Multiple Sclerosis & Cannabis: It’s All About The Terpenes

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Before getting to today’s post about terpenes I wanted to share what I wrote in middle of the night last night.

“It is really hard to not feel like a loser when I have to lie down and take a nap after being awake for less than two hours and have only managed to take my youngest to school.

It is really hard to not be disgusted with myself when a trip to the grocery store and stocking up the fridge leaves me on the couch for the rest of the day.

It is really hard to not feel ashamed as I spend hour after hour, day after day on our couch mindlessly clicking through shows that I am not really paying attention to because it is so hard to try and focus and to try and pay attention to anything.  But I keep the TV on, vaguely following the storylines, voices, and actions just to try and keep from thinking about how disappointed I am in myself.

These are the negative thoughts that strike when the MS flairs up.  No matter how positive I am, no matter how much I want my kick-ass attitude to win, there is no avoiding these thoughts and feelings when I am in the thick of it.  I am not out of the woods – I have not yet recovered from this flair, but I am working as hard as I can to remember that I am actually doing something while I am sitting on the couch, or curled up in bed.  I am fighting to get better.  My body needs to rest to get better and the strongest thing I can do is to let it rest and not beat myself up about it.  I need to accept that in this moment, at this point in time, resting is exactly what I need to do to continue to fight against this stupid disease and remember that it is not a sign of defeat!”

THIS is what I wrote down at 2 am last night.  THIS is what I need to keep remembering!

I have spent the past month holed up at home avoiding any and all social interaction.  It just required too much energy to try and make my mind focus on external things.  I have focused my efforts on my recovery, on feeling better.  Although I am world’s away from being back to “normal,” each day I have been able to do a little bit more, each day shows smalls improvements which allow me to remain hopeful and drives me to keep pushing.

Over the past few months, as I continue to learn about cannabis and I try and understand how it is helping me, I have been reading about terpenes and I have come to understand that which terpenes are present in a given strain is what determines whether or not it is going to help with the pain.  I know that I said that it is is all about the strain, but as I learn more, I need to amend this and say it is about which terpenes are in the strains that I am using that matters.

When I first heard the word, I remember thinking…

WHAT THE FUCK IS A TERPENE?!?!?!  

I was just as confused as I was when I first started talking about cannabis and MMJ. I was just as intimidated as when I was initially learning about THC and CBD.  I was hesitant to ask, honestly because I feared I wouldn’t understand it; I doubted my ability to learning new things.  But a recent trip to a local dispensary (Hashtag Seattle) led to an encouraging encounter with three super helpful budtenders.  While explaining what I was looking for (CO2 oils that had terpenes actually LISTED on the packaging) and about my blog and trying to share what I have learned, one of them gave me a huge compliment.  He said he thought I was the most well-educated customer he has ever had the chance to chat with.  For me, this was HUGE….perhaps I have actually managed to not only just memorize information but to understand it?!?!  Maybe I am no longer an MMJ newbie?!?!?!

As time has gone by and I have learned and tried more things it has begun to make sense to me and it has begun to be more than just words that I am reading on some website.  I truly began to understand what they are and how they are helping. To simplify the explanation of what they are, I like to think of them as cannabis’s sap.   They are strong smelly oils that plants (and some insects) excrete.  If you zoom in on a close-up photo of cannabis, you may see what looks like tiny little bubbles, or beads.  Those are the terpenes.

I have talked about the strains that have provided the greatest relief from the pain having both THC and CBD in them.  What I am coming to understand is that it is the combination of many cannabinoids (THC, CBD and others) and the terpenes that all work together to provide relief.  This is known as the “entourage effect.”

So I guess I have gone out and gotten myself an entourage!

 

What I see as being valuable in this discovery is that hopefully in the future the conversation will stem around what terpenes help with your chronic illness or medical needs, rather than what strains.  Strains can vary from grower to grower, location to location and batch to batch so narrowing it down to the terpenes and being able to find strains that HAVE those terpenes is the next step in finding consistent relief regardless of the numerous variables that can come into play when dealing with a naturally grown plant.

As I lay in bed one night, I was thinking about the terpenes and other cannabinoids and how they are helping me find relief.  I have always used the  “frayed electrical cord” analogy when thinking of my disease and how it affects my body and so in my mind these terpenes  (little bubble people as I now think of them) are gathering together at the site of my damaged cords and they are holding hands, making a chain to reconnect my wires and make things work better.

THIS is how I like to think of it.  It makes me feel better to know that I now have an “entourage” of “little bubble people” helping me!  Thanks to these little guys my team is getting stronger and we are going to keep fighting to win!

There are over 200 different terpenes present in cannabis – each with their own unique profile, scent, and benefits.  Finding the terpenes that help is the next key to my puzzle of finding the best/most relief.  I have begun to research what particular terpenes are present in the strains that have been working for me and have started a list of the ones that seem to have positive results for me and my body.  There are a number of graphics out there – listing terpenes and cannabinoids and their individual properties and benefits.  I started with THIS one by Leafly.com to create my list.

  • pinene – one of the more common terpenes,  – has earthy tones (like pine trees) and helps with pain, anti-inflammation and helps alertness
  • eucalyptol – minty smelling and helps with nerve relief and circulation
  • linalool – found in herbs and spices such a lavender and coriander – helps with pain, anxiety, depression and inflammation.
  • myrcene – found in things like mangos and hops it helps with pain and inflammation
  • humulene – found in basil, hops, cloves can provide relief from pain, inflammation, anti-bacterial
  • caryophyllene – peppery scent found in black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves, along with oregano, basil, and other spices.  It can help as an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and depression

 

 

**This is my personal blog and all opinions are my own.  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one here on my blog. The content here is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals.  Be sure to contact your doctor before trying any new medications/vitamins/supplements, physical activities or therapies **

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