Can terpenes offer relief from neuropathy?

Can terpenes offer relief from neuropathy?


Sam North is an experienced cannabis consultant and writer who provides education and guidance for businesses, commercial projects, and private clients. With over 5 years of industry experience, Sam is passionate about the potential of cannabis to help restore balance and well-being into people's lives.

With medical cannabis becoming a legal option for treating medical conditions back in November 2018 here in the UK, an increasing number of patients are starting to explore this complementary form of medicine. 

Although most of the clinical research and media attention has focused on cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD), the other compounds found in the cannabis sativa L. plant, such as terpenes, are starting to gain recognition for their potential therapeutic benefits.

But what exactly are terpenes?

Can they offer neuropathy sufferers some form of relief?

And if so, how can they be administered?

In this article, we will answer these questions and explore the potential role terpenes may play in helping manage neuropathy and its related symptoms.

What are terpenes?

Found mostly in the trichomes (the sticky, glassy, translucent glands that cover the flowers and sugar leaves of cannabis plants), terpenes are unsaturated hydrocarbons. They are the main building blocks of essential oils and are responsible for the aroma characteristics of cannabis plants, but emerging research is starting to show that terpenes may also be one of the reasons behind the therapeutic benefits of medical cannabis.

The "entourage effect” refers to the synergistic effects of all compounds in the cannabis plant working together, enhancing each other’s therapeutic potential. This means that while cannabinoids like THC and CBD have their own individual effects, they may work better when combined with terpenes. And, on top of this, terpenes themselves are believed to have therapeutic properties.

What is neuropathy?

Neuropathy, or peripheral neuropathy, is a condition that affects the nerves and can cause symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and pain in the extremities. There is no single cause of peripheral neuropathy, with various underlying conditions and factors possibly contributing to its development. These include:

  • Tumours
  • Genetic disorders
  • Autoimmune and inflammatory diseases
  • Infections
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Deficiencies in vitamins and nutrients
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Surgical procedures
  • Trauma
  • Vascular disorders

Its symptoms are as wide-ranging as its causes, and can be broken up into three main categories:

  • Sensory symptoms – Tingling, numbness, pain, and balance issues are all examples of sensory symptoms.
  • Motor symptoms – These affect the muscles and can cause weakness, cramps, and twitching.
  • Autonomic symptoms – This type of symptom impacts the involuntary functions of the body and can cause issues with digestion, bowel regulation, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Current conventional treatment options include medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes. However, with continuing research into the potential benefits of medical cannabis, neuropathy sufferers may have another option for managing their symptoms.

Can terpenes offer relief for neuropathy?

Now, this area of medical research is very much in its infancy still. With that said, there are two interesting papers that we can look at in order to tackle this question.

In a groundbreaking study published in March 2023, conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona, the efficacy and mechanism of action of five Cannabis terpenes (geraniol, linalool, b-pinene, a-humulene, and b-caryophyllene) were investigated. The focus of this study was to evaluate the potential of these terpenes in alleviating both chronic and peripheral neuropathic pain.

While this study was limited to animal subjects (mice), the results showed that all five terpenes showed similar efficacy to morphine and a cannabinoid receptor agonist in reducing pain.

The next study focused on just two terpenes, but the results were no less striking. Published in November 2021, the terpenes camphene and alpha-bisabolol were shown to "have a wide spectrum of analgesic action by inhibiting Cav3.2 T-type calcium channels, making them potential targets for pain management"

Although both of these studies found very promising results, it is important to note that research in this area is still ongoing, and further studies are needed in order to fully understand the potential benefits of terpenes for neuropathy.

How to take terpenes for neuropathy

The easiest way to add terpenes to your medical cannabis regimen is through vaporisation. Since the terpenes are concentrated in the trichomes, vaporising the flower allows for the full spectrum of compounds to be inhaled. Other options include using terpene-infused oils and tinctures, which can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) for rapid and direct absorption into the bloodstream.

Some patients may prefer to take edibles, but these do come with some downsides. When eaten, the terpenes must pass through the digestive system and the liver before entering the bloodstream, which may decrease their efficacy. Additionally, edibles can take up to two hours to take effect, which may not be suitable for those needing immediate relief.

When determining the appropriate dosage, it is crucial to have a discussion with your prescribing physician and consider the following factors:

  • The severity and frequency of your symptoms
  • Any other existing health conditions
  • Your height and weight
  • Cannabis strains that may be beneficial for your specific condition
  • Suitable methods of administration for your specific condition

Final thoughts

Thanks to breakthroughs in medical research, we are starting to understand the potential benefits of terpenes in managing not only neuropathy symptoms but also other medical conditions. With further studies and clinical trials already in the works, and legal medical cannabis slowly spreading across the globe, the future looks promising for the application of terpenes as another potential tool in the treatment of neuropathy.

While it is legal to buy terpene products 'over-the-counter' or online (as long as they contain less than 0.2% THC) here in the UK, you should always discuss any potential changes to your treatment plan with your prescribing doctor first. They will be able to advise you on the safest, most effective ways to incorporate terpenes into your current medical cannabis regimen. As with any medication, it is important to find the right balance for your individual needs in order to achieve the best possible results. Keep an open dialogue with your doctor, and together you can explore all possible treatment options to find the relief you deserve.

Releaf understands that finding a doctor who is registered to prescribe medical cannabis can be difficult. That's why we offer online consultations with our specialist doctors, as well as a unique medical cannabis card for extra protection and access to the treatment you need. If you're interested in learning more about our services or getting access to medical cannabis treatment, get in touch and one of our team members will be happy to help.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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