National Institutes Of Health To Investigate Minor Cannabinoids And Terpenes For Pain Relief

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health, announced this week the awarding of nine new research grants, totaling approximately $3 million, for the investigation of the potential pain-relieving properties of phytochemicals in cannabis, including minor cannabinoids and terpenes.

NCCIH Director Helene Langevin, M.D. says that the treatment of chronic pain has relied heavily on opioids, despite their potential for addiction and overdose and the fact that their efficacy declines with extended use.

Langevin says that there is an urgent need for safer and more effective options for pain relief.

“THC may help relieve pain, but its value as an analgesic is limited by its psychoactive effects and abuse potential,” said NCCIH Deputy Director David Shurtleff, Ph.D. “These new projects will investigate substances from cannabis that don’t have THC’s disadvantages, looking at their basic biological activity and their potential mechanisms of action as pain relievers.”

While minor cannabinoids and terpenes have been found to possess analgesic properties, they have not been thoroughly studied to reveal the science behind their effects and underlying mechanisms.

According to NCCIH, cannabinoids and other natural products have demonstrated their potential as non-opioid analgesics, but there is more to discover about how and if they work, what they do inside the human body, and how they can be integrated into multidisciplinary pain management.

Topics of study under the new grants include Neuroimmune Mechanisms of Minor Cannabinoids in Inflammatory and Neuropathic Pain, Identifying the Mechanisms of Action for CBD on Chronic Arthritis Pain, Synthetic Biology for the Chemogenetic Manipulation of Pain Pathways, and Systematic Investigation of Rare Cannabinoids With Pain Receptors.

Emory University in Atlanta will also conduct a grant-funded study focused on the analgesic effects of terpene-enriched extracts of hops from the Humulus lupulus plant which is closely related to cannabis and has a similar terpene profile.