By now, the American public at large is well aware of the cannabis cannabinoid known as cannabidiol (CBD), as well as its medicinal and therapeutic potential. However, as of this writing, public awareness of CBD's therapeutic benefits is mostly concentrated around physical symptoms of common diseases — including chronic pain, inflammation or seizures.
It's worth noting that CBD and terpenes (another naturally occurring compound found in cannabis) are shown in scientific literature to also be viable for treating key symptoms of numerous mental health conditions, such as mood and anxiety disorders. In fact, a June 2019 post on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) website acknowledged that "there is evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of mental health conditions."
Let's go over how CBD and terpenes work within the system to alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders, as well as their availability for purchase and health supplementation.
What are CBD & Terpenes?
CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, second only to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It can also be sourced from non-psychoactive sources, such as hemp or orange peels. CBD can be found in cannabis dispensaries, online retail shops and even brick and mortar natural health boutiques.
Terpenes are natural aromatic hydrocarbons that occur in virtually all plant life. Researchers have identified as many as 200 different terpenes in some strains of cannabis, making the plant an invaluable resource in the study of terpene composition, benefits and potential entourage effects.
How Exactly do They Work?
CBD and Terpenes both function via their effects upon the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors that influence the production, throughput and uptake of neurotransmitters into the brain.
By exerting modulatory effects on the ECS, both CBD and terpenes can regulate the flow of hormones like serotonin or dopamine within the human nervous system. This can ameliorate symptoms such as the shaking, hysteria or profuse sweating associated with anxiety disorders, or insomnia, depression and mood swings associated with common mood disorders.
An example of the effect of terpenes on the ECS is the well-known sedative, relaxant "high" of cannabis indicas such as Grandaddy Purple, a strain commonly prescribed to patients with chronic pain conditions that can interfere with sleep. A well-documented example of CBD's ability to beneficially alter ECS functions is a 2013 national news story wherein CBD was instrumental in calming the seizures of a child with Dravet syndrome.
The Synergy of The Entourage Effect
The concept of "the entourage effect" refers to the potential synergy between different cannabinoids, terpenes or even non-cannabinoid plant chemicals. For example, CBD and THC both share many common pharmacological properties — including muscle relaxant effects — but exert these functions in a mutually complementary manner when combined within cannabis products like oils.
Cannabis sativa is known for its unique ability to produce large amounts of various naturally occurring compounds such as flavonoids (which act as antioxidants) and terpenes (strangely enough, also considered anti-inflammatory). More importantly, these components work individually to improve the overall effectiveness of cannabis as a whole. In fact, research shows that CBD and THC work together synergistically to improve the effectiveness of each compound on its own.
The Entourage Effect is worth paying attention to if you are planning to use full-spectrum CBD products that contain both cannabinoids and terpenes. If you’re using a CBD isolate then this does not contain any of the other cannabinoids, terpenes, or other compounds.
Which Mental Health Disorders Might CBD & Terpenes Have an Effect on?
A few of the mental health disorders with which CBD and terpenes has shown promising research results include:
PTSD: According to a 2017 study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, veterans who were suffering from PTSD demonstrated significant improvements in their condition after cannabis therapy.
Psychosis: A 2009 study in the journal Psychopharmacol found that patients suffering from psychosis in Parkinson’s disease showed improvements in their symptoms when using CBD therapy.
Alcoholism: In a 2019 article published in Front Pharmacol, it was concluded that CBD could directly help reduce alcohol drinking in patients with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
Mood Disorders: A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that THC and CBD were both used to treat depression among infertile women resulting from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The results showed a significant decrease in depressive symptoms following the use disorder, with more than a quarter of the women displaying no symptoms at all.
What are the Best Forms of CBD & Terpenes for Health Supplementation?
CBD is incredibly versatile, and can be consumed in a variety of different formats depending on individual lifestyles. Athletes, for example, use infused balms and roll-on formulas as localized, natural alternatives to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). CBD can be infused into e-liquids and vaped, or even crystallized into resins and nectars known as shatter, crumble or budder for use with dab rigs and concentrate pipes. However, for simple, straightforward health supplementation, a quality extra-strength CBD tincture taken once or twice a day will easily suffice.
Conversely, terpenes are only available in isolate form as of this writing — but offer versatility via the number of mediums they can be infused into. In cannabis pioneer states such as California and Colorado, experimental pubs and restaurants design their menus entirely around terpene-infused food and beverages. For home use, terpene isolates can be mixed in vegetable or fruit smoothies, salad dressing and vinaigrettes.
A Bright Future
CBD and terpenes have been shown to be successful in treating a variety of mental health disorders. If you're struggling with any of these conditions, it may help to consider the benefits that CBD and terpenes can provide your brain.
The relationship between CBD and terpenes is still not completely understood, but their synergistic effects suggest that their use together might be more successful than CBD use alone. With the increasing amount of research dedicated to CBD and terpenes, we'll likely learn more about how they can be used together very soon.