What are terpenes?
Terpenes are a large and diverse class of aromatic organic compounds that are found in the essential oils of plants.
The integral role of terpenes in medical cannabis research has led to increased interest and recognition of the potential holistic benefits of these compounds in recent years.
The unique scents from these compounds are not only distinctive, but also functional, protecting plants from predators and environmental stressors.
Terpenes Are Everywhere
Terpenes are produced by many species of plants and even some insects. Conifers (e.g. pine trees) for instance, contain high levels of a-Pinene while citrus usually contains high levels of Limonene.
Wine connoisseurs are also known to discuss terpenes as there are over 50 terpene compounds, including Linalool that have been identified in grapes and wine.
The Most Common Terpenes
In cannabis plants, there are over 200 known terpenes, and they are the reason why every strain has a unique smell and different effects.
Some of the most interesting and prevalent cannabis terpenes from a wellness perspective are briefly described below.
Myrcene, which is also found in mangoes is the most prevalent terpene found in cannabis, especially indica-dominant strains and it is known to promote a sedative, relaxing effect. β-myrcene is also unique in that it crosses the blood-brain barrier, increasing potency and rapid onset of cannabinoids and synergistic terpene action.
Beta Caryophyllene is another terpene with unique properties as it is the only non-cannabinoid plant molecule that interacts with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), illustrating the impact of terpenes on the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids.
β–caryophyllene binds to the CB2 receptor found in the central and peripheral nervous system, and is thought to play a major role in managing inflammation .Caryophyllene is prevalent in cannabis plants as well as black pepper, cloves and cinnamon among other species.
Pinene has an aroma of pine and firs, with both α-pinene and β-pinene being primary constituents of pine resin. Often used to treat inflammation, α-pinene is the most commonly found terpene throughout nature.
Linalool has been isolated from more than 300 different plants and has aromatic undertones of floral and lavender. Users often report calming relaxing effects and it has been used for centuries as a sleep aid. Linalool is also a precursor critical to the production of Vitamin E in plants.
Limonene is the primary constituent of fruit rinds, as well peppermint, juniper, rosemary and many pine needle oils. This terpene with it’s citrusy, lemon orange aroma is reported to produce uplifting and mood enhancing effects in users. Limonene is also a natural insecticide to protect plants from predators.
Humulene is found in cloves, basil and hops and has an earthy aroma that gives beer its distinctive “hoppy” aroma. One of the distinctive attributes of Humulene is its reported appetite suppression effect. Humulene has been widely used for more than 1,000 years in Chinese medicine.
In addition to their own individual holistic effects, terpenes work synergistically with one another as well as cannabinoids like CBD to increase therapeutic potential, modulate efficacy and mitigate unwanted effects, a phenomenon referred to as the “Entourage Effect”.
Potential Holistic Benefits
When choosing CBD oil products, terpenes potentially offer a significant improvement in the overall experience for end-users.
Research On Terpenes