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Cannabis plant and bud
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The cannabis plant

A brief introduction to cannabis, cannabinoids and terpenoids

Cannabis is a plant of the Cannabaceae family and has been used for millennia for medical and recreational purposes, but also as hemp fibre to create paper, clothing, biofuel and food.

Medicinal cannabis specifically involves the use of the cannabis plant to treat an expanding list of medical conditions including epilepsy, neuropathic pain and multiple sclerosis. Cannabis is a plant of the Cannabaceae family and has been used for millennia for medical and recreational purposes, but also as hemp fibre to create paper, clothing, biofuel and food.

The cannabis plant contains more than 400 molecules, approximately 100 of which are cannabinoids, but it also contains numerous other chemicals including terpenoids, flavonoids and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.

Cannabinoids are a diverse array of ‘cannabis like’ molecules which encompass phytocannabinoids, endocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids.

  1. Phytocannabinoids – those found in the cannabis plant.
  2. Endocannabinoids – naturally occurring cannabinoids found in the human brain and bodily organs.
  3. Synthetic cannabinoids – those that have been synthesised by chemists that mimic the actions of phytocannabinoids or influence the body’s concentrations of endocannabinoids.

Our research examines the medical applications of individual cannabinoids, combinations of cannabinoids and terpenoids, and various full-spectrum extracts in preclinical and clinical studies.

Terpenoids are responsible for the distinct smell of cannabis and many other flowering plants.

Interestingly, terpenoids may directly or indirectly interact with phytocannabinoids, potentially contributing to the therapeutic value of cannabis.

Prevalent terpenoids in cannabis include αL-pinene, β-pinene, β-myrcene, and β-caryophyllene, which are routinely analysed by our researchers in cannabis extracts and biological samples.

The ‘entourage effect’ is the notion that the pharmacological effects of cannabis, as a whole extract, is greater than the sum of its individual chemical components. We are putting the entourage effect to the test across a range of research studies where we are examining cannabinoid combinations and full-spectrum extracts.

The term was coined by Raphael Mechoulam and colleagues in 1998, in reference to endocannabinoids rather than the cannabis plant. They noticed that the effects of 2-AG on the CB1 receptor was increased in the presence of other fatty acid esters of glycerol, compounds that accompany 2-AG and preserve it from degradation.

Barry and Joy Lambert on 60 Minutes

Barry and Joy Lambert explain the difference between a low-THC hemp plant and a high-THC cannabis plant, licensing requirements, and legal complications. (Footage courtesy of Channel 9).