MAR 18, 2023 3:25 AM PDT

Researchers Develop a Chemovar Indexing System to Assess Differences in Treatment Effectiveness

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

To understand combinations of phytochemicals (chemovars) potential associations with distinct pharmacodynamics and patient health outcomes, a team of researchers created a clinically relevant and scalable chemovar indexing system summarizing primary cannabinoid and terpene contents. The researchers tested whether the most frequently consumed chemovars differed in their treatment effectiveness and experienced side effects. The study published in the Journal of Cannabis Research provides helpful insights into chemovar properties. 

The study analyzed data collected between 2016 and 2021. Two hundred four participants used Releaf App (an educational mobile software application) to record 6,309 real-time consumption sessions using 633 distinct cannabis flower products. Products varied in terpene and cannabinoid potency information. 

The indexing system was based on retrospective data analysis of the products’ primary and secondary terpene contents, tetrahydrocannabinol-9 (THC), and cannabidiol (CBD) potencies. It consisted of 478 distinct chemovars. The analysis compared symptom levels and side effects experienced across the five most common chemovars before and after cannabis consumption for app users and those treating chronic pain and depression or anxiety. 

The researchers found that the five chemovars showed significant differences in symptom treatment effectiveness for chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Although the effects varied, the five chemovars were effective across conditions. The chemovars varied in their association with experiencing positive, negative, and context-specific side effects. Two chemovars (myrcene and beta-caryophyllene) generated two to three fewer positive side effects and one more negative and two more context-specific side effects than the other three chemovars.

The study indicated that a comprehensive chemovar indexing system can be used to identify systematic differences in clinically relevant patient health outcomes and other common experiences across cannabis flower products. Further research using this chemovar indexing system should explore the interaction of phytochemicals.

Sources: Journal of Cannabis Research, NORML


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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