Learn more about the amazing benefits of terpenes, the aromatic compounds found in all plants, and discover why they matter when it comes to customizing your overall cannabis experience.
- A simple overview of what terpenes are
- A list of the most commonly found terpenes in cannabis
- Potential health benefits associated with terpenes
Why You Will Love This Guide
The beautiful, yet distinctive, the aroma of cannabis is just one part of what makes this plant so incredible.
Whether it be the fruity smell of Tangerine Dream or the strong lemon aroma from a Sour Haze, each cannabis strain has its own specific aroma and effect.
But what makes the unique aroma of each strain?
The answer is terpenes.
Found in all plants, these compounds are present in cannabis, too, and have their own potential health benefits.
In this guide, we will explore terpenes further, including the ones that are most commonly found in cannabis, and how you can use them to customize your experience.
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What Are Terpenes?
Common smells from different terpenes you may already know include flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine.
They are responsible for the smell of cannabis, a freshly picked tomato, and the scent of a bouquet of fresh flowers.
To date, there have been over 10,000 different types of terpenes identified2.
Between 10-30 different types of terpenes can be present in any given cannabis plant, and the concentrations and ratios will vary from strain to strain.
With so many cannabinoids and terpene combinations comes endless strain varieties.
The effects of different terpenes range from euphoric to energized, creative and focused, and of course, relaxed.
Although some differences may be subtle, terpenes can add great depth to the cannabis experience, its unique medicinal properties, and its psychoactive effects.
The Benefits of Terpenes
Beyond taste and smell, there is an incredible amount of science to support the health benefits of terpenes.
In turn, we can learn how to use them to improve our own health and wellness.
The unique combination of cannabinoids and terpenes are responsible for the differences in the effects of various strains.
Frequently Asked Questions
Terpenes derived from plants other than cannabis are recognized by the FDA as a food additive and are classified as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) (3).
No, these volatile organic compounds, or aromatic essential oils, determine the smell and taste are present in all types of plants.
Terpenes Found in Cannabis
The cannabis plant contains a wide variety of terpenes with the actual composition varying from strain to strain.
These compounds interact with multiple physiological systems in the body, exerting a variety of effects.
The most common terpenes found in cannabis are:
Myrcene, also known as beta-myrcene, is a monoterpene and the most abundant terpene found in cannabis (5).
Myrcene inhibits PGE-2 synthesis and produces analgesic effects as a result of potential activity at the alpha-2 adrenoreceptors (6).
Along with being a pain reliever, myrcene also has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, analgesic, and sedative effects.
Myrcene has been used as a muscle relaxant, working as a sedative to soothe muscle spasms, and may even induce liver detoxification enzymes.
While most abundant in cannabis, myrcene is also found in hops, lemongrass, basil, mangoes, and thyme.
Cannabis and thyme both have strong antibacterial and antioxidant properties, as well as the ability to affect digestive motility.
Beta-caryophyllene, classified as a sesquiterpene, is the most abundant sesquiterpene found in cannabis.
This terpene acts as an agonist of CB2 receptors within the endocannabinoid system.
According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA, B-caryophyllene displays CBR2 agonist downstream effects, contributing to its neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-malarial, and anti-cancer properties (7).
Along with cannabis, the beta-caryophyllene terpene is also found in cardamom, black pepper, cloves, oregano, rosemary, and carrot seed.
Carrot seed improves skin tone and elasticity and is used to treat precancerous skin conditions.
The combination of cannabis and carrot seed could prove beneficial in not only preventing and treating skin cancer but can reduce scarring and skin tone after melanoma removals.
Limonene, classified as a monoterpene, is a highly bioavailable terpene that is found in citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits along with other fruits like pineapple and apricots.
Not only could citrus oils’ antispasmodic properties potentially strengthen those of cannabis and increase the treatment against painful intestinal conditions, but it has also been reported in traditional herbal medicine that limonene is an anecdote against cannabis intoxication.
Linalool is a familiar terpene most commonly associated with the relaxing, soothing smell of lavender, and is also found in holy basil and cilantro.
According to a review published in Colloids and Biointerfaces, this terpene has been studied for its anti-depressant, analgesic, anti-convulsant, anti-anxiolytic, anti-tumor, and anti-fungal properties (9).
Linalool has a significant effect on the autonomic nervous system, can act as a local anesthetic is a primary example of essential oil being used to relieve anxiety and help sleep.
Using other botanicals, like lavender, in conjunction with cannabis to achieve a specific effect is referred to as herbal synergy.
Terpenoids in cannabis and other plants offer herbal therapeutic synergy.
The calming and sedative effects of lavender may be beneficial in aiding CBD to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC.
With further research, the lavender essential oil may prove to have an effect on CB2 receptors in the skin.
Both alpha-pinene and beta-pinene are monoterpenes most commonly found in pine needles.
Pinene is highly bioavailable with pulmonary uptake and helps to inhibit PGE-1 synthesis and works as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, aiding in memory.
Additionally, pinene works as an analgesic to relieve pain, an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antibacterial, bronchodilator, and neuroprotective (10).
Along with cannabis, pinene is commonly found in conifers like pine and hemlock trees.
The analgesic properties of both pine and cannabis can be combined for both intestinal pain and arthritic pains.
Cannabis Plant Synergy
The Entourage Effect, an interaction between phytocannabinoids and terpenes, is a new field of research that is being pioneered by Ethan Russo, renowned neuroscientist and cannabis researcher.
We can speculate what we think may occur with the interaction of phytocannabinoids and terpenes, but until we have a better understanding of phytocannabinoids and our endocannabinoid system, we are still only beginning to grasp the healing potential of adding cannabis to aromatherapy.
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