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

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 **

21 Replies to “Multiple Sclerosis & Cannabis: It’s All About The Terpenes”

  1. HI Meg, while Hempseeds are nutritional, there are not enough cannabinoids or terpenes to help with illnesses. Cannabis is the way to go. As for isolating terpenes, I’m not a fan. You are best with whole plant medicine, which has the best results for healing. As a medical patient, advocate and educator, I have seen time and time again that isolates never work as well. Adding essential oils (getting terpenes this way) to the cannabis is the only way I would add anything . Just an added note, a very good friend of mine beat her MS with Cannabis four years ago and has no sign of ever having had it!!!

  2. Hi Meg! Wicked awesome blog. I was diagnosed with MS in 1999 (I was 19yrs old) but symptoms trace back to early childhood. Honestly, I started smoking marijuana when I was 13yrs old and I often wonder how much worse my MS would be if I haven’t been smoking for 25yrs. Now that MMJ is legal in MA (also legal recreationally), I enjoy goin to the dispensary and havin a variety of methods of consumin MMJ. I’m definitely gonna share this. Thank you, My Fellow MS Warrior!!
    MuchLuv from Boston,
    Cara #MMJ #TERPENES

    1. Hey Cara!
      Thanks! My folks live on Martha’s Vineyard so I knew MA was gearing up for legalization. Good to hear that it’s moved along and that there are now dispensaries open!:).

  3. Thanks for a great blog post ! So might you share which terpenes seem to be of greatest benefit to you? And yes, sometimes finding out about the growers in your community can be helpful!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! The ones that I have found helpful are listed at the bottom of the post. In a list and in a silly little graphic thing:)
      Cheers!
      Meg

  4. Thank you Meg for sharing the information you have learned on MMJ. I always look forward to reading your blog. I am new to this as I once was so against its use. Now with having MS the illness has tough me to have an open mind to is as I have benefited from its use. I am a lot like you. I need to understand its’ benefit and how it works with the body to understand it more. Being in Canada, I do get the medical MMJ and try to share what I learn with my friends that use it for recreation. Often they are totally blown away at the information about it. I really try and let them understand the medical benefits of it as I do believe those that use it for recreation over the years has really given it a bad rap. Awareness and sharing knowledge of its benifits is the key, for sure. Thanks for sharing ……..

    1. Hi Sherry!
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read and to share! Understanding is huge and you are right there is way to much false info and bad judgement about it. In my mind it is plant for goodness sake and it that plant can provide me with a better quality of life then yeah me! Keep sharing the knowledge 😉
      Cheers
      Meg

  5. Meg, thank you so much for your blog! You (and I) are not alone. I know what you mean about feeling disappointed in yourself! I considered myself ambitious, fairly confident, etc..Now, however, I feel… idk, “less or diminished, or something like that. Besides trying out different mmj products for symptom relief, i’ve gotten into a meditation practice. I am learning more about self-acceptance and self-compassion. About accepting, adapting and adjusting to this disease that has taken so much. It will always be work in progress, but I am getting better at it. It’s helpful to have all these MS communities – to support each other and not feel isolated by this. Thank you Meg for your contributions.

    1. Hi Sylvana!
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog and for sharing! Learning self acceptance is definitely something that is required when living with a chronic illness. It’s something I work on daily. Some days it goes better than others:). But I will keep trying!

      Cheers!
      Meg

    2. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement! I use this medicine daily now for almost two years. I had colon cancer and was told after 5 years to prepare for palliative care. Needless to say, I am still here and thriving! What I relate to in your post is the mediation practice and the self awareness it brings to my life. This crap is hard to take some days as well as the harsh words and sometimes condemnation of others. Even family members! Wow, their ignorance is astounding. I try to educate others about the powerful medicine and its healing effects for so many health issues and for that matter, life issues. There is such a myriad of emotions that come from diseases and meditation works wonders for my soul. We are all in this together and we are all connected when we allow ourselves to be. I wish you well and hope for your continues happiness.

      1. Hi Kathryn!

        :). Thanks for taking the time to read and then share your story.
        Education is huge and I hope to continue my effort to let people know that it is HELPING me and that is what matters. I will never turn away a chance for a better quality of life!:)

        Cheers!
        Meg

  6. Meg

    I just wanted to say that your blog is awesome and you are awesome. You have a very elegant, descriptive, and easy writing style that touches a nerve (pun intended 🙂 with me and I am sure many of us that have experienced exactly what you have experienced. Please don’t stop. Thank you for expressing your experience with the world. Please know that you are not alone in this journey.

    1. Cue the damn water works! Thank you for your kind words. I’m not sure I COULD stop sharing but I do often wonder if it has value. YOU make me remember that it does.

      THANK YOU!
      🙂
      Meg

  7. I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m learning and am dabbling with mmj. Please forgive me if you’ve already addressed this question. Is there a difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana? One of my friends says there is not, it’s just how much tax you have to pay. Long story, but I can’t get a medical marijuana card but I can purchase recreational. Your blog is teaching me what to look for. Thank you!

    1. Hi Beth!

      I’m so glad that you are enjoying my ramblings and happy to hear that you are dabbling! As for your question – it is a damn good one! And one that I don’t think I have an answer to. I had THOUGHT that the answer is not really – other than MMJ products are/were catered to helping with medical benefits and recreational is more for the “getting high” experiences. But I had a conversation with what I would consider an “old timer” in the industry – someone that has been in the trenches of cannabis for YEARS – and when we were talking about what would help me most he mentioned juicing raw cannabis. I then asked “so do I just go to my local dispensary and buy some flower/bud and just through it in my blender?” And he responded with, no you need high quality medical marijuana. SO maybe there IS a difference?!?!?

      But here in Washington state, they closed all the MMJ businesses and clinics once recreational was approved – so everyone is buying the same marijuana whether it be for recreational or medical. I have begun researching local producers and I am finding the ones that seem to have a focus on MMJ and that are interested in the terpenes that are in their product.

      Sorry I couldn’t give you an answer and for rambling in my response.

      Again, so happy to hear that you are enjoying the blog!

      Cheers!
      Meg

  8. I’m a newbie to this whole idea of using cannabis to help me cope with the pain, weakness, spasticity, etc., that go along with Primary Progressive MS – which I have had now for 18 years. I live in MO & marijuana is not legal here – not even medical marijuana. How do I go about legally acquiring cannabis for treating MS?

    1. Hey JV,
      Thanks for stopping by – and I wish I had an answer for you. With each state having different laws and regulations and the fact that the federal government still views it as a class I drug (even in states that have legalized) it’s hard to find any answers and even more challenging to know HOW to send people in the right direction. I know that there are hemp-based products being produced that are legal in all 50 states, but I have no idea if they have similar results/benefits as cannabis. I will most definitely keep my ears open about them – maybe one of my other readers has other info to share?

      Cheers!
      Meg

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