Researchers at the University of New Mexico have found that the terpene levels in cannabis lead to greater symptom relief in patients.

The study, published earlier this month in The Journal of Cannabis Research, found that “relief was greatest after consumption of plant variants with slightly higher than average levels of the terpenes myrcene and terpinolene and non-detectable levels of CBD.”

Patients we asked to report on self-administered cannabis, logging symptom changes in real-time on a mobile application called Releaf. In total, 252,344 sessions were recorded by 13,771 users between June 6th 2016 and March 11th 2021.

The study also found that CBD-rich cannabis was the least effective. “chemovars with any detectable levels of CBD (e.g., MC61 and MC62) provided the least relief, the fewest positive side effects, and the most negative and context-specific side effects. These findings are consistent with previous research showing that naturally abundant CBD in Cannabis flower may act as an inhibitor of optimal treatment for certain health conditions such as gastrointestinal pain,” the authors wrote. 

The data were analysed as part of a wider study to understand the varying effects brought about by different cannabis strains. By cross-breeding cannabis plants, cultivators create plants with varying levels of phytochemicals, creating unique chemovars. The authors of the study wished to create “a clinically relevant, user-friendly, scalable chemovar indexing system summarizing primary cannabinoid and terpene contents and [test] whether the most frequently consumed chemovars differ in their treatment effectiveness and experienced side effects.”

By asking patients to report on their choice chemovar and the outcomes after consumption, researchers were able to “provide ‘proof-of-concept’ that a simple, yet comprehensive chemovar indexing system can be used to identify systematic differences in clinically relevant patient health outcomes and other common experiences across Cannabis flower products, irrespective of the product’s commercial or strain name.” 

An often overlooked constituent of the cannabis plant, terpenes are found in the essential oils that make up the unique smell of cannabis and many other plants, such as lavender pine and lemon. Numerous studies have suggested that the combined effects of cannabinoids and terpenes are more effective at treating health conditions.

Terpene content of cannabis has greatest impact on patient symptoms, study finds

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