Cannabis Terpene Profiles Matter: New Study Reveals

Written by Lydia Kariuki

A recently published study has revealed, again, what we already know:  that the scented essential oils found in cannabis, otherwise called terpenes, have a huge impact on how patients experience cannabis. In other words, the terpene profile is partly responsible for the effectiveness and side effects produced by the chemovar. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of New Mexico and was published in the Journal of Cannabis Research in February 2023.

The researchers used the Releaf app to collect information from consumers who used the app between 09/10/2016 and 03/11/2021. A total of 204 people were included in the study with 6309 real-time consumption sessions recorded. In the duration, 633 distinct cannabis products were used by the participants.

An indexing system was used to record data on terpene and cannabinoid contents, resulting in 478 unique chemovars. Five common chemovars were selected and their effects were recorded; symptom relief (chronic pain, anxiety, and or depression) and side effects. Analysis of covariances (ANCOVAs) was used to analyze the results. The researchers found that the different chemovars elicited unique effects and side effects. They recommended further research to investigate the benefits of using a chemovar indexing system to assess individual characteristics and how they are linked to health outcomes.

Close to 200 unique terpenes have been identified in cannabis, and only about a handful have been studied. Cannabis chemovars have unique terpene profiles.                                                                                                                         

Most of the research that has been done to investigate the therapeutic potential of cannabis has revolved around cannabinoids; mostly delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). This study has highlighted the importance of terpenes in maximizing the full potential of medical cannabis and should serve as a precursor for future studies.

About the author

Lydia Kariuki