes and their place not only in the world of cannabis but in all herbal medicine, new and sometimes surprising results about these wonderful plant compounds are emerging almost weekly.

Bad for cancer cells, good for brain health?

Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene (made up of three isoprene units).1) is famous for contributing to the flavoring of black pepper. It’s also found in hemp, cloves, hops, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, basil, and more. As a result of its presence in many common foods and spices, it has been the subject of considerable scientific interest over the past two decades—particularly following the discovery in 2008 that beta-caryophyllene is associated with CB2 Cannabinoid-like receptors, making it the first “known nutritional drug”.

Last month, I added two more papers to the evidence base for the potential healing powers of beta-caryophyllene. First, a team of Italian researchers published in the journal Molecules2 Hemp flower extracts contain three different forms of terpenes as well as non-toxic hemp Convention on Biological Diversity And CBC It was toxic to triple negative breast cancer cells. Most of this cytotoxicity is attributed to Convention on Biological DiversityAuthors write with CBC The caryophyllene increase its potency: a classic case of footnote effect.

A week later, a paper appeared in Journal of Food Biochemistry3 Attention called for an entirely different result: improved cognitive function. A team of researchers affiliated with an Indian company called Vidya herbs Feeding black pepper seed extract, standardized to contain 30% beta-caryophyllene, to rats previously treated with a drug that induces an animal model of dementia. They reported that the extract restored spatial recognition and memory in these mice in a dose-dependent manner, as measured in a pair of behavioral tests, as well as improved biomarkers of cognitive function and induced anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. Although interesting, these findings should be taken with a degree of caution given that the authors are associated with a private company that produces the extract in question (Viveline) and their explicit conclusion that “our data encourage Viphyllin as a functional ingredient/dietary supplement for brain and cognitive health.”

Reducing pain through the endocannabinoid system

Two other papers highlighted the ability of some terpenes to relieve different forms of pain. In one study published in October 2021 in Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research4A team of Brazilian researchers, in collaboration with respected cannabis scientist Vincenzo de Marzo of the National Research Council in Italy, tested the effect of alcohol, a coffee diterpene.

through management CB1 And CB2 Receptor antagonists, researchers have discovered that alcohel reduces the sensation of pain through the endocannabinoid system — more specifically, by releasing and activating the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide. CB1 receptors. They concluded that “this compound could be used to develop new drugs for pain relief” – even though many of us smell it and drink it daily.

A second study investigated the ability of cannabis-derived alpha-bisabolol terpenes (which impart a floral scent and are also found in chamomile) and camphene (whose scent is often described as “pungent”) to inhibit inflammatory pain and neuropathy. as stated in molecular brain5, the authors found that both molecules exhibited a “broad spectrum of analgesic actions” by modulating T-type calcium channels in the brain, which have been previously identified as targets of certain plants and endocannabinoids.

Fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a serious concern in hospitals, health care facilities, and other settings where people come into close physical contact or share equipment or supplies. Infection with this bacteria, which spreads through the skin, is often harmless – but in some cases it can also lead to sepsis or death because it is so difficult to treat due to its resistance to common antibiotics.

It is already known that many terpenes possess strong antibacterial properties; This is part of what plants are made of, after all. A team of researchers based in the Czech Republic and Italy have now reported in the journal Natural Products Research6 That the two diterpenes hitherto uncharacteristic of the plant Coleus Bloomi Show antibacterial activity against MRSA.

Interestingly, this common nursery plant, bred to produce a variety of cultivars for ornamental uses in home gardens, has also historically been consumed by indigenous peoples in Mexico for its psychoactive effects. in their book gods plants, ethnobotanist Richard Evan Schultz, chemist Albert Hoffmann, and anthropologist Christian Ratch note that Coleus bears some similarities with sage divinorum, a strong dissociative hallucinogen also found in Mexico. The active ingredient of this plant is a unique diterpene called Salivorin A, which produces its effects through kappa opioid receptors.

could Coleus be terpene psychoactive In addition to antimicrobials? As Schultz et al. Written 20 years ago in the revised edition of their groundbreaking book (first published in 1979), and apparently still true today, “Further research must be done in chemistry and pharmacology.”


Nate Seltenrich, a freelance science journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area, covers a wide range of topics including environmental health, neuroscience, and pharmacology.

Copyright, Project Convention on Biological Diversity. It may not be reprinted without So.


Notes

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