The genetic makeup of cannabis sativa makes available to chemotypes, cultivars, and individual plants of this herbal species literally hundreds of different molecules—all of which offer various and significant medicinal efficacy. These include more than 100 cannabinoids, 200 terpenes, and a couple dozen flavonoids.
Cannabinoids are molecules produced solely by the cannabis plant. They include the infamous psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD (which has shown efficacy as great as THC, but without the overt psychotropic effects).
Terpenes are aromatic molecules that are responsible for the sometimes pungent odor of cannabis flowers. Once thought to convey merely fragrant tones for the olfactory, terpenes have been found to deliver health benefits rivaling those of cannabinoids.
Terpenes & Flavonoids
Terpenes differ from cannabinoids due to the fact that they are produced by more than 20,000 plants in nature. These species range from camphor, conifer, orange trees, and rosemary to nutmeg, lilac, basil, and black pepper. Flavonoids are similar to terpenes in that they are found in thousands of plant and fungi other than cannabis (roughly 6,000 species). Interestingly, three flavonoids that are exclusive to cannabis—Cannaflavin A, Cannaflavin B, and Cannaflavin C—have been identified. This class of flavonoids is called cannaflavins.
When these molecules commingle in the human endocannabinoid system, or ECS, researchers have noted a phenomenon that has been labeled the entourage effect. This medical theory proposes that the synergistic interplay of these chemicals within the ECS delivers health benefits that exceed the separate efficacies of these individual molecules. In other words, the entourage effect theory embraces the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.