Medical Values of Terpenes

The terpenoid compounds found in Cannabis resin are numerous, vary widely among varieties, and produce aromas that are often characteristic of the plant's geographic origin. Although more than 100 different named terpenes have been identified from Cannabis, no more than 40 known terpenes have been identified in a single plant sample, and many more remain unnamed (11). Terpenes are produced via multibranched biosynthetic pathways controlled by genetically determined enzyme systems. This situation presents plant breeders with a wide range of possible combinations for developing medical Cannabis varieties with varying terpenoid profiles and specifically targeted medical uses. Preliminary breeding experiments confirm that the terpenoid profiles of widely differing parents are frequently reflected in the hybrid progeny.

Only recently have Cannabis essential oils become economically important as flavorings and fragrances (17). Early Cannabis medicines were formulated from alcoholic whole flower or resin extracts and contained terpenes, although they were not recognized to be of medical importance. Several of the monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes found in Cannabis and derived from other botanical and synthetic sources are used in commercial medicines. Other as-yet-unidentified terpenes may be unique to Cannabis. The highly variable array of terpenoid side-chain substitutions results in a range of human physiological responses. Certain terpenes stimulate the membranes of the pulmonary system, soothe the pulmonary passages, and facilitate the absorption of other compounds (15). Terpenoid compounds are incorporated into pulmonary medical products such as bronchial inhalers and cough suppressants. Casual studies indicate that when pure THC is smoked, it produces subjectively different effects than it does when combined with trace amounts of mixed Cannabis terpenes. Clinical trials

Cannabinoid Biosynthesis

THCV CBDV CBCV

Allelic gene:

THCV CBDV CBCV

CBGV

THC CBD CBC

THC CBD CBC

CBGV

Allelic gene: Pr

Allelic gene: Pr

C10 polyketide + C12poly nU

Terpenoids

Fig. 3. Cannabinoid biosynthesis is mediated by enzymes controlled by individual genes 16-1 ). Terpenoid biosynthesis also begins along the same general pathway by utilizing geraniol molecules directly. THCV, A9-tetrahydrocannabivarin; CBVD, cannabidivarin; CBCV, cannabichromavarin; THC, A9-tetrahydrocannabinol; CBD, cannabidiol; CBC, cannabichromene; CBGV, cannabigerovarin; CBG, cannabigerol. (Adapted from ref. 1 .)

using whole plant extracts of known cannabinoid content and varying terpenoid profiles will determine whether terpenoid compounds have an effect on the pharmacokinetics of the cannabinoids.

Continue reading here: Cannabis s Origin Domestication and Dispersal

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