Cannabinoids and terpenes

Cannabinoids and terpenes are molecules produced by the cannabis plant which are synthesized and stored inside the glandular trichomes. While cannabinoids are responsible for the effects of this plant on your body, terpenes are aromatic molecules which give each plant its characteristic smell and taste, also modulating the effects of cannabinoids. In this category you'll find articles about the different cannabinoids and terpenes found in the cannabis plant, essential compounds to explain the unique flavour and effect of each individual.

Myrcene: a terpene that enhances cannabinoid activity

Myrcene: a terpene that enhances cannabinoid activity

What is myrcene?

  • Name: Myrcene, β-myrcene
  • Chemical formula: C10H16
  • IUPAC name: 7-Methyl-3-methyleneocta-1,6-diene
  • Density: 794kg/m3
  • Molar mass: 136,23g/mol
  • Boiling point: 167ºC
  • Appearance: Yellowish non-water soluble oily liquid

Myrcene is one of the main terpenes found in the cannabis plant, often the most common, and certainly one of the most researched. As we already saw in our article on cannabis terpenes, these non-psychoactive organic compounds give the plants their characteristic aroma and flavour, and have different properties with a huge therapeutic potential. Terpenes - sometimes known as isoprenoids - are molecules derived from isoprene, so they are considered as hydrocarbons. They can contain 10 carbon atoms (like the compound we are discussing here - and then we’ll be talking about monoterpenes), or 15 carbon atoms, which are the so-called sesquiterpenes.

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THCP, a cannabinoid up to 30 times more potent than THC

THCP, a cannabinoid up to 30 times more potent than THC
THCP rich cannabis flowers

Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabiphorol: the new holy grail of cannabis?

Towards the end of 2019, a team of Italian scientists investigating the properties of cannabis came upon something totally unexpected: two new and important cannabinoids.

These cannabinoids turned out to be very similar to regular THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol), but with a greater number of carbon atoms in their alkyl side chain, which means their properties and even their potency are modified.

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Flavonoids and Cannabis

Flavonoids and Cannabis

The many different varieties of cannabis contain hundreds of compounds (the exact number is hard to calculate), each with its own characteristics and properties. You'll most likely have heard of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids as components of the plant, with the first two occupying much of the general interest. However, it is estimated that flavonoids represent 10% of the total substances produced by the plant, and 2.5% of the dry weight in leaves and flowers. But what are flavonoids? What is their purpose, and how do they act? In this article we will answer these questions.

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Cannabigerol CBG: The main precursor to all cannabinoids

Cannabigerol CBG: The main precursor to all cannabinoids

What is CBG?

  • Name: Cannabigerol
  • Formula: C21H32O2
  • IUPAC name: 2-[(2E)-3,7-dimethylocta-2,6-dienyl]-5-pentylbenzene-1,3-diol
  • Molecular mass: 316,48 g/mol
  • Boiling point: Not available
  • Apearance: White powder/crystals

Discovered by Gaoni and Mechoulam in 1964, CBG or cannabigerol is one of the cannabinoids exclusively produced by the cannabis plant, which is stored in the trichome heads with the rest of cannabinoids and terpenes. While the CBG content in most plants is often low or very low - in most cases lower than 1% - this particular compound is crucial for cannabinoid synthesis, as we have known for the past 4 decades ( (Shoyama, Yagi and Nishioka, Phytochemistry Journal, October 1975). As a general rule, hemp contains higher amounts of CBG than commercial, narcotic cannabis strains.

CBG is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid, which means it is produced by plants and does not "get you high". It is believed that it has multiple medicinal properties which can be used to treat different conditions, and is also precursor - its acid form, to be exact - to the main cannabinoids (THCA, CBDA, CBCA) secreted in the trichome heads, which in turn explains the low percentage of CBG found in mature plants when compared to their THC or CBD content.

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The Entourage Effect: Synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes

The Entourage Effect: Synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes

What is the entourage effect?

The so-called entourage effect (sometimes referred to as the ensemble effect) is a term used for the first time in a study on the interaction between various compounds present in cannabis, published in the July 1998 issue of the European Journal of Pharmacology. This text (An entourage effect: inactive endogenous fatty acid glycerol esters enhance 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol cannabinoid activity) was written by researchers and scientists including Professor Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat among others, and demonstrates the increase in activity of a given cannabinoid thanks to the presence of another compound, in this case the esters of a fatty acid. However, as research has progressed over the years, this term has been coined to refer to the interaction, or synergy between the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids present in the plant that define the effects of cannabis.

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Pinene: A terpene that can improve your memory

Pinene: A terpene that can improve your memory

What is Pinene?

