How Cannabis Products Differ



Dear Nurse Susan,

After much trial and error, I finally found my ideal ratio of CBD to THC (3:1) to manage my chronic pain and anxiety. The last time I went to my dispensary, they were out of my product, so I bought another product with the same 3:1 ratio. It made me feel totally different than my go-to product. I was not happy about this! Can you explain why that happened and tell me how to find a similar product when they are out of stock on mine?

Confused about Cannabis

Dear Confused,

Hang in there! There is a lot to understand about the cannabis plant and its compounds. First, congratulations on finding the ratio that works best for you; that is an important first step. As you continue using cannabis, you will further refine your knowledge of the nuances of the cannabis compounds and be able to get the results you are seeking.

So, let’s talk about terpenes, the essential oils in the cannabis plant that give it its distinct aromas. Terpenes also have therapeutic effects and can be the reason why two products with the same CBD to THC ratio have such different effects. Here is a video introducing terpenes.

Once you have found a product that works for you, review the lab report for the cannabinoid and terpene profile and use that as a guide for finding a similar product.For example, here is a link to a lab report on a vape cartridge from WVapes that shows a high level of the terpene, myrcene.

Myrcene is the most common terpene in cannabis, with certain strains having as much as 60% of this essential oil. It is a monoterpene found in several other plants: mango, hops, lemongrass, bay laurel leaves, thyme, basil and cardamom. Its smell is earthy, herbal, and very similar to cloves.Myrcene is very helpful with serious chronic diseases. Eating a fresh mango 45 minutes before ingesting cannabis brings a faster and more intense high/euphoria. Myrcene is a potent analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic. It also has a relaxing, calming, anti-spasmodic and sedative effect. It creates the “couch-lock” effect when in concentrations above .5%. This report shows myrcene at 1.447% so you can expect some serious relaxation.Acting in synergy with THC, myrcene increases the intoxicating effects of THC.

At the other end of the spectrum is beta-caryophyllene which reduces the intoxicating effects of THC. Here is a link to a lab report on a vape cartridge from W Vapes that shows a high level of the terpene, beta-caryophyllene.

B-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene with a spicy aroma found in cannabis, black pepper, cloves, hops, rosemary, and basil. It is unique in that it is both a terpene and a dietary cannabinoid that binds to CB2 receptors. Some sources speculate that beta-caryophyllene is so powerful it could threaten existing pharmaceuticals, and synthetic cannabinoids.

As a side note, I’ve included a couple of lab reports above as an example of how to determine the makeup of the product you are buying. I never use a product that doesn’t provide a lab report from a reputable lab. The lab results confirm that the product is safe, without pesticides, mold or bacteria. Reputable companies lab test their products and will post the lab report on their website. If the company does not lab test their products, does not make tests readily available, or post expired lab reports, do not use that product! These are likely low-quality products, especially over-the-counter CBD/hemp products. Buyer beware! As well, going back to the topic of this post, the lab report tells you the components of the product which may be the answer to your initial question regarding the differences in seemingly similar products.

Such is the power of terpenes! I encourage you to learn more about terpenes and their unique therapeutic effects. Without knowing the source of your chronic pain, you may be interested to know that myrcene is an anti-inflammatory, sedative, muscle relaxant, anti-spasmodic, pain reliever, anti-anxiety, relieves stress, neuroprotectant, relieves nerve pain, and is an antioxidant (good for evening use). Beta-caryophyllene is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, local anesthetic, pain reliever (including toothaches), neuroprotectant, relieves nerve pain and anxiety,and is a muscle relaxant (good for daytime use). 

Enjoy your exploration of terpenes and their natural, non-toxic therapeutic benefits!

Nurse Susan

(Susan Marks RN, BSN, PHN writes for CityWatch and is a medical cannabis educator and consultant based in Los Angeles. You can contact her at [email protected]