Pain-relieving properties in cannabinoids and terpenes

Despite a lack of robust evidence, cannabinoids—such as CBD—are often assumed to be safe and effective in managing pain and used for such purposes in real-world settings. Researches are done or in progress in discovering the potential pain-relieving properties and mechanisms of actions of the diverse phytochemicals in cannabis, including both minor cannabinoids and terpenes. These awards, funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will strengthen the evidence regarding cannabis components and whether they have potential roles in pain management.

Minor cannabinoids (those other than THC, the high-inducing component of marijuana) and certain terpenes found in the cannabis plant may have analgesic properties, but there has been little research on these substances to understand their effects and underlying mechanisms. The cannabis plant contains more than 110 cannabinoids and 120 terpenes, but the only compound that’s been studied extensively is THC.

“THC may help relieve pain, but its value as an analgesic is limited by its psychoactive effects and abuse potential,” said David Shurtleff, Ph.D., deputy director of NCCIH. “These new projects will investigate substances from cannabis that don’t have THC’s disadvantages, looking at their basic biological activity and their potential mechanisms of action as pain relievers.”

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