  • Name: Pinene, alpha-pinene, beta-pinene
  • Formula: C10 H16
  • IUPAC name: (1S,5S)-2,6,6-trimethylbicyclo[3.1.1]hept-2-ene
  • Molar mass: 136.24 g/mol
  • Boiling point: 155-156ºC
  • Appearance at room temperature: Liquid, almost insoluble in water

Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpene widely found in the resin of many plant species, from conifers (pine trees, spruces) to non-conifer plants like wormwood, rosemary, sage, heterotheca or cannabis. Two isomers are found in Nature, called alpha-pinene (?-pinene) and beta-pinene (?-pinene), which can be found in substances like pine resin, turpentine or camphene and are also used by many insects to communicate. Pinene is also a common terpene in a large number of cannabis strains, being highly appreciated by many users for its beneficial properties.

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Cannabicyclol (CBL) - A cannabinoid in need of investigation

Cannabicyclol (CBL) - A cannabinoid in need of investigation

What is Cannabicyclol?

  • Name: Cannabicyclol
  • Formula: C21 H30 O2
  • IUPAC Name: (1aR- (1a alpha, 3a alpha, 8b alpha, 8c alpha)) - 1a, 2, 3, 3a, 8b, 8c-hexahydro-1,1,3a-trimethyl-6-pentyl-1H- 4-oxabenzo (f) cyclobut (cd) inden-8-ol
  • Molar mass: 314.469 g/mol

Cannabicyclol, also called CBL, is one of the least known and studied cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Although it is commonly found in many varieties, in particular those with a higher content of CBC (Cannabichromene), the amount of CBL produced in trichomes is always very low, so it doesn't usually receive the attention given to other, more plentiful compounds of the plant with a much more noticeable presence, such as THC, CBD or CBN.

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Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): The principal cannabinoid in cannabis

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): The principal cannabinoid in cannabis

What is THC?

  • Name: Tetrahydrocannabinol or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol
  • Formula: C21H30O2
  • IUPAC Name: Tetrahydro-6,6,9-trimethyl-3-pentyl-6H-dibenzene [b, d] pyran-1-ol
  • Molecular weight: 314.45 g / mol
  • Boiling point: 157ºC
  • Presence at room temperature: crystalline solid at low temperature, viscous when heated
  • Not soluble in water, highly soluble in lipids, alcohols and hydrocarbons such as butane

Without a doubt, THC (often called delta-9-THC) is the most widely known cannabinoid of the cannabis plant. Although it is almost completely absent in some - usually hemp - varieties, that barely reach 1%, the drug varieties of cannabis show a high content (up to 30%) of what is the main psychotropic compound produced in the trichomes of the marijuana. Indeed, THC is the most important psychoactive component of cannabis, responsible for the "high" sensation commonly associated with the consumption of this plant and which has made it illegal in most countries of the world.

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Limonene: An essential terpene in Nature

Limonene: An essential terpene in Nature

What is Limonene?

  • Name: Limonene, d-limonene
  • Formula: C10H16
  • IUPAC Name: 1-methyl-4-(1-methylethenyl)-cyclohexene
  • Density: 841.1 kg/m3
  • Molar mass: 136.23 g/mol
  • Boiling point: 176ºC/348.8ºF
  • Presence at room temperature: Colourless liquid, very low solubility in water

Limonene is one of the most widely used monoterpenes - aromatic molecules produced by a large number of plants - in the industry, either to make food or as constituents of perfumes, medicines or detergents, also to manufacture biodegradable solvents or to replace toxic solvents. It is a terpene commonly related to cannabis, since many of the existing cannabis strains contain limonene to a greater or lesser degree. Citrus fruits also contain high amounts of limonene, especially in the peel, as well as other plants like mint, rosemary or juniper.

It is usually classed among limonoids along with other terpenes like pinene or eucalyptol, which are often found together in the same fruits. The D-isomer (also called R or alpha) has intense citric aroma, reminiscent of oranges or lemons, while the L-isomer (also called S or beta) is closer to pine trees. Limonene is used in the industry to mask other odours or flavours, and - along with camphene - can be obtained by catalysing another well known aromatic compound, pinene. The most widely used methods to extract limonene - and other terpenes - from fruits are steam distillation or centrifugal force.

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Cannabinol (CBN): The Cannabinoid Against Insomnia

Cannabinol (CBN): The Cannabinoid Against Insomnia

What is CBN?

  • Name: Cannabinol
  • Formula: C21H26O2
  • IUPAC name: 6,6,9-trimethyl-3-pentylbenzo [c] chromen-1-ol
  • Molecular mass: 310.4319 g / mol
  • Melting point: 77 ° C
  • Boiling point: 185 ° C
  • Presence at room temperature: Solid, crystalline and colorless

CBN or cannabinol is one of the most important compounds found in cannabis, along with THC or CBD. Although the proportion of CBN is usually quite low (no more than 1%), especially when compared to the main psychoactive component of the plant, THC (which can reach almost 30%), this cannabinoid has a number of therapeutic properties of great value for a multitude of medicinal users, which has led to studies and tests on the possible applications of CBN becoming increasingly numerous.

