Israeli researchers believe that adding compounds to medical cannabis products could make them more effective and therapeutic.
Cannabis oil has become a staple of medical marijuana products, vape pens, edibles and topicals, but it leaves out terpenes, which interact with neurotransmitters to relieve pain.
Terpenes reside in plants, flowers and fruits, including lavender and naturally-grown cannabis. Linalool, a terpene found in both lavender and cannabis, controls their calming effects.
Beta-Caryophyllene – a terpene in cannabis – has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, pain-relieving and anti-anxiety effects. Cannabis terpenes also contribute to the flavors and smells consumers recognize.
However, human-produced cannabis medications omit terpenes, along with many of cannabis’ 1,000 naturally occurring compounds.
A team of scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University and CannaSoul Analytics is collaborating with Eybna, a terpene-selling company, to study these compounds and add them back, in order to unlock cannabis’ full medical capabilities.
“The only way traditional medicine will fully adopt cannabis is if we understand the plant inside and out, and know the specific materials’ effects on the human body,” said Eybna Technologies co-founder Nadav Eyal. “This medical understanding and acceptance will quickly make its way to mainstream consumers, who will be able to purchase effective products to fit their individual needs.”
Eybna develops and sells a collection of terpenes, offering citrus, blueberry and “skunk” varieties. The company’s website claims it views these forms of “botanical medicine” as methods of “contributing to the health of mankind.”
Eyal said that conducting scientific research about cannabis was vital to establishing its reputation as a medicinal product.
“We understand that even now, many people, including doctors, still see cannabis as a product for use just to get high and not for its medicinal capabilities,” he explained. “Changing this stigma requires new scientific understandings.”
Medical cannabis research has taken off in Israel, where there are “progressive laws toward medical cannabis research,” according to Eyal. Marijuana has been decriminalized in Israel, and research surrounding it has been ongoing for five decades. Fifty years ago, Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University launched investigations into the chemical structures of cannabis and isolated some of its key ingredients.
The Health Ministry passed a law in January allowing cannabis companies in Israel to export to countries where cannabis use is legal.