Terpene and Cannabinoid combinations and ratios make a difference

This study created an indexing system for cannabis flower chemovar groups (based on cannabinoid & terpene amounts, not cultivar names) and used those groupings to determine if they were correlated with different patient health outcomes. It was published in the Journal of Cannabis Research in February 2023.

They used retrospective data from the cannabis product journal ReLeaf App. The self-reported data came from 204 patients using 633 products over 6,309 sessions. All sessions collected cannabinoid and terpene amounts as entered by the patients. The study focused on subgroups of patients that have 1) chronic pain and 2) anxiety or depression symptoms.

Summary of their cannabis chemovar indexing system:

  • A four character system
  • The first two characters (and superecripts) are codes for the top 2 terpenes and their amounts by dry weight % (20 were tracked)
  • The second two characters are number codes for the dry weight % of THC and CBD

They observed 478 unique codes, or chemovar groups based on their indexing system. The five most common chemovar codes accounted for about 17% (1,099) of all sessions.

Interestingly, those flower products containing CBD or relatively low terpene amounts were reported to be less effective. Above average amounts of Myrcene and Terpinolene (between 0.5% and 1.0%) with THC levels between 15% and 25% were reported to be the most effective ("reliably stronger therapeutic effects").

Results in the authors' words:

Significant group differences in symptom relief were found across the chemovars

The results suggest that exemplar chemovars with any discernable amounts of CBD provide less symptom relief than those without CBD

the variants with slightly higher-than-average levels (between 0.50 and 1.0%) of mercene [myrcene] and terpinolene appeared to be associated with reliably stronger therapeutic effects

variants with the lowest terpene levels and any detectable amounts of CBD were associated with the least likelihood of experiencing positive side effects and the greatest likelihood of experiencing negative or context-specific side effects


The most common adverse effects were dry mouth (40.6% of sessions) and red eye (26.8%).

The authors concluded:

Examination of the five most frequently consumed chemovars showed significant differences in symptom treatment effectiveness for chronic pain and for depression and anxiety

The findings provide “proof-of-concept” that a simple, yet 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, irrespective of the product’s commercial or strain name. 


The full text article is here at BioMedCentral.com.