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Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and the “Entourage Effect”
Canadian Lumber Natural Rolling Papers - perfect for rolling cannabis of any strain and terpene profile!

Written by Canadian Lumber

November 3, 2020

As cannabis legalization continues to spread across the globe, consumers are faced with a mountain of information on everything from the biology of the cannabis flower to preferred methods of consumption. Canadian Lumber is here to help clear the air on one of the most intriguing cannabis phenomena – the Entourage Effect.

For a botanical that has potentially been used by humans for close to a millenia, the hemp plant – better known as Cannabis sativa L. – is still shrouded in controversy, misconceptions, and mystery. A highly versatile and robust crop, cannabis has been used for much more than its psychoactive properties, with plant stem fiber refinement producing textiles, fabrics, rope, and various other physical goods. As the world continues to embrace the legalization of medicinal and recreational cannabis, it’s imperative that people are aware of how the plant derives its bioactive metabolites and what that means for users of any frequency and consumption style.

So, buckle up and get ready for the Canadian Lumber team to take you on a ride down Cannabis lane. We want you, our mindful smokers, to start rolling up informed, responsible, and ready for a good time. 

Cannabis Anatomy

As even the most casual of cannabis users will tell you, the plant is consumed to unlock the same thing: the plant’s powerful biological and psychoactive properties. The cannabis flower contains a series of chemical compounds that, when activated, yield a group of metabolites known as cannabinoids. The human nervous system is full of receptors for these metabolites, thanks to our own endogenous cannabinoid system. This means humans have evolved to produce and process this particular class of chemicals to serve a biological function. 

Some proponents of medicinal and recreational cannabis even go as far as pointing to the presence of the human endocannabinoid system as an inherent connection between us and the plant. But before we can assess the validity of that claim, there’s still an important question: Where do the exogenous cannabinoids come from?

Microscopic view of Cannabis Flower revieals the glandular trichomes - the site of cannabinoid and terpene production

Microscopic image of the glandular trichomes on the cannabis flower which are responsible for the production of cannabinoids, terpenes, and many other chemical structures.  Source: bigbudsmag.com

To answer that question, we first have to look at the structure of the cannabis sativa L. plant itself. Cannabis is an inflorescence plant – which is a fancy way of saying that it contains clusters of flowers that are arranged on a network of stems. The flowers of the female plant are arranged in tight clusters of buds known as cola, while the reproductive components, the stigma and pistil, are surrounded by small leaf-shaped structures called the bract. It’s in these dense, budded groupings of cola and bract that the real magic of cannabis is contained. 

Trichomes

If we go down to a microscopic level, the cannabis flower will appear to be covered in a forest of mushroom-shaped structures that vary in size. These are the Trichomes; glandular structures that produce the compounds responsible for those distinct psychoactive and physiological effects that we have all come to know and love about cannabis. Specifically, the chemical structures that will become Cannabinoids and Terpenes. 

The cannabis trichomes produce the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabinolic acid (CBDA) which, when heated, give way to our old friends delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). As you are probably well aware, THC is the main psychoactive compound housed within the cannabis plant. It produces that sense of euphoria and “high” that most recreational users are looking for. CBD on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and shows promise as a therapeutic agent for a range of issues including anxiety and some seizure disorders. 

Terpenes

Terpenes, though less notorious, are increasingly thought to be as important to the cannabis consumption experience as the cannabinoids themselves. A type of protective phytochemical, terpenes produce the distinct smells and flavours of the cannabis flower. There are over 100 distinct, identifiable terpenes to date and they are the main contributor to the distinct characteristics of various cannabis strains.  Recent evidence, however, shows that these “aesthetic” compounds also play an important role in the pharmacological effects of cannabis – contributing to reduced inflammation, anxiety, and even physical pain. 

Being aromatic oils, terpenes have a powerful effect on the aroma, flavour, and response elicited from a particular strain of cannabis. Recent estimates put the number of different terpenes present within cannabis plants at around 100, with some of the more pervasive compounds already becoming well known within the industry:

Aroma: Earthy, herbal, tropical

Also Found In: Basil, thyme, lemongrass, mango, hops

Effects: Anti-inflammatory, pain reduction, anxiety reduction

Aroma: Foresty, herbal, earthy

Also Found In: Pine needles, conifers, sage, rosemary, dill

Effects: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Aroma: Citrus, floral, fresh

Also Found In: Lavender, citrus fruits, coriander, birch

Effects: Anti-inflammatory, pain reduction

Aroma: Spicy, sweet, herbal

Also Found In: Cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, hops

Effects: Anti-inflammatory, local anaesthetic, antioxidant

Aroma: Herbal, spicy, minty

Also Found In: Ginger, spearmint, ginseng, cloves

Effects: Anti-inflammatory, allergy reduction, pain reduction

Terpenes have also been used to help differentiate between the two main cannabis types – indica and sativa. For instance, some have proposed that for a cannabis strain to be considered an indica, it needs to contain at least 0.5% myrcene. However, due to the inherent volatility and lack of consistent presence of terpenes, experts are now saying it is wise to avoid the Indica vs Sativa debate altogether.

