Prescribing Cannabinoids: The Terpene Connection

By August Dunning
Published: April 6, 2018 | Last updated: April 9, 2021 04:22:29
Key Takeaways

​The terpene fragrance compounds that modify the effect of the cannabinoid compounds for different medical applications can be helpful when prescribing cannabis.

There are more than 80 unique compounds in the more than 400 naturally occurring compounds in marijuana. These compounds are unique to the plant and not found anywhere else in nature except the human body as endocannabinoids.


The CB1 and CB2 receptor sites on various tissues in the human body allow the plant compounds to enter the metabolic pathways for medical therapy in a uniquely safe and effective way to treat medical conditions.

Marijuana Is Transforming More Rapidly Than Ever

The cannabis plant has undergone a rapid transformation in genetic mixing over the last 50 years. The intent of this mixing somewhat mirrors the way that, in the past, the properties of land-race varieties were selectively encouraged to grow based on the desired effects stemming from the regions of cultivation—either euphoria and mental stimulation (African sativa strains) or sedation and meditation (Hindu Kush indica strains) in ancient cultures.


Today’s cannabis strains exhibit a plethora of mixtures of chemicals in a wide range of ratios as varietal mixes of the two. However, there is one mediator in all of this: the terpene fragrance compounds that modify the effect of the cannabinoid compounds for different medical application.

Fragrance As Prescription

With the above in mind, I am creating a Physician’s Desk Reference for Prescribing Cannabinoids as the first book on the subject geared to the medical community. The reference will help medical practitioners better understand the application and effects of using cannabinoids for medical therapy.

I believe that fragrance may be used as a general tool for administering prescription cannabis. For instance, different ratios of the terpenes D-Limonene, Alpha-Pinene and Beta-Myrcene can moderate THC, CBD, CBC and CBN effectively to provide relief from insomnia, pain, lack of appetite, depression or nausea in strains with nearly the same levels of CBD and THC.


Pain is slightly mediated by strains like OG Kush and Tahoe OG, or not at all in the strain Blue Dream, even though it has a similar CBD content.

The specific application for additional, secondary-symptom relief with the lemon or pine fragrance that guides the user for their individual range of conditions is a here-to-fore unsuspected connection to olfactory identification and application. This terpene moderation is what is called the entourage effect.


You can see that the strains listed in Fig. 1 contain nearly the same CBD and THC content, but the terpene ratios affecting their fragrance are very different per strain. Some pain reduction is a common trait in the OG strains, but the stronger differences of nausea, depression and effects on appetite in the OG strains are especially promoted by the differences in the ratios of the terpenes affecting the action of the cannabinoids.

And yet the ratios of the fragrance of pine and lemon in the OG strains are quite different in the Blue Dream, which has a blueberry fragrance. Blue Dream is a euphoric strain with calming effects. It is not at all a mediator of pain and shows a higher content of A-Pinene and B-Myrcene and low D-Limonene and B-Caryophyllene compared to OG.

A recent chemical analysis of more than 1,000 strain samples covering a wide range of varieties has provided some insights as to specific types of strains to understand of how this works.

Yet analyzing specific strains in the OG family (Fig. 2) can certainly reveal the differences in the cannabinoids. It also can reveal the wide range of potency in the same strains. Some show half the chemical potency compared to other samples in the same strain.

These stark differences are the result of nutrient differences during growth. Strains receiving adequate ionic micronutrient mineral applications during flowering and trichome formation have the highest potency. Minerals are the genetic triggers for plant function and cannabinoid synthesis under the influence of UVB light in the resin-gland disc cells.

These mineral-dependent reactions in the plastids and vacuole between glucose, phenols and terpenes result in the deposit of greater or lesser cannabinoids in the secretory reservoir at the top of the trichomes. Ionic mineral foliar sprays can also stimulate more trichomes to erupt from the leaf surface. High CBD content with relatively low-THC content provides the best pain and inflammation relief.

In the 1,000 test samples analyzed, commonly used pain-relief strains rated high in this ratio and that showed high levels of B-Mycrene were the sour strains (Fig. 3). Therefore, for pain relief, I recommend these strains delivered on the macrophage cell CB2 receptors via the blood to alleviate pain and inflammation in damaged or diseased areas of the body.


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Written by August Dunning

Profile Picture of August Dunning

August Dunning is the CEO of Eco Organics and is a physicist, chemist and an inventor. He is the former systems ops designer for the International Space Station and a former regional manager of liquid, solid and electric propulsion systems for Pratt and Whitney space propulsion, Edwards AFB, NAWC and JPL.

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