What are terpenes?
You already know what terpenes are because you’ve experienced them all your life. Simply put, terpenes are what gives an orange its citrusy smell, they give pine trees their unique aroma, they’re even responsible for the relaxing effects in lavender. They are chemicals that determine how things smell.
Have you ever bent an orange peel and watched the scented oil jump out from it? That beautiful aroma comes from terpenes.
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants. Almost always, when plants produce scent, the smell comes from terpenes. They are almost everywhere in a plant from roots to flowers, especially flowers.
Terpenes play a vital role in plants. They have different roles in different plants. In some plants, terpenes attract pollinators or protect them from infectious germs, while in other plants, they cause a strong reaction to repel predators, such as insects or foraging animals.
Terpenes in Cannabis
Many people commonly associate them with cannabis because cannabis plants contain high concentrations of them. It’s been discovered that terpenes can play a big role in healing people, they work along cannabinoids in something we call the entourage effect.
The entourage effect, to simplify, means that cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD), along with the hundreds of other compounds, along with the terpenes, are meant to work together. It’s the whole plant that does the best job, not just a single compound. While relief does come from using a CBD oil or a THC oil, whole plant therapy has been the most common use. Utilizing all the compounds and terpenes in the plant may just be the best way after all.
Terpenes may play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains. Some terpenes might promote relaxation and stress-relief, while others potentially promote focus and acuity.
Some people also use the term terpenoids. However, terpenes and terpenoids are not the same.
Terpenes are the natural form of these compounds when they are in the live plant. As a plant dries and cures — in the production of cannabis, for example — the terpenes oxidize and become terpenoids.
Currently, there are at least 20,000 different terpenes in existence and the cannabis plant has more than 100 of these terpenes. Many terpenes that are produced by the cannabis plant are also found elsewhere in nature.
The most common terpenes and their effects
Here are the ones that are in high concetrations in cannabis plants: Myrcene terpene, Limonene terpene, Pinene terpene, Linalool terpene, Caryophyllene terpene, Humulene terpene.
Mycrene, also found in mango, is the primary terpene found in cannabis and it often determines whether a strain can be considered an indica or sativa. Some plants can have up to 65% of their profile made by myrcene alone. Myrcene is responsible for giving marijuana its distinctive aroma.
Limonene is the second most abundant terpene in cannabis, and it can also be found in citrus fruits. However, it may not be found in all cannabis strains. Limonene has great smell and that is why it is a common additive in household cleaning and cosmetic products.
Pinene, as it name says, is found in the pine tree. Pinene is a strong bronchodilator, but also has strong anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects that have been used for centuries in herbal medicines.
Linalool is responsible for lavander relaxant effects.It is also known for the stress-relieving, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant effects. Linalool can help to balance out the anxious side effect sometimes produced by THC and this makes it an ideal terpene for the treatment of anxiety.
Caryophyllene has a spicy, woody, peppery scent and is also found in black pepper and cinnamon. This terpene is capable of treating anxiety, depression, and inflammation.
Humulene terpene rich strains may help to decrease appetite, while many other strains help to increase appetite. It is found in hops, cloves, and basil. Humulene has shown anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Manufacturers use isolated terpenes to create the flavors and scents of many everyday products, such as perfumes, body products, and even foods.
Because terpenes produce vibrant smells, they form the basis of many essential oils and are an integral part of many alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy. Inhaling the scents from some plants and essential oils may affect a person’s mood and stress levels.
The therapeutic value of terpenes has long been established for essential oils, but only recently have terpenes in cannabis been appreciated. For a long time, people thought the madical value of cannabis was mainly in its cannabinoids, namely THC, CBD, CBN, etc.
Traditionally, cannabis has naturally contained terpenes. Varieties always contained them, especially since the cannabis was naturally grown outdoors. In more recent years, cannabis has been bred to have higher and higher THC levels, much of it has been grown indoors because of that. It turns out that these new varieties ( the plants have been grown indoors) do not develop terpenes like the former varieties, grown outdoors, had done. People missed the delicious tastes and aromas of the former varieties of cannabis, and they also missed the therapeutic effects of the terpenes.
That’s why we always vote for whole plant medicine and raw full spectrum CBD oil. If you want to read more about types of CBD oil, you can do this here. Cannabinoids with terpenes act synergistically together to create “entourage effect“. How that happens is partly a matter of the chemical constituents in the plants, but it is also about so much more than that, because understanding the wholeness of a plant and how it might work in our bodies is never only about chemistry.