Learn about the origins of terpenes, their effects on the body, medicinal application, and the most common terpenes in cannabis.
Cannabis has an identifiable odor that is described as skunky, musky, and strong. The vast majority of people are able to smell it before they ever see it. Terpenes, the aromatic molecules that define the perfume of many flowers and plants, endow cannabis with its characteristic odor and add to its taste. Terpenes are also responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Terpenes come in more than 150 different varieties, and cannabis has them all. Even while the majority of terpenes are only present in minute quantities, the more prominent ones work in concert with one another to provide various cannabis strains with their own aroma profiles. Cherry Pie conjures up the enticing aroma of a sweet and sour cherry pie that has just come out of the oven, while the mix of terpenes in Sour Diesel conveys information about the strain’s pungent and gassy nature.
Terpenes are responsible for the distinctive bouquet of aromas that are characteristic of cannabis, but they also serve a variety of other purposes inside the plant and may have a variety of medicinal and mood-altering effects on people who eat cannabis.
Terpenes are organic chemicals that are discovered in the trichomes of female cannabis plants. Terpenes give cannabis its distinctive aroma. Trichomes are glands that cover the surface of buds and, in much lesser numbers, may also be found on leaves and stems. Trichomes are sticky and transparent. Resin glands, which are responsible for the production of terpenes, are found in trichomes.
Terpenes are an essential component in the development and continued existence of a cannabis plant. These chemical compounds are responsible for the peculiar fragrances produced by cannabis. In addition, they enhance the color and pigmentation of cannabis leaves and buds, and they contribute to the taste of cannabis. Terpenes, in a nutshell, work to increase the plant’s appeal to some animals while discouraging the behavior of others that can cause damage to the plant.
Certain terpenes, such as geraniol, for instance, deter insects or herbivores from feeding on cannabis when they are present in the plant. Other terpenes, such as terpinolene and linalool, have the ability to entice insects and other tiny animals that assist in the pollination process. These aromatic chemicals provide support for the plant’s immune system by communicating information about the environment around the plant, shielding the plant from environmental stresses and pathogens, and assisting in the induction of immunological responses.
There are a variety of factors that might influence the quantity of terpenes that a cannabis plant generates. Terpene levels may be affected by a variety of factors, including where the plant is grown (indoors or outdoors), the amount of light it receives, the temperature, the kind of growth media used, the amount of nutrients present, and the timing of harvesting.
The extraction of cannabis often results in the loss of many terpenes since these chemicals are very volatile and difficult to preserve. However, an increased understanding of the medicinal significance of terpenes is leading to the development of more delicate techniques of extraction, such as the use of living resin.
Live resin is produced from freshly frozen cannabis plants and maintains freezing temperatures throughout the extraction process. This helps to preserve the terpenes and other volatile compounds that are found in the plant, which results in a cannabis experience that is more aromatically complex and flavorful.
The fragrant qualities of terpenes have been known to humans for quite some time. Essential oils, such as those used in aromatherapy, have been derived by humans from terpenes for a very long time in order to take advantage of their energizing aromas.
For instance, anybody who has ever dabbed lavender oil, which includes linalool, behind their ears is aware of the possible benefits of doing so, including the fact that it may help calm you. In a similar vein, the presence of terpenes in some cannabis strains might amplify the effects of the drug.
However, the effects of terpenes seem to extend beyond than the advantages of just feeling good and relieving stress. Terpenes have been recognized as another new frontier in the medical applications of cannabis. Until recently, practically all of the attention has been placed on the curative properties of cannabinoids like as THC and CBD. However, as our knowledge of terpenes deepens, it is becoming more and more obvious that these fragrant molecules are also powerful in the realm of medicine.
Each terpene has its own own set of curative qualities, yet they are all interrelated. It should come as no surprise that some of the impacts that terpenes have on humans are reminiscent of their role in cannabis and other plants, such as the ability to aid in the battle against unwanted germs and viruses.
Terpenes have been shown to have a wide variety of beneficial effects on health in both in vivo (on living animals) and in vitro (in laboratory test tubes) research settings. It is important to keep in mind, however, that research on terpenes is still in its infancy and has not been carried out on people to a large extent. In order to further our knowledge of these substances, more study has to be carried out.
The quest for novel antiviral chemicals never ends in the scientific community. A wide variety of terpenes, such as alpha- and beta-pinene, caryophyllene, camphor, and carvone, have the potential to demonstrate potent antiviral properties.
The search for molecules that might help reduce cancer is being driven by the rising prevalence of many different types of the disease. Certain terpenes, including those that are contained in cannabis, have the potential to display anticancer activity, which may aid to prevent the development or activity of cancer cells.
Along with other terpenes including pinene, camphor, terpinene, and beta-myrcene, limonene has the potential to be a very effective anticancer and antitumor agent. In the context of cancer therapy, the fact that terpenes are unlikely to have an impact on healthy cells or to produce any side effects is a possible advantage that sets them apart from other compounds.
Herbal extracts with terpene content are used in the production of 25% of antidepressant medications today. Linalool and beta-pinene are two components that are frequently found in antidepressant medications that contain plant extracts.
Terpenes come in a wide variety, and some of them may have antimicrobial activity, which is the capacity to stop a pathogenic microbe in its tracks. Alpha-bisabolol, geraniol, menthol, eucalyptol, and terpinolene are all examples of terpenes that have the potential to assist in the elimination of microorganisms or the halting of their advancement.
