Last updated on 14 September 2021
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are the organic hydrocarbons found in cannabis that give this plant and its flowers distinct flavors and aromatic diversity. In short, it is what gives flowers and plants their unique scent. In fact, this is the defense mechanism of cannabis to deter insects or deer from eating it.
Like the essential oils, terpenes are produced in the sticky resin glands of cannabis, where cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are also secreted. While regular consumers notice terpenes mainly because of their aromatic and pungent distinctions, these compounds provide more benefits than just an intense odor.
Recognized by the FDA as safe to use, terpenes can be found in many fruits, herbs, and plants. In general, these compounds are frequently utilized in the production of flavorings and fragrances in a wide range of organic products. For instance, the distinctive fragrance of cannabis, mint, or lavender is mainly thanks to the unique structure of terpenes in these plants.
Important Terpenes You Should Know
Each strain of cannabis comes with a distinctive terpene profile, which is different in the concentration and line-up. Here are 4 terpenes that have the greatest concentrations in cannabis.
Cannabis varieties which are rich in limonene typically have a pungent citrusy aroma like lime or orange. Highly taken by inhalation, this terpene is widely used to help with weight loss, treat and prevent cancer, and alleviate bronchitis. Also, it is an essential part of medicinal creams and ointments to help these products penetrate your skin better. Limonene is often found in peppermint, juniper, rosemary, and citrus fruits’ peels.
B-caryophyllene is the only terpene that is known to produce a spicy, woody, or peppery aroma. It has shown to have an anti-inflammatory response, thus helping to reduce depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. B-caryophyllene is often found in black pepper, cinnamon or Thai basil.
Found in nearly 200 species such as fungi, cinnamon, mint, flowers, and especially lavender, linalool features a floral aroma that has been shown to promote relaxing and calming effects. It is widely used as a sleep aid and precursor in the production of vitamin E. Also, linalool might significantly lower lung inflammation due to Alzheimer’s diseases and smoking.
With an earthy, clove, and musky aroma, B-myrcene is the most abundant terpene secreted by cannabis, which is comprised of up to a half of the terpene volume. Many studies have found that this compound has anti-inflammatory and ulcer properties which can be used as a muscle and sedative relaxer. Myrcene is also found in other plants such as eucalyptus, hops, thyme, lemongrass, and mango.
The Entourage effect
Introduced in 1998 by Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat, Israeli researchers, the entourage effect maintains that all of the natural compounds in cannabis, including tetrahydrocannabivarin, cannabichromene, cannabigerol, cannabidiolic acid, cannabinoids, and terpenes, can synergistically work together to magnify the beneficial properties. This means that isolated cannabis elements are not as effective as when all of them work in harmony.
In discussing this theory, the researchers often add credit to the usage of full-spectrum cannabis. This form of synergism might play an essential part in the widely-held yet not experimentally-based opinions that plants are often better drugs than their isolated natural products.
How Do Terpenes Affect The Body?
In addition to serving as a protective mechanism for plants, terpenes can affect the human body. Similar to cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, terpenes can interact with cellular and neural receptors in the body, as well as modulate the levels of the neurotransmitter. By binding to these receptors in your brain, these compounds might boost dopamine activities (which regulates reward, motivation, and pleasure) or impede the breakdown of serotonin, also known as a feel-good neurotransmitter.
As a result, the terpenes, especially in cannabis, have many health benefits just as anti-depressants. However, they don’t provide debilitating side effects which you often see in traditional re-uptake or tricyclic inhibiting medications.
Which Terpene Strains Provide Unique Health Benefits?
As said earlier, there are approximately 200 strains of terpenes available in nature. And each of them has different effects on the body. Among them, some types provide unique health benefits, including:
This terpene is dominant in the Sativa strains and also an addition to some topicals. It might help ease depression and anxiety.
Why Do Terpenes Matter?
Terpenes provide a wide range of medical benefits such as anti-carcinogen, antiseptic, and antimicrobial effects. As a result, they are often used to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and aid with sleep.
In terms of efficacy, these compounds have been proved to have as much health values as cannabinoids such as CBD and THC, which are shown to reduce pain and seizures. For example, a lab study implemented in 2011 at Chicago University in the US revealed that pinene, a common type of terpene, aids in the treatment of viral and bacterial infections. In addition, other common terpenes have been shown to have both anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory characteristics, as well as help with depression and digestion.
What Is Research Saying About CBD And Terpenes?
In 2011, a groundbreaking paper by researcher and neurologist Ethan Russo shown described the way terpenes and cannabinoids work together to modulate and boost their health effects in the ECS or endocannabinoid system. For a long time, it was considered that THC is the only psychotropic component in cannabis. However, Russo and his team revealed how other compounds like terpenes and CBD oil can either decrease or increase these effects.
Another clinical study by Tokyo University in 2015 also revealed that many types of terpenes would produce synergy concerning the treatments of inflammation, pain, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, addiction, cancer, bacterial and fungal infections.