Medical marijuana is more than simply the presence of THC. The synergy of entourage, ratios, and terpenes found in medical marijuana can have a great impact.
Whole plant extractions contain CBD, THC, and more than 400 trace compounds. These compounds interact synergistically to create an “entourage effect” that magnifies the therapeutic benefits of the individual components: A hundred milligrams of synthetic single-molecule CBD is not equivalent to 100 milligrams of a CBD-rich whole plant cannabis extract.
Synergy also arises from interactions between its multiple components, so that the medicinal impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts. Marijuana contains both terpenoids and cannabinoids; it’s not just the CBD:THC ratio that is important.
Terpenes are volatile aromatic molecules that evaporate easily. Marijuana’s fragrance and particular psychoactive flavor are determined by the predominate terpenes in a strain. Approximately 200 terpenes have been found in cannabis, characterized by the number of repeating units of a 5-carbon molecule called isoprene.
Terpenes are not unique to marijuana. For example, Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene found in the essential oil of black pepper, oregano and other edible herbs, as well as cannabis. It is gastro-protective and anti-inflammatory because it binds directly to peripheral CB2 receptors.
Many of the craft brands of medical marijuana differentiate their function based upon these biologically active terpenes, and the specific extraction method will define if that terpene survives extraction or is in some way altered. The reliability and reproducibility of the intended effect depends upon the reliability of the entire production team.