What are Cannabis Terpenes?
Cannabis has an identifiable odor that is musky, skunky, and strong; most people can smell it before they even see it. Terpenes are fragrant substances that give many flowers and herbs their distinct scents. They also give cannabis its characteristic flavor.
There are around 150 different terpene kinds found in cannabis. Even though the majority of terpenes are just traced present, the more potent ones work in concert to give different cannabis strains their own fragrance profiles. Sour Diesel’s terpene profile informs you of its strong, gassy nature, while Cherry Pie evokes the delicious aroma of sweet and sour cherry pie hot from the oven.
Terpenes play a variety of roles in the cannabis plant, in addition to giving it its distinctive aromas. Terpenes can also have various medicinal and mood-altering effects on cannabis users.
Where do terpenes come from?
Terpenes are organic substances that are present in the trichomes of female cannabis plants. Trichomes are translucent, sticky glands that are found on leaves and stems and, in much lower numbers, on the surface of buds. Importantly, trichomes have glands that create terpenes called resin glands.
Terpenes are essential to the development and survival of a cannabis plant. These organic substances not only provide various scents but also enhance the color and pigmentation of the leaves and buds, which improves the flavor of the cannabis. Terpenes, in essence, contribute to the plant’s attraction to some animals while discouraging potentially harmful ones.
The terpene geraniol, for instance, deters insects and herbivorous animals from nibbling on cannabis. Other terpenes, such as linalool and terpinolene, draw insects and other tiny animals that can aid in the distribution of pollen. By providing information about the environment, shielding plants from infections and stresses, and aiding in the initiation of immune responses, these aromatic chemicals boost plants’ immune systems.
The quantity of terpenes a cannabis plant generates can be influenced by a wide range of factors. Terpene levels can be affected by a variety of elements, including whether the plant is cultivated outdoors or indoors, light exposure, temperature, specific growing media, nutrient levels, and the time of harvest.
How do terpenes affect the body?
Terpenes’ aromatic characteristics have long been known about. Terpenes have a variety of bright fragrances that humans have long used to create essential oils for applications like aromatherapy.
Anyone who has applied linalool-containing lavender oil behind their ears, for instance, is aware of its potential relaxation benefits. The terpenes in some cannabis strains can also enhance their effects.
Terpenes, however, seem to have effects that go beyond those that make people feel good and reduce stress. Another emerging area in cannabis treatment is terpenes. The therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids like THC and CBD have dominated the attention up until recently, but as our knowledge of terpenes deepens, it’s becoming clear that these fragrant chemicals are medical powerhouses too.
The medicinal benefits of terpenes
Terpenes have been linked to a number of therapeutic advantages in in vitro (in test tubes) and preclinical animal investigations. However, it should be mentioned that terpene research is still in its early stages and hasn’t been widely carried out on humans. To firmly establish our understanding of these chemicals, more study is required.
New antiviral chemicals are always being sought after by scientists. Numerous terpenes, such as alpha- and beta-pinene, caryophyllene, camphor, and carvone, may have potent antiviral effects.
The search for substances that can help suppress cancer is being driven by rising rates of many different types of cancer. Some terpenes, including those in cannabis, have anticancer properties that can hinder the development or activity of cancer cells.
Along with other terpenes like pinene, camphor, terpinene, and beta-myrcene, limonene may be particularly noteworthy anticancer and antitumor agent. Terpenes may have a special advantage in treating cancer because they are unlikely to harm healthy cells or have negative side effects.
Twenty-five percent of antidepressant medications are made with terpene-rich plant extracts. Among the several plant extracts utilized in antidepressant drugs are linalool and beta-pinene.
Many different terpenes have the potential to be antimicrobial, or to stop a hazardous microbe in its tracks. Alpha-bisabolol, geraniol, menthol, eucalyptol, and terpinolene are terpenes that may aid in killing or halting the spread of microbes.
Some cannabis terpenes may imitate cannabinoids by having a pain-relieving effect, according to research. One study from 2021 that mixed terpenes and cannabinoids found that pain-relieving effectiveness increased without an increase in adverse side effects. The entourage effect may be indicated by this interaction (more below).
Terpenes including humulene, geraniol, linalool, and -pinene may have pain-relieving properties. Fascinatingly, the aforementioned study also discovered that these terpenes stimulate CB1 receptors in the body, which are a component of the endocannabinoid system and affect how pain is perceived.
How can terpenes contribute to the effects of cannabis?
The entourage effect, which may be thought of as: The whole of all chemicals present in cannabis are more together than the sum of its parts, is an emerging theory that says all plant compounds in cannabis function together synergistically. In other words, when cannabinoids and terpenes are taken together as opposed to separately, a unique whole-plant synergy takes place.
Terpenes, for instance, seem to have an impact on how THC and CBD act within the body. People with epilepsy who took full-spectrum CBD extract, which contains cannabinoids and terpenes, reported better symptoms and fewer side effects than those who took CBD isolate, which only contains cannabinoids, in a 2018 review. Full-spectrum cannabis extract, which contains cannabinoids, terpenes, and other substances found in the plant, is whole-plant medicine.
The top three terpenes found in cannabis
As was previously said, cannabis contains an astounding variety of terpenes—more than 150 different kinds, to be exact. While many of these happen at concentrations that are impossible to notice, others of them are more pronounced.
The three terpenes that make up the majority of cannabis are detailed here.
Myrcene or caryophyllene predominates in the majority of cannabis strains. Herbaceous, spicy, earthy, and musky fragrance characteristics have been attributed to the terpene myrcene, which is also abundant in hops and lemongrass. Cannabis has a somewhat sweet flavor profile thanks to myrcene, which is also present in mangoes.
Myrcene not only contributes to the distinctive aroma of cannabis, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties. According to a 2015 study using cultured cells, myrcene may successfully lessen inflammation related to osteoarthritis.
Additionally, the terpene appeared to aid in preventing cartilage cell degeneration, slowing the course of osteoarthritis, and reducing the formation of some inflammatory cells created by the body. In the future, myrcene might be used to treat anti-inflammatory disorders and associated signs and symptoms
Some cannabis strains have a spicy, peppery bite from caryophyllene, commonly known as beta-caryophyllene or -caryophyllene. Other plants including cloves, rosemary, oregano, and black pepper contain caryophyllene as well. When you smell a specific cannabis cultivar, if you detect any of these aromas, caryophyllene is probably present.
The only terpene in cannabis that has been proven to be able to bind to the CB2 receptor in the body’s immune system is caryophyllene. Caryophyllene is sometimes categorized as an atypical cannabinoid because of this particular effect.
According to studies on caryophyllene’s medicinal effects, it may be able to reduce symptoms in a wide range of disorders, including colitis, diabetes, cerebral ischemia, anxiety and depression, liver fibrosis, and diseases that resemble Alzheimer’s.
Limonene’s name gives away the odors this terpene is known for clean, fresh, uplifting citrus-y scents. Ginger and citrus fruit rinds contain limonene, a terpene that is also prevalent in many cannabis strains with fruity, fresh aromas like Papaya Punch and Black Cherry Soda.
Limonene appears to change the behavior of some immune cells in the body, which could defend against a variety of diseases. In one study, limonene promoted the growth of bone marrow and spleen antibody-producing cells, which the immune system utilizes to recognize and destroy harmful germs and viruses.
Recent research has also raised the possibility that Covid-19 therapies may benefit from limonene’s distinctive therapeutic profile.