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Open your container of bud and take one out, look closely. See those sticky shiny dots of resin? Inside there are hundreds of therapeutic compounds that contribute to the effects and benefits of cannabis. Our bodies take in hundreds of botanical compounds when we smoke or vape, each one brings unique effects and benefits, and their behavior may change in the presence of other compounds. This is called “the entourage effect”, the theory that the various cannabis compounds work together to create unique effects. It’s very much like how your mood may change depending on your social environment. How do you behave at a party with strangers versus a party with your closest friends? How about when you’re alone? Your mood and the personality you project shift depending on who’s in the room. So, let’s get to know two types of compounds at this party we are going to. First, cannabinoids.

You are likely acquainted with the plant’s two most famous cannabinoids THC and CBD, however there are many other cannabinoids and compounds that the plant produces that seem to play a supporting role in the overall effects of a particular strain. Cannabinoids are a variety of chemical compounds in cannabis that act on receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system to produce different effects. They also work synergistically with one another along with other chemical compounds to enhance the overall experience. 

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – Strong psychoactive, commonly used for: energy, focus, euphoria, sleep 
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) – Non-psychoactive, commonly used for: pain relief, anxiety relief, seizure prevention, inflammation relief, relaxation, sleep
  • Cannabigerol (CBG) – Non-psychoactive, commonly used for: pain relief, muscle relaxant, anti-depressant, anti-proliferative (may slow the spread of cancer cells), anti-psoriatic, antibacterial, anti-fungal
  • Cannabinol (CBN) – Mild-psychoactive, commonly used for: pain relief, inflammation relief, sleep aid, bone support, nausea relief, appetite stimulation, antibacterial
  • 9-tetrahydrocannabinol acid (THCa) – Non-psychoactive, commonly used for: appetite stimulation, relief for nausea/vomiting, inflammation relief, slow the progression of certain neurological diseases
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) – Mild-psychoactive, commonly used for: appetite suppression, bone support, diabetes management, Alzheimer’s relief, PTSD relief of panic attacks 

Alright, this party is getting pretty good, but it’s going to get better with terpenes here to round out our experience. Terpenes, or terps, are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. These aromatic compounds help plants attract bees and other pollinators while fending off pests and predators. There are tens of thousands of them throughout nature and over 150 identified terpenes in cannabis. Each individual strain has a unique profile of terpenes that work in tandem with cannabinoids to produce specific effects we associate with cannabis.  A few are…

  • Limonene – Citrus aroma, effects include anti-anxiety, immunosuppressant, antidepressant, antibacterial, gastroprotective, kills breast cancer cells and aids in absorption of other terpenes through skin and mucus membranes
  • Pinene – Pine aroma, effects include anti-inflammatory, bronchodilation, anti-microbial, focus and memory enhancement 
  • Humulene – Earthy, hoppy aroma, effects include anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, analgesic, anti-proliferative, anorectic (appetite suppressant)
  • Linalool – Floral and sweet citrus aroma (often found in lavender), effects include anti-anxiety, sedative, local anesthetic, analgesic, anti-convulsive 
  • Myrcene – Earthy, hoppy aroma with a side of tropical fruit, effects include sedative, analgesic, antibiotic, muscle relaxant 
  • Caryophyllene – Pepper, clove, spicy aromas, effects include anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, antidepressant, antioxidant, anti-microbial, gastroprotective 

To put things simply, the entourage effect is the theory that the full spectrum of the cannabis plant works best together – the interaction between all the compounds from a cannabis plant, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, come together to enhance their effects. The key to mastering your own wellness journey with cannabis is understanding these compounds, their effects and knowing what you want or need from them. So next time you come visit Great Barrington you have a better idea of what questions to ask and what to look for when making your purchase.