Terpenes and cannabinoids may be more effective at reducing inflammation than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), according to a study by GB Sciences.
The most effective cannabinoid identified in the study was THC, while the most effective terpene was alpha-pinene.
The research, published in Frontiers in Immunology, tested the effects of various terpenes and cannabinoids on human cells and found that they were more effective at reducing inflammation than NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
Findings suggest that these compounds could potentially help alleviate the symptoms of chronic diseases like arthritis, asthma, and heart disease, and possibly even prevent their development.
What are cannabinoids and terpenes?
Cannabinoids and terpenes are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are a diverse class of chemical compounds that act on cannabinoid receptors in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain.
The most well-known cannabinoid is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and is responsible for the plant’s mind-altering effects. CBD (cannabidiol) is another well-known cannabinoid that has been shown to have a variety of medicinal benefits, including pain relief and reducing anxiety and inflammation.
Terpenes, on the other hand, are a large and diverse class of organic compounds that are produced by a variety of plants, including cannabis. These compounds are responsible for the distinct aromas and flavours of different strains of cannabis, and they also have medicinal properties.
For example, the terpene linalool has been shown to have anxiety-reducing and sedative effects, while the terpene alpha-pinene has previously been shown to have anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator effects.
Michigan State University researchers partnered with GB Sciences to test the concentration of terpenes in human primary immune cells using a co-culture system that simulates the interactions of the human immune system.
The specific terpenes chosen for the study, including alpha-pinene, trans-nerolidol, D-limonene, linalool and phytol, were selected based on their previous activity in chemovar studies.
And the immune cell types chosen for the study were chosen for their role in regulating inflammation.
According to the study, the most effective cannabinoid was THC, followed by CBDV, CBD, CBC, CBN, and CBD.
The terpene alpha-Pinene had the greatest immune-modulating activity, followed by linalool, phytol, and trans-nerolidol.
Limonene had no effect, which may be due to the selectivity of some terpenes or their targeting of a single cell type.
Researchers also found that the combination of different terpenes and cannabinoids was more effective at reducing inflammation than any one compound alone, potentially due to the “entourage effect,” in which cannabis compounds work together to create a stronger effect.
Overall, authors believe the compounds in cannabis may have more favourable side effect profiles than NSAIDs and see this as a promising first step.
Dr Andrea Small-Howard, President, Chief Science Officer, and Director of Gb Sciences said:
“We believe that this is the first demonstration of the anti-inflammatory potential of some very potent minor cannabinoids and terpenes derived from Cannabis.”
A study from 2022 found that the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis may be, at least partially, caused by a reduction in body mass index (BMI).
The study followed 712 young people over a number of years and tracked their substance use, BMI, and plasma samples. It was found that a greater cumulative score on the Cannabis Use Disorders Identification Test-Revised (CUDIT-R), which measures cannabis use, was associated with lower levels of biomarkers of systemic inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6.
However, when BMI was included in the analysis, these associations were weakened, suggesting that BMI may partially explain the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis.
The authors of the study suggest that further research on the mechanisms linking cannabis use, BMI, and inflammation may uncover promising targets for interventions.
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