In 2022, the landscape of cannabis research underwent a significant transformation, driven by relaxed government regulations and the growing acceptance of cannabis globally. This shift has opened up fresh avenues for exploring the intricacies of this plant.
While the investigation of THC and CBD’s individual impacts remains a central area of study, there is a rising curiosity surrounding commercially accessible cannabis products, holistic plant extracts, and the influence of terpenes on brain functionality. Here, we present five captivating cannabis research narratives from the past year.
Terpenes Predict How Much You Will Like the Product:
Terpenes play a crucial role in determining the appeal and likability of cannabis products, surpassing the significance of THC levels. While cannabinoid content, such as THC or CBD, is often used to describe cannabis products, it is the aromatic terpenes that contribute to the distinct odors and flavors associated with the plant.
A recent study conducted by Arianne Wilson-Poe discovered that terpenes are also responsible for subjective appeal and the desirability of specific cannabis flower or vape products. The study involved nearly 300 individuals participating in thousands of consumption sessions, testing the appeal of cannabis products with varying THC potencies, ranging from less than 0.3% to over 30%.
Contrary to expectations, the study found no correlation between THC potency, total cannabis dose, or total THC dose and subjective appeal. Instead, the only factor directly associated with individuals’ appeal scores was the aroma, which is attributed to the presence of terpenes.
These findings emphasize that a product’s smell is a more reliable indicator of enjoyment compared to its THC content. The study highlights the significance of terpenes in determining the quality of a product and suggests that a pleasurable experience can be achieved without relying solely on high levels of THC.
The Safety of THC is Not Necessarily Enhanced by CBD:
To achieve the desired intoxication level, it is important to find the right dose of THC. Consuming excessive amounts of THC can lead to issues such as impaired memory, decreased cognitive performance, and an overall less enjoyable experience. There is a common belief that CBD can mitigate the negative effects of THC, leading to the assumption that products with higher CBD to THC ratios are safer and result in fewer adverse symptoms. However, a double-blind experiment involving 46 cannabis users revealed that this hypothesis is inaccurate.
The study demonstrated that vaporized oils containing ratios of 1:1, 2:1, or 3:1 CBD to 10mg THC did not provide protection against the effects of THC across various measures. The level of CBD also did not influence the effects of THC, including the sensation of being high, impairments in working and long-term memory, increased pleasurable responses to music and chocolate, or physiological measures such as blood pressure and heart rate.
These findings suggest that incorporating CBD into THC products at typical recreational levels may not offer any protective benefits against some of the adverse effects of THC. It is possible that higher CBD to THC ratios could be effective, but to be certain, the safest approach to avoid potential negative effects of THC is to limit the dosage rather than relying on CBD to mask them.
The Impact of Cannabis On the Aging Adult Brain:
The aging process often leads to a decline in memory and cognitive function, attributed to changes in communication between different brain regions. In a study conducted in Colorado, researchers utilized functional neuroimaging to explore how regular cannabis use (at least once per week) among individuals aged 60 and above affected the strength of communication between specific brain regions known to weaken with age.
The findings revealed that older adults who regularly consumed cannabis exhibited stronger patterns of communication between three key brain regions: the hippocampus, the parahippocampal gyrus, and the cerebellum, in comparison to older adults who did not use cannabis. Remarkably, the enhanced connectivity observed in older cannabis users resembled that of significantly younger non-users, suggesting that cannabis might have a protective effect against age-related declines in brain function.
It is important to note that these results do not establish a causal relationship, as the study design was not a randomized, controlled experiment. Nonetheless, these findings offer valuable human evidence that aligns with observations from rodent studies. Previous research on rodents demonstrated that regular, low-dose cannabis use had a protective effect against age-related brain changes and cognitive decline.
Please note that while these findings are intriguing, further research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits of cannabis on the aging adult brain.
THC and CBD Alone Aren’t Enough to Determine Effects:
When it comes to commercial cannabis products, the commonly provided THC and CBD content is often used as a basis for predicting their effects and impact on brain function. However, it has been discovered that relying solely on this information is insufficient for accurate predictions.
Traditionally, indica strains were associated with relaxation, while sativa strains were believed to be energizing. However, these predictive classifications hold less relevance compared to a strain’s chemical composition, which encompasses a combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds. Nevertheless, THC and CBD content continue to be the primary metrics displayed on retail cannabis products.
In a recent study, oral consumption of a commercially available indica oil was found to reduce the motivation of animals to exert effort for a substantial reward, essentially inducing laziness. Surprisingly, a sativa oil with identical THC and CBD content had no effect.
These findings highlight that THC and CBD levels, as well as indica and sativa classifications, are not the sole factors to consider when predicting the effects of orally consumed cannabis on brain function. Other minor cannabinoids and terpenes also play a significant role.