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John Hopkins Study Reveals Terpenes’ Impact on THC Highs

It’s a question marijuana enthusiasts have pondered for ages. Do different strains of marijuana get people high in different ways? For the longest time, there was only anecdotal evidence to support the theory that different types of cannabis plants deliver different types of psychoactive highs.

Today, new research from Johns Hopkins University sheds light on the subject. Do different marijuana strains impact the buzz you feel after consuming them, or is it all in your head?

The Marijuana High Effect 

If you are a cannabis lover, you already know about the presumptive differences between marijuana plants. Cannabis plants come in two distinct varieties: indica and sativa. Indica plants originally grew in the harsh and dry regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Hindu Kush Mountain range. The plants are typically hardy and fast-growing and are known for producing higher concentrations of the chemical compound CBD. 

Sativa is native to Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia. These cannabis plants grow taller than their indica cousins but mature much more slowly. Sativa plants tend to produce higher concentrations of the primary psychoactive compound THC. 

Hybrid cannabis plants combine the best of both worlds. Indica-dominant strains with more CBD than THC can help people relax and are often used to fight chronic pain and insomnia. Sativa-dominant hybrid strains tend to have higher concentrations of THC compared to CDB. They are an excellent option for people who need extra energy, mental clarity, or a creative boost. 

Cannabis plants grown for consumption are commonly identified by whether they are indica plants, stativa plants, or a hybrid strain. Hybrid strains are called indica or sativa-dominant, so people understand how they will react when consuming the product. However, many cannabis lovers claimed that despite the indica or sativa label, different strains caused them to feel differently. Why? Cannabis companies suggest that other chemical compounds present in cannabis called terpenes can cause marijuana to have unique effects on the mind and body. The stance has lacked a scientific basis and has been seen by some as a cannabis industry marketing tactic. However, that may be about to change. 

What Are Terpenes?

Studies suggest that cannabis plants may have hundreds of chemical compounds, including cannabinoids and compounds called terpenes. Terpenes are chemical compounds that give many plants distinct aromas and flavors. In cannabis plants, terpenes are primarily responsible for giving different strains their unique flavor and aroma. Why does Gelato taste sweet with subtle hints of mint and vanilla, and Sour Diesel tastes pungent and skunk-like? It’s because of the different terpenes present in these strains.

These highly aromatic compounds determine the smell of plants like rosemary, lavender, and herbs, not just cannabis. Some terpenes effectively attract pollinators, while others repeal predators to protect the plant. For a time, many people assumed that terpenes like myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene, and humulene only impacted scent and flavor. 

There were only anecdotal accounts of terpenes helping to promote the entourage effect. Today, there is evidence that terpenes may be more bioactive than first thought, and new research is helping to shed light on how these chemical compounds may impact how a person experiences a marijuana high. 

New Research Helping to Unlock the Terpene Mystery 

New research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that adding unique terpenes to the active chemical in marijuana, THC, can change the experience of getting high. For the first time, clinical research is demonstrating that different terpenes may have a significant impact on how a person experiences a marijuana high.

Researchers tested their hypothesis by having study participants inhale two different doses of vaporized THC. One dose was only THC. The other dose contained THC and the terpene limonene, which gives plants a citrus aroma and flavor profile. Those on the highest dosage of straight THC reported feeling anxious and paranoid. Those who consumed the highest dosage of THC plus limonene reported a drastic reduction in their anxiety and paranoia.

Why limonene? This terpene was selected because researchers at Johns Hopkins say there is extensive clinical data on limonene terpenes and their psychoactive properties. Numerous marijuana companies also tout the effectiveness of marijuana stains high in limonene terpenes to help people relax and reduce anxiety.

Scientists and researchers are calling the new study “groundbreaking” because it appears to be one of the first published clinical studies specifically testing the effects of terpenes in combination with THC. While many are quick to hail the study’s findings, others warn that more research is necessary before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. The study only involved 12 participants, a relatively small sample size. Additionally, the study did not pinpoint whether naturally occurring terpenes found in marijuana plants affect how different people experience a THC high.

Despite these limitations, the research is a big step in the right direction. Many in the cannabis industry are making bold claims about terpenes without the benefits of practical evidence or scientific backing. Marketing claims aside, researchers need to catch up to the hype and help uncover the potential effects of terpenes on the mind and body. Understanding how these chemical compounds interact with the human body could help uncover new cannabis treatments and pharmaceuticals.

The value of terpenes may extend far beyond what they bring to the table regarding flavor and aroma. Cannabis consumers may start evaluating hybrid cannabis strains’ overall indicia, sativa, and terpene profiles to find the plant that offers them the combination of taste and psychoactive effects they are searching for.

Cannabutter Digest constantly searches for the latest cannabis news to share with our readers. You can count on us to continue to deliver relevant and exciting newsrecipes, and product reviews for cannabis enthusiasts. Bookmark Cannabutter Digest and come back often for more cannabis content! 

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