Cannabis Is More Than THC: The Other Phytonutrients in Weed
As any cannabis connoisseur can tell you, every strain of cannabis feels different. Even two strains with an identical percentage of THC, the primary compound responsible for the marijuana “high,” can yield remarkably diverse experiences.
One strain could glue you to the couch, while another inspires creativity. And yet another may have an uncanny ability to help you sleep.
Given that THC content alone is insufficient to explain these differences, the curious medical marijuana patient must ask themselves, what is responsible?
Cannabinoids & Terpenes
While THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, it is not the only therapeutic compound found in this healthful plant.
Every female cannabis plant contains hundreds of compounds that may prove beneficial for human health. These compounds, known collectively as phytonutrients, exist in the highest concentration in the sticky resin that’s visible on marijuana buds.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two most well-known phytonutrients in marijuana. They both belong to a class of compounds termed cannabinoids, of which there are over 100 in cannabis.
THC and CBD receive the most attention not because they are the most beneficial, but because they are the most abundant. Because other cannabinoids are more expensive to extract than THC and CBD, little research has been conducted on them.
In early studies on the other cannabinoids found in marijuana, scientists have discovered beneficial effects on mood, cognitive health and function, inflammation, appetite, insomnia, and more. But more research is needed before we can determine to what extent they are therapeutically valuable.
Terpenes are another class of phytonutrients found in marijuana. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds responsible for the unique aromas of various cannabis strains. When you use an essential oil, the scent is a result of the terpenes found within.
Some terpenes in marijuana include:
Limonene: Also found in citrus fruits, limonene is believed to boost mood.
Myrcene: A terpene in mango and lemongrass, myrcene is thought to induce sleepiness.
Linalool: Linalool occurs in lavender and may encourage relaxation.
The collection of diverse cannabinoids and terpenes may hold therapeutic potential, both when used alone and when consumed in combination with the other phytonutrients found in cannabis.
The Entourage Effect—Is Whole Plant Medicine More Effective?
While people often credit the health benefits of cannabis to one compound or another (mainly THC or CBD), the greatest benefits might come from products that contain a mixture of phytonutrients.
Cannabis phytonutrients seem to work synergistically—meaning that their therapeutic potential is amplified when taken together. This synergy is referred to as the entourage effect.
There are many studies that support the entourage effect. In human studies:
Cancer patients reported greater pain reduction with a combination of THC and CBD than THC alone.
Epilepsy patients experienced fewer side effects and greater efficacy with CBD-rich cannabis extracts than CBD-only treatments.
What this research tells us is that people are likely to experience different effects depending on what cannabis products they consume. More specifically, that herbal flower and whole-plant extracts might yield greater therapeutic relief or fewer side effects than THC-only options.
The next time you head to the dispensary, try out marijuana flower or full-plant extracts rather than THC isolates. And to help you find the best medical marijuana for you, record how you feel whenever you try something new. You might use one strain during the day, another at night, and another when your symptoms are particularly severe.
If you are an Arkansan suffering from one of these 18 medical conditions you may be eligible to treat your ailment with medical marijuana, which includes both THC and CBD products.
Click here to learn more about what Arkansas Marijuana Card's state-certified medical marijuana doctors can do for you, or give us a call at (844-249-8714) and our friendly support team can walk you through the entire process, and set you up with an appointment.