JUN 06, 2024 1:40 PM PDT

Cannabis Terpenes Similar to Morphine for Relieving Neuropathic Pain

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

A recent study found that cannabis sativa terpenes may be as effective as morphine at reducing chronic neuropathic pain. The corresponding study was published in PAIN

Terpenes are compounds that give plants aroma and taste. Some research indicates that they can also induce pain relief in both humans and animals.  In the current study, researchers investigated whether terpenes could be used to manage chronic pain.

To do so, they tested five terpenes found in moderate to high levels in cannabis- alpha-humulene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-pinene, geraniol, and linalool- in male and female mouse models of chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain. They compared the results to pain relief from morphine.

Ultimately, they found that each terpene reduced pain levels by a similar degree as morphine. They further found that lower doses of terpenes combined with morphine produced more pain relief than either alone.

The terpenes' potential for pain relief, however, was highly dependent on their route of administration; injection yielded the most pain relief, whereas oral and inhalation routes produced either reduced or absent effects. All of the terpenes studied were found to have a low risk of addiction.

“A lot of people vape or smoke terpenes as part of cannabis extracts that are available commercially in states where cannabis use is legal,” said lead author of the study, John Streicher, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Arizona, in a press release.

“We were surprised to find that the inhalation route didn’t have an impact in this study, because there are a lot of at least anecdotal reports saying that you can get the effects of terpenes whether taken orally or inhaled. Part of the confounding factor is that terpenes smell quite nice and it’s hard to disguise that aroma, so people could be kind of having the psychosomatic placebo-style effect," he added.

In future studies, the researchers intend to investigate whether terpenes block the reward potential of opiates like morphine while enhancing its pain relief potential. 

“This brings up the idea that you could have a combination therapy, an opioid with a high level of terpene, that could actually make the pain relief better while blocking the addiction potential of opioids. That’s what we are looking at now," concluded Prof Streicher.


Sources: EurekAlert, PAIN

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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