Can the terpenes in hemp/cannabis really have relaxing or anti-anxiety effects? What happens when they are combined with CBD?
You may have never heard of terpenes, but most likely you love them.
They are a naturally produced group of chemical compounds that provide most of the aromas and odors we encounter in the plants around us. From the refreshing smell of a lemon to the unique musk of a pine tree, terpenes are interacting with our olfactory senses throughout the day, but did you know that they can also affect us both physically and psychologically?
It turns out terpenes have many uses in medicine and health, and more evidence is being found to support ways in which terpenes affect various bio-chemical processes throughout our body.
We take great care when selecting ingredients for our CBD products and only select those that are naturally formed and have a proven benefit to our well-being.
What Are The Properties of Sedatives?
We need to be a little more specific when we say that a terpene has sedative or calming effects. Not every sedative is exactly the same, but many share some basic properties that I will describe below.
- Reduced physical activity: This is the most classic sedative effect, akin to the “couch-lock” described for some cannabis strains.
- Hypnotic: This is the ability to induce sleep. Sedatives may both reduce the time to fall asleep as well as induce a longer period of sleep.
- Anxiolytic: Many sedatives will reduce anxiety.
- Anticonvulsant: Due to inhibiting neuronal activity, sedatives can reduce the frequency or intensity of seizures.
- Motor coordination: Sedatives typically impair coordination. Hence you will see this warning on pharmaceutical sedatives: “Do not drive or operate heavy machinery”.
The chart below from profofpot.com does a great job of breaking down effects of sedative terpenes.
Luvitol CBD Sleep-Aid is formulated with the four terpenes that have the greatest health benefits and sedative properties (Linalool, Myrcene, Caryophyllene & Terpineol).
When combined together they all play a part in making your sleep more restful and rejuvenating.
Rich with tranquilizing effects, myrcene offers sweet relief when winding down for the night and works synergistically with CBD to provide a relaxing and comfortable feeling.
Myrcene’s Effects and Benefits
- Analgesic (pain relief) (source)
- Antibiotic (source)
- Sedative (source)
- Muscle Relaxant (source)
- Antimutagenic (cancer preventing) (source)
Myrcene (or β-myrcene), better known as the active sedating principle of hops and lemon grass, is also found in basil, mangos, and its namesake, Myrcia sphaerocarpa, a medicinal shrub from Brazil traditionally used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, and hypertension
Herbal medicines containing myrcene have a long history of being used as a sleep aid in folk medicine. In Mexico, myrcene-rich lemongrass infused tea has been used in as a sedative and muscle relaxant. It is common for Germans, who are the second largest hops growers in the world (the US is first), to use myrcene-rich hops preparations as a sleep aid.
Myrcene can block the cancer-causing effects of aflatoxins that are produced by fungi that find their way to our food. These anti-mutagen properties stem from myrcene’s inhibition of the liver enzyme, CYP2B1, which induces aflatoxin’s ability to damage our DNA. Myrcene also protects against DNA damage from toxins such as t-butyl-hydroperoxide. These anti-mutagen effects are consistent with those of other terpenes, along with their antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits.
Mercene has also been shown to have the following benefits:
- Strong pain-relieving effects and acts as a sedative in larger doses (source).
- Has been shown to fight breast, cervical, lung, and colon cancers (source).
- Myrcene is naturally synergistic with CBD and THC and allows cannabinoids to more easily bridge the blood-brain barrier (source).
Caryophyllene has the distinction of being the first known “dietary cannabinoid,” a common component of food that has GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status and is approved by the FDA for food use.
Caryophyllene’s Effects and Benefits
- Improves metabolism (by increasing mitochondrial function) (source)
- Protects against neurodegeneration (by reducing a leaky blood-brain barrier and inflammation) (source 1) (source 2)
- Reduces pain (by upregulating natural endorphins) (source)
- Anti-anxiety (source)
- Antidepressant (source)
- Sedative (source 1, source 2, source 3)
- Anti-inflammatory (source)
- Anti-Bacterial & Anti-Fungal (source)
- Weight loss (source)
Also called beta-caryophyllene or BCP, this terpene can be found in aromatic oils like rosemary, lavender and clove oil, and in nature it’s most commonly found in hops, cloves, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon, and basil.
