What Are Terpenes?
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Cannabis is a complex plant with over 400 chemical entities, of which more than 60 of them are cannabinoid compounds.
- Terpenes are organic compounds that enhance your “high”, affect the taste, and hold numerous medical benefits.
- On the very basic level, terpenes are aromatic molecules that evaporate easily and readily let your nose know they are present. It just so happens that they are healthy for people as well as plants.
- Terpenes (and terpenoids) are aromatic organic hydrocarbons found in many plants and some insects. Plants develop terpenes to ward off herbivores that might eat them and to attract helpful predators and pollinators. Cannabis (marijuana) has naturally high levels of terpenes.
Various researchers have shared the importance of terpenes or terpenoids as they are the foundational basis of aromatherapy which is popular among the holistic healing community.
These terpenes are found in the bud of cannabis.
Approximately 200 terpenes have been found in cannabis but there is only a handful of them that appear in substantial amounts to be deemed “nose worthy”. Those would be inclusive of monoterpenes, diterpenes, and sesquiterpenes.
These are characterized by the amount of repeating 5-carbon molecule units, named isoprene which is the core foundational hallmark of all compounds of terpenoid.
Interesting fact – it’s the terpenes in marijuana that give the plant its enduring and evolutionary advantage in the world.
Some terpenes have a pungent odor that repels insects and some animals while others combat fungus.
If you are familiar with “essential oils” you already have some experience with terpenes. Terpenes are found in high quantities in various essential oils.
Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene that is found in the essential oil of oregano, black pepper, and other herbs that are edible. It can also be found in many green, leafy vegetables and some cannabis strains. It is known to provide relief for some ulcers and is said to be gastro-protective. This terpene can help with inflammatory conditions and is used by some people for auto-immune challenges because it binds directly to the peripheral cannabinoid receptor known as CB2.
In fact, in July of 2008, a scientist from Switzerland conducted a study in which he documented beta-caryophyllene’s affinity for binding to the CB2 receptor and documented it as a “dietary cannabinoid.” It’s regarded as the only terpenoid known to have direct activation of a cannabinoid receptor. It happens to be one of the reasons why leafy, green vegetables are known to be healthy for us to eat.
Terpenoids and cannabinoids have been seen in increasing the blood flow, enhancing cortical activity, and other pathogen challenges.
Limonene is in the essential oil of lemons and limes, alpha, and beta-pinene are found in the essential oil of pine needles. The terpenes in these essential oils contribute to the uplifting effects you may experience if you smell the rind of a lemon or walk through a pine forest.
Likewise, the terpene linalool predominates the essential oil of lavender and is known for creating feelings of relaxation and ease.
Terpenes have been shown to have benefits for wellbeing as referenced in cannabis research.
Why do terpenes matter?
- Terpenes directly affect your high and can contribute to increasing overall health and wellness
- Terpenes have been shown to provide wellness benefits, like cannabinoids, and work synergistically with other compounds in cannabis on the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).
- Terpenes give cannabis and vape oil its natural flavor and aroma
In 2011, a neurologist and researcher wrote a paper describing the ways cannabinoids and terpenes work together to boost and modulate the effects of one another in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
For a long time, THC was considered the only chemical of psychoactive importance in cannabis. This team helped reveal how other cannabinoids (like CBD) and terpenes can either increase or decrease the effects of THC and other chemicals in the body that interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Myrcene, as studied, may increase the effects of THC. It has been cited in the study for inducing sleepiness and providing anti-inflammatory, auto-immune and discomfort issues.
Limonene, on the other hand, is regarded as a compound that provides for energy and was shown to be uplifting to a person’s moods.
Benefits of Terpenes
It has been revealed that terpenes could produce synergy with helping alleviate discomfort for some, reducing inflammation, helping uplift moods, and relieve stress. Additionally, in some cases, it’s been seen to also help alleviate some fungal and bacterial infections.
Taste and Flavor of Terpenes
Terpenes are a natural spice kit. What’s more, the smell of terpenes is helpful for guiding you toward the cannabis your body wants.
Here are a few common Terpenes and their effects:
The most common terpene in cannabis. It is also known as the “couch potato” terpene for its highly-sedative effects.
Common in citrus, it is highly energetic and a known anti-depressant.
A smoky or woody aroma that is slightly sedative, antioxidant, and antibacterial.
Gastroprotective and a strong anti-inflammatory with a woody, peppery taste.
Alpha and Beta-Pinene:
Energetic and therapeutic, this terpene is common in pine needles. If you’ve ever walked through a forest and felt “refreshed” you’ve experienced this terpenoid!
The main constituent of hops is a strong anti-inflammatory agent and a hunger-suppressant.
If this interests you, explore the history of Terpenes.