CBN is a cannabinoid produced exclusively by the cannabis plant, and it can not be found in any other plant species. Its psychoactivity is low, which for many medicinal users represents a great advantage, and it is believed to be the cause of the sedative and narcotic effect of some varieties of cannabis, in addition to being a partial agonist of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, being somewhat more linked with the CB2 receptor (inhibits adenylate cyclase). It is a molecule that is readily dissolved in fats or the various solvents used to make cannabis resin extractions, being hydrophobic (water repellent) and lipophilic (having affinity for lipids).

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Cannabichromene (CBC): a cannabinoid with therapeutic potential

Cannabichromene (CBC): a cannabinoid with therapeutic potential

What is CBC?

  • Name: Cannabichromene
  • Formula: C21H30O2
  • IUPAC name: 2-methyl-2- (4-methylpent-3-enyl) -7-pentylchromen-5-ol
  • Molecular weight: 314.469 g/mol
  • Boiling point: 220 ° C

Although the amount of cannabichromene that's normally found in analysis of modern cannabis flower or resin samples is relatively small, indeed significantly lower than that of THC, or even CBD (in many cases), CBC is still classified as a major phytocannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant, sharing as it does structural similarities with some of the most important cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBN or THCV) and in fact sharing a formula with the much better known THC and CBD.

Cannabichromene was discovered in 1966 by Gaoni and Mechoulam on one hand and almost simultaneously by Claussen on the other, although since then little research has been carried out on this cannabinoid, with THC and CBD being the protagonists of the majority of subsequent studies. However, as we will see below, today there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the tremendous therapeutic potential of this cannabinoid, especially in combination with other compounds in what is often referred to as an ?ensemble? effect.

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Hashishene, the new terpene of cannabis

Hashishene, the new terpene of cannabis

Hashish and terpenes

As we already know, terpenes are responsible for the taste and scent of many of the vegetables that produce them. They are a broad class of organic hydrocarbons derived from isoprene (CH2=C(CH3)CH=CH2) which compose the bulk of resins and essential oils of plants, thus providing unique flavours to each individual as a result of terpene combination. They are also called terpenoids when they have undergone an oxidating or molecular re-combination process. As we also know, most cannabis terpenes have properties of great medicinal value.

As the flowering stage progresses, more and more terpenes are secreted inside the trichome heads, so that the terpene profile of the plant changes as it ripens. The same thing happens when drying and curing buds, the process of oxidation and partial decarboxylation to which buds are exposed makes their terpene range to change over time. Some terpenes will degrade faster than others, so the terpene range of the weed - we must remember that we know of more than 100 terpenes in cannabis - will vary unless it is vacuum-sealed and properly stored. This fact explains why the smell and taste of one sample can evolve throughout the drying and curing process.

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Cannabinoids and their medicinal properties

Cannabinoids and their medicinal properties
The main cannabinoids of marijuana

The cannabis plant and phytocannabinoids

THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBG and approxiamately 80 more molecules make up the phytocannabinoids family, which are found in varying amounts, depending on environmental conditions, andt the marijuana plant. Some cannabinoids are responsible for the main effects of cannabis and others have important medicinal properties, that the scientific community continues to discover every day.

Some cannabinoids are mainly antidepressants, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti emetic, while others may even help protect the nervous system. Actually, we are just beginning to discover the potential of cannabinoids and all their possible applications, mainly in the context of some cancers, as well as other degenerative diseases.

We can classify the cannabinoids into four major groups: natural cannabinoids from plants (phytocannabinoids), natural endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids produced by the human body and securing biological functions), cannabinoids synthesis (potentially dangerous, as there is very little information on its effects), and mimetic or cannabimimetic cannabinoids (naturally occurring molecule or synthetic, replicating the action of cannabinoids on CB1 and / or CB2 receptors).

In this article, we will only discuss the naturally occurring cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, the phytocannabinoids.

Most of the cannabinoids are present in very small amounts (less than 0.01% of total cannabinoids) are not considered psychoactive, and the effect is not significant. Indeed, many are simply homologues or analogues (similar structure or function) of some of the major known cannabinoids.

However, medical research regularly reveals new and surprising discoveries about these cannabinoids present in trace form. Unfortunately, this research and its findings are significantly hampered by the leglisation in many countries.

Different mixtures of cannabinoids and other related molecules (mainly aromatic compounds such as myrcene), largely explain the variations of effects we found between one variety of cannabis and another. The strength of the effect depends mainly on the level of THC, THC / CBD ratio and form of consumption, but this effect can also be modulated in several different ways.

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