Few cannabis consumers are fully aware of the complex molecular chemistry of the herb they vaporize, smoke, or eat. Terpenes like terpinolene are the aromatic molecules responsible for the sometimes revealingly pungent aroma of many strains of cannabis. Although the chief purpose of this family of chemicals is an evolutionary defense mechanism against pests and predators, terpenes have been found to deliver medicinal efficacy that equals that of cannabinoids such as CBD and THC.
More than 20,000 terpenes exist throughout nature, about 200 of which have been identified in various strains of cannabis. Terpinolene (sometimes denoted as “TPO”) is considered a minor, or secondary, terpene and features an aroma resembling sweet pine. It delivers a taste reminiscent of citrus and is produced in many plants in nature other than cannabis, including allspice, cumin, junipers, parsnip, rosemary, sage, and tea tree.
The Details of Terpinolene
In terms of medicinal efficacy, terpinolene kills cancer cells and acts as a sedative. In addition, it displays antibacterial properties and is both an anti-fungal and an anti-oxidant. It is employed as a flavoring agent by various segments of the food industry. It is also used to manufacture plastics and resins and is an effective repellent against pests such as mosquitoes and weevils.
A 2013 study found this special molecule to be a powerful anti-cancer agent. Concluded the study’s researchers, “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.”
A 2013 study entitled “Anticancer and Antioxidant Properties of Terpinolene” that was published in the journal Arh Hig Rada Toksikol found terpinolene to be a “potent antiproliferative agent for brain tumour cells” and surmised that this powerfully medicinal terpene “may have potential as an anticancer agent,” an issue in obvious need of further research due to the 91 million people worldwide who suffer more than 100 types of cancers.
The researchers concluded, “Our findings clearly demonstrate that terpinolene is a potent antiproliferative agent for brain tumor cells and may have potential as an anticancer agent, which needs to be further studied.”
A 2012 study entitled “Terpinolene, a Component of Herbal Sage, Downregulates AKT1 Expression in K562 Cells” and published in the journal Oncology Letters found the terpene terpinolene to be an effective agent in the battle against a variety of cancers.
Concluded the study’s researchers, “Increased expression and/or activation of AKT is involved in a variety of human cancers. In cells treated with sage or rosemary extract, mRNA and protein expression levels of AKT1 were reduced compared with those of the control cells 48 hours after the herbal treatments. We found that terpinolene, a common component of sage and rosemary, markedly reduced the protein expression of AKT1 in K562 cells and inhibited cell proliferation.”
Wizard Stones: The Magic of Making Cannabis Diamonds
Aaron Palmer and Graham Jennings, founders of Oleum Extracts in Washington State, talk about Wizard Stones, their THCA isolate product.
Heat, pressure, and time. The three components required to form a diamond from carbon. But what about diamonds made from cannabis? The founders of Oleum Extracts, Aaron Palmer and Graham Jennings both agree that a good diamond product ultimately comes down to the flavor provided by its terpene fraction.
Diamonds is a slang term for the crystal formations of the cannabinoid THCA. The molecule’s lattice structure builds upon itself naturally as individual molecules clump together creating the faceted formations that resemble diamond or quartz.
When most people talk about cannabis diamonds, they’re talking about THCA structures that form in their own terpene sauce. So, it’s a little different technique than other isolation methods.
Oleum —While their chemical composition is the same, the process to make them is slightly different than the traditional diamonds mined from a raw extract. Instead, they use a specially formulated solvent mix to create a solution with a composition that encourages crystallization.
Due to Washington state’s regulations, Oleum is limited in the chemical solvents they can use. So that blend is the crucial variable to isolating THCA into their Wizard Stones product.
Growing cannabis diamonds within their original terpene fraction comes down to creating an environment with the right amounts of pressure and heat to encourage crystal growth.
Within the raw extract, the terpene and cannabinoid compounds are homogenized together, but as they settle and separate the mixture “crashes” — which is the start of crystallization.
Palmer explains that it “helps to create a seed because if there’s nothing for the THCA molecules to grab onto then they have a harder time starting the diamond formation.”
There are a few ways extractors seed a solution to start diamond growth, but Oleum prefers to use freezing temperatures to solidify and then thaw their extract, helping to create small groupings of THCA for other molecules to stack off.
Another common seeding technique is to drop a previously grown crystal into the extracted mixture of cannabis compounds, giving the THCA something to grow off of.
This technique is especially useful when filming a time-lapse of the crystal growth because it gives the camera a focal point knowing where the formation will grow from.
Creating Wizard Stones
The above timelapse video wasphotographed over a four day period by Dankshire. We can see diamonds begin to form almost immediately. However, the crystallization process can take a month if not longer to complete once a raw extract is jarred and waiting to crash.
Oleum utilizes custom-built isolation vessels for their production diamond runs but admits that the jar tech allows more visibility into the process.
