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What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?

This might be your first time reading about cannabis terpenes but it is certainly not the first time you have encountered these aromatic compounds. They can be found in CBD Flower and CBD cigarettes as well as CBD tinctures.

A walk in a pine forest, a squeeze of a lemon, or the smell of lavender are just some of the ways we can experience these terrific terpenes that research suggests may have enormous potential.

Another popular way to discover the powerful effects of terpenes is through the cannabis plant. Cannabis terpenes have that unmistakable scent that invigorates our senses.

This article will explain what exactly cannabis terpenes are.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found everywhere in nature that give plants and foods their unique smell. For example, the terpene pinene is responsible for the smell of pine trees, limonene for that citrus smell from lemons, and linalool for the relaxing scent of lavender.

There are over 20,000 terpenes that can be found in nature and scientists believe that their role in producing aromas is but the tip of the iceberg. Having studied the effects of terpenes on cells and animals, researchers postulate that their primary purpose could be to heal us.

Cannabis Terpenes

Terpenes are present in cannabis and so far we know of over 200 that can be in a particular strain. Terpenes such as myrcene and caryophyllene are the most dominant in cannabis/hemp strains but there can be others present in a minor way but with major influence.

Terpenes are produced in the glandular trichomes of the cannabis flower. This sticky resinous substance is the same place where cannabinoids such as CBD and THC are produced.

Research shows that how cannabis is grown can have a huge effect on the terpene content. Factors such as environment, fertilization techniques, and the ratio of nutrients (nitrogen/potassium) can affect the type and quantity of terpenes.

Cannabis terpenes produce that unique aroma that everyone loves but depending on which strain you choose it can be more of an energetic or calming experience.

Once seen as one dimensional, terpenes are now believed to be as important as cannabinoids themselves in what they can do both individually, and collectively with all the other compounds - This is known as the entourage effect.

What is the Entourage Effect

The Entourage effect is the theory that all the molecular compounds present in the cannabis plant work together in a synergistic fashion boosting each other's properties and potency.

This well-regarded theory suggests that for a cannabis plant to have a full effect it should be full-spectrum - That is, to have all its naturally forming cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids still intact.

It is the idea that the whole is better than its parts. Together they improve the potency and effects of each other, and it is believed that terpenes play a major role in this cocktail of events - the main reason why plants produce terpenes in the first place.

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Why does the plant produce Terpenes?

The first role of terpenes is to ward off potential herbivores and other predators with its strong pungent aroma. This increases the plant’s chances of survival so it can then carry out its primary role.

The Terpene Chart

There are over 20,000 terpenes available throughout nature. Myrcene, linalool, limonene, pinene, caryophyllene are the most prevalent and most understood.

Of these 20,000 we know of over 200 that can be found in the cannabis/hemp plant. Some are more prevalent than others and found in great capacities while others may be present but quite difficult to locate given the minuscule amount therein.

The majority of cannabis strains have certain terpenes in greater numbers than others which we will discuss here:

Common Cannabis Terpenes:

  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Limonene
  • Pinene
  • Linalool
  • Terpinolene
  • Ocimene

Myrcene

Myrcene is the most well known and dominant terpene expressed in the cannabis plant. This earthy, fruity, clove-like aroma is believed to provide muscle relaxing effects.

Around 40% of commercial cannabis strains will be myrcene dominant like granddaddy purple and OG Kush for example.

Myrcene can also be found in nature in thyme, lemongrass, and mango. You can also thank myrcene in hops for that peppery fragrance in beer.

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is the second most dominant terpene in commercial cannabis strains accounting for around 30% of what is available.

It is the only known terpene that also acts as a cannabinoid to bind with CB2 receptors potentially providing anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

This spicy terpene can be found in numerous strains such as Bubba Kush and sour diesel and also in cloves, black pepper, and cinnamon.

Limonene

Limonene is the citrusy scent you are familiar with in lemon and orange peelings and in cannabis strains such as Banana OG and Berry White.

Pinene

Pinene is a terpene most expressed in nature above all others. It can be found in pine trees, basil, rosemary, and in cannabis strains such as blue dream and big smooth.

It has an earthy pine needle aroma and is believed to be useful for inflammation, and other ailments. 

Humulene

People who have enjoyed cannabis or beer have shared the taste of humulene. This wood, earthy fragrance is prevalent in hops used for beer and in cannabis strains such as original glue and death band.

Linalool

Linalool is the major terpene in lavender which has been used for centuries to promote rest and relaxation.

Linalool is present in over 200 plants and in greater quantities in cannabis varieties such as Zkittlez.

Terpinolene

Terpinolene is quite a common terpenes found in around 1 in 10 cannabis strains. This floral fragrance is thought to have an energetic effect on users.

This uplifting terpene can be found in apples, cumin, conifers, nutmeg, tea tree, and in strains such as Jack Herer, Ghost Train Haze, etc.

Ocimene

Ocimene is a minor terpene that has a sweet citrusy aroma and flavor. It is found in a wide variety of plants including hops, mint, parsley, and in cannabis strains such as Dutch Treat and Amnesia.

Conclusion

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that give plants their smells and flavors. There are over 20,000 terpenes in nature with over 200 discovered in the cannabis plant.

The initial role of terpenes is to protect plants from predators but scientists believe their primary role could be to provide a vast range of other benefits.

The most prevalent terpenes in cannabis are myrcene, caryophyllene, limonene, and terpinolene.

We are influenced by terpenes on a daily basis from the foods we eat to the smells we absorb in nature. Cannabis provides us with another opportunity to ingest terpenes.

To date, we have tonnes of research mostly in cells and animals suggesting terpenes play a major role in healing. Of course, more human clinical research is needed to fully determine terpenes’ effects on humans.

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