The sedative properties of β-caryophyllene were characterized in a 2012 study, 2014 study, and 2016 study and it was also shown to promote sleep, have anxiety reducing properties and anti-seizure activity.
Published studies have shown evidence for a wide variety of therapeutic potential, including its application in pain management as a pain reliever, a gastroprotective, immune booster, anti-malarial, and may be effective in the treatment of addiction (source 1, source 2).
What makes BCP such an intriguing terpene is its relationship with our endocannabinoid system, particularly, its ability to bind to the cannabinoid receptor CB2. Because of this, it comes with a host of potential medical benefits.
Caryophyllene can reduce neuroinflammation (inflammation in the brain) and increase antioxidant levels in the brain (source 1) (source 2). BCP can also reduce high levels of cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) (source 1) (source 2).
During stroke, BCP can reduce swelling, neuronal damage and mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain (source 1) (source 2).
Caryophyllene has also been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and to be a possible therapy for treating inflammatory bowel disease. Research has even found that caryophyllene may be able to treat anxiety and depression.
Many studies have focused on the anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties of caryophyllene, and have indicated that it both slows tumor growth and proliferation. This is thought to be due to similar action of CBD in the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Caryophyllene (BCP) Oxidized Caryophyllene (CPO) has shown beneficial effects against:
- Brain Cancer (BCP and CPO) source
- Breast Cancer (BCP and CPO) source 1, source 2
- Cervical Cancer (CPO) source
- Colon Cancer (BCP) source
- Gastric/Stomach Cancer (CPO) source
- Lymphatic Cancer (BCP) source 1, source 2
- Multiple Myeloma (CPO) source
- Ovarian Cancer (CPO) source
- Pancreatic Cancer (BCP) source
- Prostate Cancer (CPO) source
- Skin Cancer/Melanoma (BCP) source
BCP has also been shown to work well in conjunction with traditional cancer therapies, increasing the bioavailability of chemo drugs (source). This study also highlighted all the complementary effects of caryophyllene on side effects of cancer treatment, most significantly involving chronic and acute pain.
The study also highlights the fact that one of the hardest types of pain to treat are neuropathic and inflammation-related chronic pain that is often associated with cancers and their treatments, which can be a lifelong struggle for many patients.
Traditional pain meds, including Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids, have difficulty treating these types of pain. Furthermore, NSAIDs are very harmful to the stomach and gut, and opioids have a high addiction and overdose potential. It was found that the addition of caryophyllene could reduce the need for both NSAIDs and opioids through the inclusion of Caryophyllene.
Another study looked at the anti-microbial properties of BCP and found that it was effective at preventing both the growth and adhesion of the candida fungus (similar to the terpene Myrcene). This fungus is becoming increasingly prevalent in humans as more people are taking immunosuppressive drugs and undergoing transplants. The fungus is becoming resistant to many drugs currently on the market, however, the study indicated that BPO was an effective treatment for which the fungus did not appear to build a resistance against. It was also shown to be effective against the fungus Aspergillus niger (black mold). Cancer patients going through chemo are one of the most susceptible groups to fungal and bacterial infections, and also the group which stands to gain the most from the benefits of BCP for multiple reasons.
BCP may also help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. (source) By activating endocannbinoid receiptors, caryophyllene can reduce amyloid beta-plaques and immune-induced inflammation in the brain, thus mitigating cognitive dysfunction (source 1) (source 2).