Researchers have discovered that some terpenes present in cannabis have an effect that is similar to that of cannabinoids in that it alleviates pain. When cannabinoids and terpenes were mixed in one research in 2021, the pain-relieving benefits were increased without a corresponding rise in the number of adverse side effects. It’s possible that this contact is a sign of the entourage effect (more below).
Terpenes such as humulene, geraniol, linalool, and alpha-pinene have been shown to have the potential to alleviate pain. Intriguingly, the research described above also discovered that these terpenes activate the CB1 receptors in the body. CB1 receptors are a component of the endocannabinoid system and have an effect on how we experience pain.
New evidence suggests that all of the plant compounds found in cannabis work together synergistically. This phenomenon is referred to as the entourage effect, and one way to think about it is as follows: The whole of all of the compounds present in cannabis are more together than the sum of its parts. Consuming cannabinoids and terpenes together, as opposed to each component being ingested on its own, results in the formation of a unique synergy that benefits the plant as a whole.
Terpenes, for instance, are thought to have an influence on the way THC and CBD are metabolized and distributed throughout the body. People with epilepsy who participated in a study conducted in 2018 found that those who took full-spectrum CBD extract, which contains not only cannabinoids but also terpenes, reported reduced symptoms and fewer adverse effects than those who took CBD isolate, which only included cannabinoids. Cannabis extract that contains the whole spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemicals that are found in the plant is referred to as whole-plant medicine.
The researchers also discovered that full-spectrum CBD extract was four times more potent than CBD isolate, which meant that patients could take a significantly lower dose. They attributed this to the therapeutic synergy of cannabinoids and other compounds, such as terpenes. Full-spectrum CBD extract was also found to be more effective than CBD isolate.
Terpenes have been shown in more recent studies to increase cannabinoid activity; however, researchers discovered that very high quantities of terpenes were required to see this augmentation.
It is essential to recognize that a significant amount of information on terpenes and their interactions with the other terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids that are found in cannabis is yet unknown. In addition, the vast bulk of the research that we do have is based on models developed using either animals or test tubes.
In spite of this, the expanding therapeutic interest in aromatic compounds has led to the discovery of some exciting new information. It is anticipated that over the next several years, a more in-depth knowledge of terpenes and how they act, both alone and in combination, will emerge. This understanding will likely be beneficial in a number of contexts.
As was said before, cannabis contains an astounding variety of terpenes; to be accurate, there are more than 150 distinct varieties. Terpenes are responsible for the aroma and flavor of cannabis. Some of them have a much stronger presence than others, despite the fact that many of them exist in quantities that are too low to be detected.
The following is a breakdown of the three terpenes that are found in cannabis at the highest concentrations.
The majority of cannabis cultivars have higher levels of myrcene or caryophyllene as their primary component. Myrcene is a terpene that is prevalent in both hops and lemongrass. It is said to impart aroma characteristics that are herbaceous, spicy, earthy, and musky. Hops and lemongrass both contain a significant amount of this terpene. Myrcene is an organic compound that may be found in both cannabis and mangoes. It imparts a subtly sweet taste to cannabis.
In addition to playing a role in the distinctive aroma of cannabis, the compound known as myrcene has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. According to the findings of a research conducted in 2015 using cultured cells, myrcene has the potential to significantly decrease inflammation linked with osteoarthritis.
The terpene also proved to be helpful in preventing the disintegration of cartilage cells, slowing the advancement of osteoarthritis, and reducing the generation of particular inflammatory cells generated by the body. All of these effects were brought on by the condition of osteoarthritis. In the future, it may be possible to make use of myrcene to assist in the treatment of inflammatory disorders and the symptoms associated with them.
Caryophyllene, which may also be referred to as beta-caryophyllene or -caryophyllene, gives some strains of cannabis a smoky, peppery flavor. In addition to being present in cloves, rosemary, oregano, and black pepper, caryophyllene may also be found in other plants. It is quite probable that caryophyllene is present in a certain cannabis cultivar if you detect any of these aromas when you inhale the smoke from that strain.
Caryophyllene is the only known terpene that can be discovered in cannabis that can bind to the CB2 receptor in the endocannabinoid system, which is located in the immunological system of the body. Caryophyllene is responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive effects. Because of its unusual effect, caryophyllene is frequently referred to as an atypical cannabinoid. This is because of its chemical structure.
Research into the medicinal activities of caryophyllene reveals that it may have the ability to improve the symptoms of a variety of disorders, including but not limited to colitis, diabetes, cerebral ischemia, anxiety and depression, liver fibrosis, and Alzheimer’s-like diseases.
Caryophyllene’s action at the CB2 receptor is expected to be the subject of more investigation in the near future. This activity may one day be useful in the treatment of illnesses that are accompanied by inflammatory symptoms.
The term limonene itself gives away the odors that are linked with this terpene, which are citrusy aromas that are uplifting, clean, and fresh. The rinds of citrus fruits and ginger both contain limonene, a major terpene that is also present in many cannabis cultivars that have a fruity, fresh aroma, such as Papaya Punch and Black Cherry Soda. Ginger also contains limonene.
Limonene seems to change the behavior of some immune cells in the body, which may protect the body against a variety of illnesses. According to the findings of one research, limonene contributed to an increase in the creation of antibody-producing cells in the spleen and bone marrow. These cells are used by the immune system to recognize and counteract the effects of harmful bacteria and viruses.
Want to delve deeper into terpenes? Read more here.
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