Nerve or neuropathic pain is commonly defined as a "different" type of pain. It isn't the normal run-of-the-mill pain you feel when you bump your head or shin. This type of pain feels more like the sharp, intense pain of stubbing your little toe against a leg of a heavy, wooden table.
Unfortunately, it's a condition that affects many people, with approximately 25-30 percent of Americans suffering from it. Even though anyone can get neuropathy, it mainly affects older adults above 30.
Neuropathic pain is believed to result from health conditions that affect the nerves that carry signals to the brain. The damaged nerve fibers then send the wrong signals to pain centers.
Scientific literature defines it as "a shooting, stabbing, or burning sensation" that often hits like an electric shock. People with nerve pain are usually extra sensitive – a slight touch or cold can leave them howling in pain.
It's a condition that tends to worsen at night, making sleep a problem. Over time, it can interfere with other aspects of life, such as work, exercise, and sex. It's not uncommon to find people with neuropathic pain having anxiety and depression.
This comorbidity compounds an already dire situation necessitating the need for a multipronged treatment plan.
Currently, there is no single treatment to prevent or cure neuropathic pain. However, early management is vital to treat its symptoms.
- Neuropathic pain stems from damaged nerves with an impaired ability to relay signals to the brain.
- Research findings are still inconclusive, but terpenes show considerable potential in managing neuralgia.
- Terpenes can induce the same effects as dominant cannabinoids
What are terpenes
Terpenes are a class of compounds that exist in plants and some animals. They are responsible for the different plant aromas and scents, like the spicy flavor of black pepper or the floral lavender scent.
However, aroma and flavor are not the only attributes these compounds confer to plants. They also protect them from predators and help with pollination.
Although many plants produce terpenes, cannabis is particularly rich in terpenes hence its strong scent. One way of identifying a terpene-rich plant is through its scent – plants with stronger scents like citrus trees or conifers generally have more terpenes.
In cannabis, terpenes are mostly concentrated in the trichomes of female plants. Trichomes are essentially terpene-producing factories.
For example, the cannabis plant is thought to have over 150 different types of terpenes, although some are only present in trace amounts. The dominant ones team together to give different cannabis strains their signature flavors.
Interestingly, cannabis strains are often defined by their unique scents. For example, Sour Diesel –a hugely popular strain–has a characteristic pungent odor with an earthy taste due to its terpene profile composition.
Besides protecting and giving cannabis strains their uniqueness, terpenes also appear to have a range of therapeutic and mood-altering properties.
Can terpenes really alleviate pain?
Yes, certain terpenes possess pain-relieving properties.
We know that much of cannabis' health effects are attributed to cannabinoids – a different class of compounds in plants. Cannabis is not the only cannabinoid-producing plant; others are licorice, rhododendron, clove, black pepper, broccoli, carrots, ginseng, and Echinacea.
Terpenes play a more subdued role, mostly indirectly affecting the overall experience you get from inhaling cannabis. Since cannabis research is still young, not much is known about terpenes, especially their pharmaceutical value.
However, emerging research suggests terpenes may contribute to cannabis' potential painkilling effect.
It's unclear how they do this, but researchers are increasingly convinced that terpenes are cannabimimetic and can enhance cannabinoid activity. Other recent studies also contend that the widely-touted "entourage effect" could be due to terpenes modulating cannabinoids, resulting in better outcomes.
In other words, terpenes enhance the effects of the dominant cannabinoids in a strain. For instance, the terpenes geraniol, linalool, alpha-Humulene, and beta-pinene were shown to induce cannabinoid-tetrad behavior in mice after being paired with a synthetic cannabinoid that produced similar effects.
That's because terpenes can activate the same CB receptors as other cannabinoids. This stimulates neurons that regulate various behavioral and physiological processes.
Indeed, the four terpenes mentioned earlier have proven capable of activating CB1 receptors, just like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
How terpenes work for pain
Our basic understanding is that terpenes mediate various bodily processes, such as pain alleviation, via the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a network of cannabinoid (CB) receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters) that regulate multiple processes such as appetite, memory and learning, mood, sleep, and pain sensation.
Cannabinoids are the primary signaling compounds for the ECS. That's to say, a release of endogenous cannabinoids, i.e., cannabinoids produced by the body, triggers activity in various CB receptors and kick-starts wide-ranging physiological processes.
These are mostly beneficial but not at all times. For instance, the activation of CB1 receptors by THC may induce desirable outcomes like pain and inflammation relief or better sleep. It can also bring about unwanted side effects like an altered state of mind, i.e., getting "stoned."
Terpenes, as earlier mentioned, selectively mimic the activities of cannabinoids. In the case of pain relief, they interact with the receptors that control pain (CB1) and alter how they process pain.
It is unclear how terpenes "select" the therapeutic effect they mimic because despite being able to induce THC's analgesic effects, they haven't been shown to cause a "high."
This only reinforces an earlier pronouncement — that more research is needed to fully understand how cannabis influences various physiological processes in the body.
Terpenes for pain and inflammation relief
Regardless of what causes pain, one thing that's not in doubt is its ability to impact your quality of life. The impact of chronic pain can range from minor movement challenges to total loss of independence.
So, as with cannabinoids, cannabis experts maintain that terpenes may impact health problems, including pain.
Pain affects millions of Americans. It can either be acute or chronic. The former is "pain that persists longer than expected, or for more than six months.” Chronic pain could be due to damage to the body or ongoing treatment.
If you experience pain and inflammation, terpenes may offer you a way to manage the situation. Obviously, you stand to reap bigger rewards if you focus on terpenes with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
But, as always, it’s best to consult a medical professional when managing pain. Especially severe pain caused by nerve damage.
