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    How Does Cannabis Work? Understanding THC, CBD, Terpenes and the Entourage Effect

    How Does Cannabis Work? Understanding THC, CBD, Terpenes and the Entourage Effect

    Unlike single-compound pharmaceuticals, the cannabis plant contains many compounds that exert different influences on the body. This is perhaps why cannabis has the potential to provide relief from many different symptoms and medical conditions.

    The compounds found within cannabis are broken down into different categories called phytocannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. We will talk more about phytocannabinoids and terpenes because they are responsible for most of the effects felt while using cannabis.

    Compounds from the cannabis plant interact with a system in the body called the endocannabinoid system. This system regulates many crucial physiological functions in the body and contributes significantly to the maintenance of homeostasis, which is a state of steady internal conditions. Some examples of functions the endocannabinoid system regulates include learning and memory processes, sleep, stress, emotions, pain and immune responses.

    THC (2)

    Arguably the most well-known of the phytocannabinoids, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the predominant intoxicating molecule in cannabis and gives rise to the euphoria associated with being “high.” THC has therapeutic potential as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-emetic.

    CBD (2)

    CBD is the second most familiar phytocannabinoid and has rapidly come to prominence in medical applications due to its unique therapeutic profile and effects. CBD is non-intoxicating at therapeutically relevant doses and may reduce pain, anxiety and inflammation.(1) It has also been found to be a potent anti-epileptic.(1, 2)

    Terpenes (2,3)

    Terpenes are compounds found in a variety of fruits, plants and flowers that contribute to their flavour, scent and colour. The terpenes found in cannabis may not only determine the scent and flavour of a specific variety but may also influence how each variety of cannabis impacts each person. Terpenes are suspected to have medicinal properties of their own, in addition to possibly working with CBD, THC and other cannabinoids to produce the overall therapeutic effect of a product.

    Click here to learn about the most common terpenes found in Aurora’s strains.

    The Entourage Effect Hypothesis

    While many of the individual compounds, such as THC and CBD, have been shown to produce potential therapeutic benefits alone, it has been hypothesized that there is added therapeutic value when the different compounds are combined. This is referred to as the "entourage effect."(2, 3)


    1. Szaflarski, J. P., Bebin, E. M., Comi, A. M., Patel, A. D., Joshi, C., Checketts, D., … Weschler, R. (2018). Long-term safety and treatment effects of cannabidiol in children and adults with treatment-resistant epilepsies: Expanded access program results. Epilepsia, 59, 1540-1548.
    2. Baron, E. P. (2018). Medicinal Properties of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids in Cannabis and Benefits in Migraine, Headache, and Pain: An Update on Current Evidence and Cannabis Science. Headache Currents, 58, 1139-1186.
    3. Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: Potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163, 1344-1364.
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