What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic oils that are secreted from the cannabis plant’s glands, in the same way that cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, are. These terpenes are what give a cannabis strain it’s distinctive flavors like citrus, berry, or pine.
What role do terpenes play?
Do terpenes only add flavor? No. Many believe that terpenes play a significant role in how certain cannabis strains interact with our bodies. Each terpene has characteristics and effects that make them unique. For example, Alpha-Pinene promotes alertness and memory retention, making it an ideal choice for daytime use. Different terpene profiles have completely different effects and these effects are predictable.
While the classification of “sativa” and “indica” gives us a starting place to assess what the effects on our body may be, we are now looking at the terpene profile to give us greater insights. The synergy between the compounds has been coined as the “entourage effect” and is meant to describe how the effect profile of any given terpene may change in the presence of other compounds. The differences may be subtle but can give us a greater understanding of a strain’s potential effects. Most importantly, terpenes may offer additional value as they mediate our body’s interaction with cannabinoids.
The terpene myrcene, for example, can reduce resistance in the blood-brain barrier, enabling easier passage of other beneficial chemicals. Pinene helps counteract compromised cognition and memory caused by THC. A combination of terpenes pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene help unravel anxiety. Mixing terpenes linalool and limonene with the cannabinoid CBG shows promise in the treatment of MRSA. THC plus CBN yields enhanced sedating effects. Linalool and limonene combined with CBD is being examined as an anti-acne treatment.
Are terpenes only found in cannabis?
No! Other strong smelling plants and flowers also produce terpenes to ward of would be predators and attract pollinators. Myrcene, for example, is also found in mango, lemongrass, hops and thyme. Limonene is also present in fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper and peppermint.
What are the most common terpenes?
Vaporizes At: 311ºF (155ºC)
Potential Effects: Alertness, memory retention, counteracts some THC effects
Potential Medical Value: Treatment of asthma, pain, inflammation, ulcers, anxiety, cancer
Also Found in: Pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley, dill
Aroma: Cardamom, cloves, musky, earthy, herbal
Vaporizes At: 332ºF (167ºC)
Potential Effects: Sedating “couchlock” effect, relaxing
Potential Medical Value: Antioxidant; treatment of insomnia, pain, and inflammation
Also Found in: Mango, lemongrass, thyme, hops
Vaporizes At: 348ºF (176ºC)
Potential Effects: Elevated mood, stress relief
Potential Medical Value: Treatment of anxiety, depression, inflammation, pain, and cancer
Also Found in: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint
Aroma: Pepper, spicy, woody, cloves
Vaporizes At: 266ºF (130ºC)
Potential Effects: Stress relief
Potential Medical Value: Treatment of pain, anxiety/depression, ulcers
Also Found in: Black pepper, cloves, cinnamon
Vaporizes At: 388ºF (198ºC)
Potential Effects: Mood enhancement, sedation
Potential Medical Value: Treatment of anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, inflammation, and neurodegenerative disease
Also Found in: Lavender
Aroma: Hops, woody, earthy
Vaporizes At: 222ºF (106ºC)
Potential Medical Value: Anti-inflammatory
Also Found in: Hops, coriander, cloves, basil
Aroma: Sweet, herbal, and woody
Vaporizes At: 122ºF (50ºC)
Potential Medical Value: Antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic, decongestant, antibacterial
Also Found in: Mint, parsley, pepper, basil, mangoes, orchids, and kumquats
Aroma: Piney, floral, and herbal
Vaporizes At: 366ºF (186ºC)
Potential Effects: Relaxing
Potential Medical Value: Antioxidant, sedative, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer
Also Found in: Nutmeg, tea tree, conifers, apples, cumin, and lilacs
It may seem overwhelming, but understanding how cannabinoids and terpenes work together can help you select strains based on the desired effect. For example, if you were looking for a strain that would reduce anxiety and depression, you may want to try a strain such a Sour Diesel that contains the terpene Limonene. Take note of how different strains and terpene profiles affect you so that you can make educated decisions based on what suits your individual needs.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Terpene information via Leafly.