06 April 2015
What is Synergy?
The chemical profile of Cannabis sativa contains 100s of active secondary metabolites. There is strong evidence that these secondary compounds in cannabis enhance the beneficial effects of the major cannabinoid, THC. The secondary compounds in cannabis can reduce negative side effects of THC, such as, anxiety, cholinergic deficits and immunosuppression. In addition, terpenoids and flavonoids may increase cerebral blood flow, kill respiratory pathogens, and provide anti-inflammatory activity. Contemporary approaches to the medicinal use of marijuana seek to leverage the full potential of the cannabis pharmacopeia, rather than reducing the naturally occurring pharmacology to a single cannabinoid component in stark contradiction with the strategy of today’s current and past industrial pharma.1
Combinations of various cannabinoids and terpenoids have been shown to be useful in the treatment of a wide range of patient conditions. Cannabinoids along with terpenoids and flavonoids act in synergy on the body’s systems and not in isolation. The cannabis therapeutic synergies are what scientists refer to as the cannabis entourage effect.2 The entourage synergistic concept has created a complex and vitally important challenge for those engaged in product development for the medicinal marijuana marketplace. Matching patients’ clinical endpoints with efficacious synergistic mixtures of cannabis metabolites is underway through the leveraging of full-scale metabolomics.
Metabolomics is the science of looking at the unique chemical footprint, the metabolome, made up of hundreds of molecules, left after a set of specific cellular processes.3 The complex mixture that makes up the metabolome of the cannabis plant can be simplified through the process of separation science and compounds identified via analytical chemistry techniques. Various techniques are available to enable the separation process including the methods of preparative hi-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and extraction using supercritical fluids, solvents or steam. For analysis and identification of metabolic components, gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry and analytical HPLC are the most common and readily available.
Patients should choose complex mixtures of cannabis extracts to increase the therapeutic potential of this amazing plant even with the knowledge that variability does and will exist from extract to extract for many reasons. This variability in cannabis extracts is just one of the challenges ahead for developing cannabis into a more refined, precision medicine.
1 Wagner H, Ulrich-Merzenich G. (2009) Synergy Research: Approaching a new generation of phytopharmaceuticals. Phytomed. 16:97-110.
2 Berenbaum MC (1989) What is synergy? Pharmacol Rev. 41:93-141.
3 Daviss, Bennett (April 2005). “Growing pains for metabolomics”. The Scientist 19 (8): 25–28.