Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects

“The roots of cannabis synergy.”

“Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been the primary focus of cannabis research since 1964, when Raphael Mechoulam isolated and synthesized it. More recently, the synergistic contributions of cannabidiol to cannabis pharmacology and analgesia have been scientifically demonstrated. Other phytocannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabivarin, cannabigerol and cannabichromene, exert additional effects of therapeutic interest. Innovative conventional plant breeding has yielded cannabis chemotypes expressing high titres of each component for future study. This review will explore another echelon of phytotherapeutic agents, the cannabis terpenoids: limonene, myrcene, α-pinene, linalool, β-caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, nerolidol and phytol. Terpenoids share a precursor with phytocannabinoids, and are all flavour and fragrance components common to human diets that have been designated Generally Recognized as Safe by the US Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies. Terpenoids are quite potent, and affect animal and even human behaviour when inhaled from ambient air at serum levels in the single digits ng·mL−1. They display unique therapeutic effects that may contribute meaningfully to the entourage effects of cannabis-based medicinal extracts. Particular focus will be placed on phytocannabinoid-terpenoid interactions that could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections (including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Scientific evidence is presented for non-cannabinoid plant components as putative antidotes to intoxicating effects of THC that could increase its therapeutic index. Methods for investigating entourage effects in future experiments will be proposed. Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy, if proven, increases the likelihood that an extensive pipeline of new therapeutic products is possible from this venerable plant.”

“Cannabis has been a medicinal plant of unparalleled versatility for millennia, but whose mechanisms of action were an unsolved mystery until the discovery of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the first cannabinoid receptor, CB1, and the endocannabinoids, anandamide (arachidonoylethanolamide, AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). While a host of phytocannabinoids were discovered in the 1960s: cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC) (Gaoni and Mechoulam, cannabidivarin (CBDV) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), the overwhelming preponderance of research focused on psychoactive THC. Only recently has renewed interest been manifest in THC analogues, while other key components of the activity of cannabis and its extracts, the cannabis terpenoids, remain understudied. The current review will reconsider essential oil (EO) agents, their peculiar pharmacology and possible therapeutic interactions with phytocannabinoids.”

“Should positive outcomes result from such studies, phytopharmaceutical development may follow. The development of zero-cannabinoid cannabis chemotypes has provided extracts that will facilitate discernment of the pharmacological effects and contributions of different fractions. Breeding work has already resulted in chemotypes that produce 97% of monoterpenoid content as myrcene, or 77% as limonene (E. de Meijer, pers. comm.). Selective cross-breeding of high-terpenoid- and high-phytocannabinoid-specific chemotypes has thus become a rational target that may lead to novel approaches to such disorders as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, drug dependency, dementia and a panoply of dermatological disorders, as well as industrial applications as safer pesticides and antiseptics. A better future via cannabis phytochemistry may be an achievable goal through further research of the entourage effect in this versatile plant that may help it fulfil its promise as a pharmacological treasure trove.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/

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