The Entourage Effect

While they may seem prominent due to the “loud” smell of the cannabis flower, terpenes are considered to be quite fragile or “volatile”. This means that genetic make-up and environmental interactions with the flower, occurring at any point from cultivation to harvesting to curing, can have an impact on the terpene profile. This is even true when comparing two plants from the same strain! Length and duration of the curing and storing process can also impact terpene content, with losses of up to 50% over the course of three months. 

Loss of terpene content post-harvest is well established. Ross and ElSohly measured a 31.0, 44.8, and 55.2% loss of terpene content in Cannabis sativa inflorescence which had been air dried and stored for 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months, respectively, as compared to freshly harvested inflorescence

Beuno et al., 2020

Journal of Cannabis Research

As we can see, the cannabis flower is an incredibly delicate product and it must be treated properly and responsibly in order to achieve the optimal experience. It’s interesting to note that some experts believe that this delicate balance of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds is exactly what makes the plant product more ideal than any one in isolation. 

In a term coined the “Entourage Effect,” researchers propose that the synergy between the different chemical compounds of a botanical drug – like cannabis – are likely why these types of therapies are more effective than any isolated compound. In the case of cannabis, the volatile terpenes and lesser known cannabinoids, in addition to THC and CBD are likely responsible for the more prominent Entourage Effect of whole-plant therapies in a variety of clinical settings:

On the other hand, there is a coinciding call among experts within the biological and medical sciences for everyone to slow their roll when it comes to promoting any “Entourage Effect.” For instance, a recent study coming out of the Frontiers of Pharmacology found that cannabis terpenes do not influence any effects through action at the cannabinoid receptors

Peter S. Cogan, in the March 2020 Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, puts forward an interesting hypothesis on the claim of synergy of cannabinoids, terpenes and the endocannabinoid system. He believes that the “ill-defined and unsubstantiated pharmacological activities” that are linked with any therapeutic Entourage Effect have yet to be verified and are likely derived as a kind of marketing campaign.

While a definitive answer on the question of whole-plant vs isolate effectiveness is not yet clear, there is body of evidence showing that more traditional methods of cannabis ingestion may be preferable (depending on the situation, of course) to tinctures, butters, and other derivative products. However, this perspective is being balanced by the view that enthusiasm and marketing campaigns may have outpaced the data on the presence of an Entourage Effect.

As always, Canadian Lumber Ltd. recommends that Mindful Smokers everywhere remember to stay up to date, informed, and consult medical professionals on the use of cannabis and cannabis extracts in any therapeutic way.

Keeping it Simple: Rolling Joints

The tradition of consuming products like Cannabis through inhalation is one that stretches back to the beginnings of recorded history. Whether it’s for a spiritual ceremony, holistic healing practice, or simply for the relaxing sensation, we have been smoking herb (in one form or another) for a very long time. Plant leaves and various forms of paper have been the container of choice for our coveted herbs – mainly due to the simplicity and ritualistic aspects of the practice. 

As information continues to come out surrounding the Entourage Effect theory, it seems that keeping the cannabis consumption process as simple and unrefined as possible may be more beneficial than expected. The widespread popularity of cannabis tinctures, butters, and vapes has no doubt contributed to our understanding of the powerful herb.

But for those who are interested in experiencing the complete spectrum of terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and numerous other bioactive compounds, the tried and true method of rolling a simple joint may actually provide the most complete experience. With the right kind of paper, cannabis enthusiasts can ensure that they are wrapping their bud in papers that are as natural and unrefined as it gets within the rolling paper industry. 

At Canadian Lumber, we have had our hemp, wood pulp, and flax seed rolling papers verified by external bodies TUV and the University of Guelph – ensuring that the papers are allergen-free and made with natural, unadulterated products. 

Roll Responsibly with Canadian Lumber

At Canadian Lumber, we’re firm believers in keeping the cannabis consumption process as simple for those responsible adults out there that are informed and aware about the risks involved in smoking. There’s no question that cannabis smoke inhalation carries some risks in addition to that pleasurable experience.  

Luckily, there are tons of accessible resources out there for mindful smokers who are looking to stay informed about the effects that smoking, toking, and ingesting cannabis can have on their body. For more information on how the inhalation of cannabis smoke can adversely affect your body, check out credible sources like Health Canada and the National Institute of Health.  

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