Jennings points out, “You see the jars, we even do the jar stuff a lot. It’s more popular… and people know what it is compared to a large isolation vessel that no one can see into it but you know it’s growing 2,000 grams of crystals.”
Each batch can present a different ratio of diamonds to sauce and it seems like everyone wants a little different combination. “We just give ‘em what it makes,” Jennings said.
That’s the beauty of isolated products like cannabis diamonds and sauce; you can mix your own cocktail of cannabis compounds and really dial in the flavors and feelings that you’re after.
Cannabis diamonds grown in their own sauce create a potent, refined, and pronounce expression of the strain they are extracted from.
Cannabis DNA Tests Can Tell You How Your Body Responds to Weed
Cannabis DNA tests provide an access point for preventative precision cannabis medicine, customized as a function of the consumer’s genetic predispositions.
There is a high probability that the following scene has played out at least once in your life: after passing a joint around a smoke circle, one person can’t stop laughing at the painting they insist is moving, another is proclaiming the profundities of Kenrick Lamar’s lyricism, and yet another is “resting their eyes”. While humorous to observe the panoply of personalities, this setting provides an important observation. The cannabinoids and terpenes found in different cannabis products interact with everyone’s internal biochemistry differently.
Naturally, aspects of your lifestyle like how much exercise you’ve been getting, your sleep patterns, and diet all play a role in how you’ll respond to a cannabis product on any given day. However, the most critical factor is the makeup of your endocannabinoid system — the chemicals and neurons in your brain and body that respond to cannabinoids. Your DNA holds the specific instructions for how your endocannabinoid system gets “wired up” compared to other people, permitting for individual differences in reactions to cannabis.
A Quick Introduction to DNA
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a long molecule that contains the instructions for building every single part of an organism. DNA is made up of four compounds that pair up: (A) Adenine, (T) Thymine, (C) Cytosine, and (G) Guanine. 99.5% of the base pair combinations that make up humans are identical from person to person. The .5% difference is what makes you unique. Variants are the genetic differences that make up that .5%.
You may be familiar with the term “gene”, which is simply a section of DNA that carries the codes for making and organizing specific molecules that eventually serve as the building blocks for different parts and functions of an organism. Variants at specific genes have been identified as the determinants for thousands of different traits, from whether you’ll have blue or green eyes to whether or not you’ll have muscular dystrophy. As new research is conducted on cannabis and the body, more genetic links that can predict your response to cannabis are beginning to surface.
How Your DNA Affects Your Cannabis Consumption
With genes holding the instructions for the creation of enzymes and proteins that go on to make up all the constituents of your brain and body, it is a small leap of understanding to see how variants at specific genes can affect your endocannabinoid system and, subsequently, your experience with cannabis.
An extreme example of this is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) — a genetic condition where the carrier’s body produces significantly less endogenous cannabinoids and receptors as compared to a healthy person. CECD presents an obvious linkage between DNA and cannabis use: if you carry a gene for CECD, you will require substantially more cannabis in order to achieve the same effects as someone without that gene. Other genetic links that predict your response to cannabis can be a bit more insidious.
Take the genes CYP2C9 and CYP2C19 for example; they code for an enzyme that breaks down THC and CDD respectively. Variants on these genes can make the enzymes they create up to 30% less effective. This means that consumers with those variants would be less effective in breaking down THC and CBD.
This breakdown process is a critical variable to consider when ingesting chemicals. In fact, some pharmaceuticals specifically take this breakdown system into account by creating drugs that inhibit the breakdown of endogenous chemicals so that they can remain effective longer and produce “more” of their intended outcome. For example, SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors; the leading anti-depressant) delay the breakdown of serotonin (a positive mood-regulating neurotransmitter) in the synapse (the small space that allows transmission of neurotransmitters across neurons) so that an individual’s serotonin (which is usually not as present in depressed populations) can continue to operate, yielding a “happier” person. Similarly, the sluggish breakdown of THC will result in a user feeling “higher” for longer. Unfortunately, this also creates drowsiness in users with the variant for up to three days after initial consumption.
Naturally, insights into which variants on the CYPC9 and CYP2C19 an individual has can help guide dosage and titration models as well identify which product categories to choose. For example, a consumer that is pre-disposed to sub-optimal breakdown would be wise to choose vape products over edible since inhalation bypasses what is known as first-pass metabolism, which occurs in the liver after during digestion of edible. Such information into drug metabolism has fueled the burgeoning field of pharmacogenetics, where medical doctors take a personalized approach to pharmaceutical medication based on the patient’s DNA.
DNA Insights for Personalized Cannabis Use
The effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment option for a wide variety of disorders and diseases, coupled with the reliability of DNA in determining an individual’s likelihood of developing a particular condition, provides an access point for preventative precision cannabis medicine, customized as a function of the consumer’s genetic predispositions.
