As we collectively struggle through and wait out the current coronavirus pandemic, many of us are trying to stay home, practice self-care, and stay away from potentially overwhelmed hospitals and doctor's offices. There are also spring colds and an insane allergy season to contend with. If you're feeling under the weather —provided it's not too serious—you are probably at home, looking for alternative ways to help your immune system stay healthy. And many of us are also asking whether the compounds in cannabis might help. That's where cannabis comes in.
Terpenes For The Win
One way cannabis may aid in the recovery, prevention, and overall coping with illness and allergies is through the active terpenes it contains. These chemicals are found in most plants (including, but not limited to, cannabis). They are responsible for the plants' aroma and flavors. If you're into essential oils, you're most likely familiar with terpenes - as they're found in high concentrations in EO's. It's worth mentioning that essential oils have been used forthousands of years for healing diseases, and in modern times, scientific studies confirm that terpenes can have a wide range ofantiviral and antimicrobial effects. Some can evenboost your immune system or reduce inflammation as well, adding to their healing potential.
There have even been studies on the antiviral impacts of specific terpenes, such as triptofordin C-2 and sesquiterpene coumarins on viruses such as Sars-CoV. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8722541). While we haven't seen cannabis terpenes tested against coronaviruses yet, many of the terpenes in cannabis are potent antiviral and antimicrobial agents.
Terpenes To Stave Off Infections
Here are just a few of the terpenes in cannabis that may help you fight off an infection:
β-Caryophyllene is a common terpene in cannabis and is also found in clove essential oil. This peppery, earthy scented terpene has many medicinal properties and is a potent antiviral. In studies where β-Caryophyllene was used against herpes infection, it was able toreduce infection rates by 98%.
Eugenol, found in cannabis and cinnamon leaf and clove essential oils, is anantiviral and antimicrobial chemical. Studies have found it effective against viruses like H1N1 (also known as the swine flu) and herpes. It was also effective against bacterial infections like staph infections - actually destroying the cellular wall and membranes of the microorganism.
Cineole, also known as eucalyptol, is the fragrant terpene that gives eucalyptus trees their aroma. It's also found in cannabis. Cineole has shownantimicrobial effects against several different bacterial infections, including staph infections and listeria; viral infections like herpes, mumps, and H1N1; and even several yeasts and fungi.
Linalool is the sweet flowery terpene found in lavender, it’s essential oils, and of course, cannabis. Linalool has shown antiviral activity against theflu andherpes, but even more reliable results againstbacterial infections such as staph, E. Coli, and the bacteria that cause respiratory tract infections.
Menthol is a common terpene found in both cannabis and the peppermint plant and in concentrated amounts in peppermint oil, often used in products designed to relieve congestion. Menthol is also an antibacterial. In onestudy, it was able to inhibit or slow the growth of 15 different bacterial strains. Still, it was not as effective as linalool or cineole at this antibacterial activity.
D-Limonene is another cannabis terpene with antiviral activity. Also found in lemon peels and lemon essential oil, D-Limonene was able toreduce viral infectivity of herpes by 100%.
Pinene, a terpene found in cannabis and rosemary and its essential oil, also shows antiviral activity against herpes and was also able toreduce infectivity by 100%.
Terpenes For Seasonal Allergy Support
Terpenes found in cannabis can also be useful in combatting seasonal allergies. It might be counterintuitive to smoke something if you're congested or coughing, but that's not always the case. Terpenes have been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years to relieve a host of ailments, including respiratory illnesses. Even modern medicine uses them, e.g., the menthol in Vicks VapoRub.
Here's why: in some cases, allergies can cause your sinuses and bronchial passages to swell—which can lead to a runny nose, sneezing, or a crunchy cough. A lot of terpenes commonly found in cannabis can offer natural relief for this. Some act as bronchodilators that relax the muscles in the lungs. Others act as expectorants that loosen mucus in the lungs and in your nose. And many have anti-inflammatory properties. If you're suffering from allergies, and happen to be at a dispensary, look for a strain that contains a few of these terpenes.
Terpenes With Expectorant Properties
Terpenes With Bronchodilator Properties
Terpenes With Anti-Inflammatory Properties
How to Use Terpenes for Antimicrobial or Antiviral Effects
If you are interested in utilizing these terpenes' effects, and you aren't interested in smoking—keep in mind that they are usually only present in small amounts in plants (including cannabis)— you may find some positive impact from what is present in cannabis products. Shifting to products that highlight high levels of terpenes, such as preformulated terpene sprays, may offer even more direct exposure to these terpenes. Keep in mind, though, that the isolated terpenes you can purchase aren't intended to be used on their own but blended with other substances. You should never use isolated terpenes without knowledge of how to blend them down appropriately - as some are too harsh in concentrated form for consumption.
Traditionally, though,terpenes are usually used in medicinal contexts through essential oils, which are easy to find and pretty widely available. Find one or more of the essential oils listed next to the terpenes above. Use them in one of two traditional delivery methods: topical oil on the skin, or inhaled vapor.
Keep in mind that you should never consume these essential oils by eating or drinking them as some of them are toxic when ingested through our digestive system. They are only designed for inhalation or absorption through the skin. They should not be used for children or animals, who sometimes have negative responses to essential oils not found in adults.
To use them topically, mix a few droplets into an oil, lotion or butter that works well for you. I like to use argan oil for mine because it is rich and silky, but doesn't clog my pores. Once diluted, apply it to the body like a lotion, add it to your bath and let it soak into your skin.
You can also inhale your essential oils, a particularly helpful route for respiratory infections.
Use an oil diffuser to vaporize the essential oils into the air and breath deeply. Or if you don't have a diffuser, add your essential oils to a pot of simmering water on the stove, and the oils will diffuse into the air as the water turns to steam.