Best terpenes for nerve pain
Like cannabinoids, terpenes can exert different effects on the body. So let's look at some terpenes that may help with pain and inflammation.
Also known as beta-caryophyllene, this terpene is the most common in cannabis. Though it is found in cloves, rosemary, and hops, its distinct flavor is easily noticeable in black pepper.
Caryophyllene-rich cannabis strains include Sour Diesel, Bubba Kush, Candyland, and GSC, among others.
Caryophyllene is a powerhouse of anti-inflammatory and analgesic chemicals and is incidentally the first non-cannabinoid compound shown to selectively activate CB receptors. It binds to CB2 but not CB1 receptors and has been proposed for use in managing neuropathic pain, and acute and chronic inflammation.
A 2018 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology demonstrated caryophyllene's potential anti-inflammatory effects in arthritis treatment. Rats with induced arthritis were given caryophyllene doses of 215 milligrams and 430 milligrams, resulting in significantly reduced swelling in lymph nodes.
Thanks to such findings, beta-caryophyllene is a crucial and common component of anti-inflammatory topicals and salves.
This terpene is also known as alpha-caryophyllene or alpha-Humulene. It's predominant in hops, black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon and is responsible for some plants' bitter taste. Humulene has a subtle aroma with earthy, woody notes with a tinge of spice.
Humulene possesses anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce anti-inflammatory pain when used topically.
Cannabis strains rich in humulene tend to have a calming effect on the mind and relieve pain and boost creativity. In fact, a study equated humulene's anti-inflammatory activity to dexamethasone – a corticosteroid that suppresses the release of pro-inflammatory substances in the body.
This is another major terpene in cannabis. It is found in hops, basil, mangoes, and lemongrass and is linked to beer's spicy, balsamic, fresh hop flavor. It is the most abundant terpene in commercial cannabis, accounting for over 20% of its terpene profile.
Cannabis strains high in myrcene content include OG Kush, Remedy, Blue Dream, and Granddaddy Purple, to mention a few.
Myrcene has many reported biological activities besides anti-inflammatory properties. These are antibacterial, antioxidative, antidiabetic, sedative, and analgesic. However, this terpene has come under increased scrutiny as a potential human carcinogen.
Studies by the National Toxicology Program in the US have shown increased incidences of liver and kidney neoplasms in rats.
These have, nonetheless, been dispelled by the FDA and scientific bodies who argue that myrcene is safe under the conditions of its intended use, i.e., food flavoring.
Be that as it may, evidence of myrcene's potential anti-inflammatory effects comes mainly from animal studies. So, more research is needed to support its role in reducing human inflammation and pain.
In the wild, pinene is the most common terpene and is found in pine, cedar, and other evergreen trees. Pinene exists in two structures – alpha and beta.
Alpha-pinene is the most abundant terpene in nature and is responsible for the clean, pleasant aroma of a forest of pine trees.
This terpene has potent anti-inflammatory effects that have found use in managing diseases like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and Crohn's disease. It's also believed to promote pain relief and relaxation.
Indeed, existing studies suggest pinene is a potential candidate for further investigations as novel medicine for neuropathic pain.
Linalool is a monoterpene that naturally occurs in many herbs and flowers besides cannabis. It's noted for its spicy, floral scent, making it a popular ingredient in food, skincare, and cleaning commercial products.
Existing research on linalool points to a host of promising health benefits, mainly when used with other cannabis compounds. For example, it is thought to have pain-relieving properties due to its ability to downregulate the activity of spine cells that relay pain signals. It may also increase adenosine levels in the brain.
But like myrcene, linalool has also been bogged by controversies. There are reports of people reacting negatively to beauty products with linalool as an ingredient.
One such study documented allergies to oxidized linalool in the UK, forcing European drug regulatory agencies to demand its labeling or ban altogether in recent years.
This terpene is found in citrus fruits (the peels) and has a lemon-like flavor. Its therapeutic effects have been extensively studied and support its anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive capabilities, among many others.
Topical use of limonene is not advised as it can cause sensitivity. It can penetrate the skin, causing rash, hives, inflammation, itchy scalps, or skin redness. However, it has a much better safety profile when ingested.
Is CBD good for nerve pain?
CBD research is even scarcer regarding neuropathy, but recent research findings suggest that CBD may have a role in regulating neuropathic pain. This primarily comes down to CBD's ability to modulate the ECS.
By now, you know that cannabinoids are the "synthesis machinery" of the ECS, which is a primary target in the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain. It's been shown that CBD can inhibit the degradation of MAGL and FAAH enzymes.
These enzymes degrade the main endogenous ligands of cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, affecting various pain processing aspects.
Also, a growing body of research suggests CBD shows promise in reducing pain in patients with neuropathy. Personal testimonies from CBD users also hint at the considerable efficacy of CBD products in managing neuralgia.
However, conclusive evidence is still lacking regarding CBD's ability to reduce nerve pain.
Why FOCL CBD for nerve pain?
High-quality CBD may have substantial health effects. We recommend purchasing CBD products from credible brands like FOCL, whose products meet the criteria below.
- Ingredients: our products are made from US-grown premium hemp CBD and high-quality ingredients that enhance their overall effectiveness.
- Third-party testing: our products undergo independent third-party testing to ensure they meet GMP standards and are safe for human use.
- Certificate of analysis: our commitment to transparency and quality is exemplified by its readiness to share its products' certificate of analysis after lab tests.
- Dosage: all our products come with a recommended dosing guideline and serving size.
All these means our products are developed to do exactly what they are intended to do – make you focus, sleep, and perform better.
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