Taking into account the tens of thousands of cannabis products and strains available on the legal market, there exist a plethora of options with varying cannabinoid and terpene ratios — the most critical variables that determine the different effects and medical benefits of cannabis.
Such a range of products, coupled with an understanding of one’s DNA, allows for a personalized product selection by connecting the dots across different research findings. These biomarkers can create even more precise recommendations that go much further than just warning an individual that they should shy away from edibles.
For example, a host of genes can predispose someone to developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. On the other side of the equation, studies have shown that pinene (a terpene found in cannabis and other plants like pine trees) has a neuroprotective effect that specifically enhances memory. Cannabis users with such predispositions wanting to take preventative health measures could do so by routinely choosing cannabis products high in pinene.
Similar associations exist for users with a tendency to develop schizophrenia or have psychotic episodes, where low-THC, high-CBD products can provide anti-psychotic effects. Similar reasoning applies to individuals at a high-risk for cancer being able to take advantage of high-THC, anti-cancer products.
Cannabis DNA tests like Strain Genie look at over 150 such biomarkers to generate personalized cannabis consumption suggestions.
As regulation allows for scientists to gain access to cannabis for research studies, more insights that can help predetermine the effectiveness of cannabis use at the level of an individual is certainly on the horizon. Other avenues could also provide insights as to other aspects of cannabis use as well. For example, new research from 2018 has even unveiled 35 genes that make you 11% more likely to be a cannabis consumer and revealed an interesting overlap in cannabis use with a gene (CADM2) that has been traditionally associated with risk-taking. Information such as this, combined with genes that predispose individuals for abuse could be used to guide scheduled tolerance breaks.
Regardless of the application, additional research into DNA, cannabinoids, and terpenes promises to refine the personalized approach to cannabis that all consumers should consider taking.
Delta 3 Carene: The Terpene That Promotes Healthy Bones (& Dry Mouth)
The terpene delta 3 carene combats inflammation, repairs diseased and damaged bones, and is said to promote mental focus and concentration.
Of the 200 aromatic molecule varieties called terpenes that may manifest in a particular example of the cannabis herb, none is better at repairing bones and promoting their growth than delta 3 carene (also called alpha-carene or simply carene).
Beginning in the 1960s, researchers began to note the medicinal efficacy of phytochemicals from plants such as cannabis. Among these chemicals are cannabinoids (the most famous examples are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), terpenes (such as delta 3 carene, myrcene and pinene), and flavonoids.
Terpenes were first believed simply to convey a sometimes pungent aroma in plants like cannabis. From an evolutionary perspective, these molecules serve the purpose of protecting the cannabis plant from pests and predators, many of which find these chemicals offensive or toxic.
The Details of Delta 3 Carene
Delta 3 carene conveys a sweet, pungent scent composed of citrus, cypress, pine, and wood. It is produced by plants other than cannabis, including rosemary, pine trees, and cedar trees. Delta 3 carene is utilized by the cosmetics industry as a fragrance and is employed as an insect repellent at the industrial level (it is a natural constituent of turpentine).
Regarding medicinal efficacy, delta 3 carene provides significant qualities to combat systemic inflammation, repair diseased and damaged bones, and is said to promote mental focus and concentration. Strains of cannabis rich in the delta 3 carene have been found to benefit those with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. This terpene is found most commonly in strains of cannabis, including AK-47, Arjan’s Ultra Haze, Jack Herer, OG Kush, and Super Lemon Haze, among others.
Beyond the repair of bones, delta 3 carene is unique among terpenes due to its power to draw out liquids (one of its chief applications within the cosmetics industry). This drying effect makes delta 3 carene a candidate for use as an antihistamine and in products targeting excessive menstruation or mucus production. This quality is also responsible for anecdotal reports of dry mouth (cotton mouth) and red eye among cannabis smokers and vapers.
Research has revealed the medicinal efficacy of terpenes such as delta 3 carene since the 1980s. A 1989 study entitled “Comparative Study of Different Essential Oils of Bupleurum Gibraltaricum Lamarck” that was published in the journal Europe PMC investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of delta 3 carene, concluding “the essential oil of the Cázulas Mountains population was most active against acute inflammation owing to its high delta 3-carene content.”
A 2007 study entitled “Low Concentration of 3‐carene Stimulates the Differentiation of Mouse Osteoblastic MC3T3‐E1 Subclone 4 Cells” published in the journal Phytotherapy Research tested 89 natural compounds for their ability to maintain bone repair, deal with bone disease, and promote overall healthy bones.
Concluded the study’s researchers, “Further studies are needed to determine the precise mechanism, but the anabolic activity of 3‐carene in bone metabolism suggested that the use of natural additives to the diet, including essential oils, could have a beneficial effect on bone health.”
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