Have you ever picked up a freshly cut orange and took a moment to enjoy the light and tangy aroma around it before digging in? Or have you ever vaporized an oil and noticed a distinct taste and accompanying smell to it? Both of these pleasant experiences are thanks-in part- to terpenes! In this article we will be going over the latest buzzword in CBD and Cannabis circles to let you know what it is, where they are found and what they do in order to keep you feeling good and healthy in your life.
Terpenes: What Are They?
Terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic, aromatic compounds that are volatile and evaporate easily (hence why they have a smell that seems to linger in the air around it) produced by a variety of plants and by some insects. They are also found in foods, with examples being the aroma of citrus, cinnamon and many other spices is characterized by several terpenes.
They typically contain either ten or fifteen carbon atoms built from a five-carbon building block called isoprene. Because they share the same isoprene molecule as their foundation, terpenes are further categorized based on how many terpene units they include. The “base” of this system is a two-isoprene unit, so monoterpenes have ten carbons. Monoterpenes have 10 carbons, sesquiterpenes have 15 carbon chains, Diterpenes have 20 carbon chains, and so on.
Terpenes and Cannabis: What Do They Do?
Terpenes found in cannabis behave in much the same way as terpenes found in foods or other plants. As mentioned before, they are aromatic compounds found in the essential oils in plants that color cannabis varieties with distinctive flavors like pine, mint, and citrus.
Terpenes have an interesting role for plants: some terpenes emit strong smells from the oils to deter insects and potential predators and lure in pollinators, while others prevent fungal growth. There are many factors that influence the development of terpenes in plants, including weather, climate, fertilizer, soil, and even time of day. These variables are all being studied and manipulated in order to produce strains of plants with specific levels of terpenes that offer specific smells and benefits- over 100 different terpenes have been identified to date! While we have shown that they have benefits to the plants themselves, what kinds of benefits have they been shown to promote in humans?
A September 2011 study “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects” by Dr. Ethan Russo in the British Journal of Pharmacology discussed the wide-ranging therapeutic attributes of terpenes and terpenoids (often used interchangeably but referring to terpenes being denatured by oxidation). Like cannabinoids, these compounds bind to receptor sites and help start a variety of effects. The study clearly showed, however, that terpenes seem to work together with different cannabinoids in order to boost and modulate the effects of one another in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This ability to increase the benefit of other cannabis compounds has been called the “entourage effect”, and this interactive synergy of cannabinoids and terpenes has been shown to increase blood flow, enhance cortical activity, and kill respiratory pathogens. The article also reports that cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions “could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, anxiety, addiction, fungal and bacterial infections.”
As discussed in our previous article Full spectrum vs. Isolate the entourage effect has been shown to be a major player to keep in mind when deciding to go for CBD-only or full-spectrum products. The good news is that even if you decide that CBD isolate is the best fit for your current needs, terpenes can still help to enhance the medicinal properties along with adding a relaxing aroma therapeutic aspect to the mix.
So if interested in getting an even deeper understanding in what goes into CBD products and how it effects your olfactory senses along with the health benefits, be sure to take a look at the CBD products we have to offer and put your newly acquired knowledge to work!
List of Terpenes
Its smell often has a earthy, musky scent to it as well as having a fruity aroma. It is one of the most abundant terpene in cannabis plants, with a 1997 Swiss study indicating that myrcene could consist of as much as 65% of the total terpenes in some strains.
Contributes to sedative effects; good to use as a sleeping aid and muscle relaxant.
Potential medical significance: Antioxidant, treatment of insomnia, pain, and inflammation
Found In: Mango, lemongrass, thyme, and hops.
Limonene gives products a citrusy smell that resembles lemons, which is found in large quantities in citrus fruits.
Potential Medical Significance: Limonene improves mood, reduces anxiety, reduces stress, and has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Found In: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, and peppermint.
In 2008, the Swiss scientist Jürg Gertsch documented beta-caryophyllene’s binding affinity for the CB2 receptor and described it as “a dietary cannabinoid.” It is the only terpenoid known to directly activate a cannabinoid receptor, which one of the reasons why green, leafy vegetables are so healthy to eat!
Has a spicy and peppery smell to it.
Potential Medical Significance: It is gastro-protective, good for treating certain ulcers, and offers great promise as a therapeutic compound for inflammatory conditions and auto-immune disorders
Found In: Essential oil of black pepper, oregano, and other edible herbs, as well as in many green, leafy vegetables