In Parkinson’s Disease, loss of dopamine and oxidative stress are hallmarks of the disease. By activating CB2 receptors in the endocannabinod system, BCP can inhibit dopamine loss and oxidative stress in the brain (source)
Caryophyllene improves liver function and may help with:
- General Liver Inflammation: (source)
- Liver Scarring due to alcohol (source)
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (source)
- Reducing High Levels of Triglycerides (Hypertriglyceridemia) (source 1) (source 2)
BCP may also help with weight loss (source) by increasing bone mineralization (beneficial for osteoporosis) and reducing adipogenesis (beneficial against obesity) (source 1) (source 2)
Current studies are hoping to unveil even more of the therapeutic potential behind caryophyllene, including research indicating that it may help with lifespan longevity by reducing gene stress.
Humans have inhaled the scent of certain plants, including many containing linalool, since ancient times to help lower stress levels, fight inflammation, and combat depression.
Linalool’s Effects and Benefits
Linalool is a naturally occurring terpene found in many flowers and spices including lavender and coriander. It gives off a complex yet delicate floral aroma, and while its effects are abundant, it is most widely used to reduce stress.
Linalool has been the subject of many studies, including a recent one in which scientists allowed lab rats to inhale linalool while exposing them to stressful conditions. It was reported that linalool returned elevated stress levels in the immune system to near-normal conditions (source).
The sedative qualities of linalool were proven in a 2008 study published in the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Journal. The research estimated that 19 million Americans suffer from anxiety-related ailments and revealed linalool to be a sedative capable of providing real efficacy to them.
In a study published by Neurochemical Research, it was found that “…evaluation of Linalool showed that this compound [has] dose-dependent marked sedative effects at the Central Nervous System, including hypnotic, anticonvulsant and hypothermic properties.” These anticonvulsant and sedative effects were found when measuring the effects on glutamate binding in the Central Nervous System membrane in the rat cortex.’ In a 2008 study, Linalool was able to make mice go to sleep.
A study published in the Journal of Phytomedicine in 2002 showed that linalool is a major anti-inflammatory agent, potentially helping with ailments such as cancer and arthritis. The same research team, in a follow-up study in 2003, discovered that linalool is also a pain killer.
An animal study in 2010 analyzed 3 sub-types of linalool to examine its anticonvulsant benefits. All varieties were shown to be effective in preventing convulsions even at different doses.
Dubbed “the least-common common terpene,” terpinolene may be hard to find in nature, but it packs extra-sedating effects while boasting anticancer and anxiety reducing potential.
Terpinolene’s Effects and Benefits
Terpinolene is characterized by a fresh, piney, floral, herbal, and occasionally citrusy aroma and flavor. It is found in a variety of other pleasantly fragrant plants including nutmeg, tea tree, conifers, apples, cumin, lilacs, and lavender.
The journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology published a study in 2011 that claimed that terpineol had “the highest antioxidant activity” among the compounds tested.
A study was published in the Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology journal citing that terpineol “might be potentially interesting in the development of new clinically relevant drugs for management of painful and/or inflammatory disease.” Terpineol is one of the contributors to the feeling of sedation when consuming cannabis. For patients with severe dysfunctional pain and inflammation, terpineol can provide therapeutic effects to reduce the severity and consistency of flare-ups.
When compared with other terpenes in essential oils in another study in 2014, terpineol had the strongest antimicrobial effect against “pathogenic and spoilage forming bacteria.” Terpineol essentially altered the cell membrane of bacteria weakening it and making it vulnerable to immune defenses.
In one breakthrough study, terpineol was found to inhibit tumor cell growth, especially in with small cell lung carcinoma cells. Terpineol helps by suppressing NF-kB signaling. Chronic NF-kB activation leads to cancer, inflammation, and autoimmune disorders.
Another study found this special molecule to be a powerful anti-cancer agent. The researchers concluded, “Our findings clearly demonstrate that terpinolene is a potent antiproliferative agent for brain tumour cells and may have potential as an anticancer agent, which needs to be further studied.”
Another study published in the journal Oncology Letters found the terpene terpinolene to be an effective agent in the battle against a variety of cancers.
As if that is not impressive enough, a 2005 study also proved terpinolene as an effective treatment for heart disease, which is still one of the leading causes of death in the United States.