By: James Brooks
What Are Terpenes?
Think back to the last time you noticed the fragrance of your favorite plant. Most likely, the aromas you took in were the result of terpenes, an aromatic compound that you find in several plants, including the cannabis plant, in high concentration. But what are terpenes and terpenoids, and why do they matter? Although both terms are used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Here’s what you should know about terpenes and cannabinoids.
More about terpenes
There are over 140 terpenes, which are hydrocarbons or a mix of both carbon and hydrogen. On the other hand, terpenoids form from terpenes through the oxidation process when a plant dries out, and sometimes this process happens due to chemical modifications. In nature, terpenes work to protect plants from animal grazing, germs, and disease. However, what’s impressive is the benefit that humans receive from terpenes when they enter the body.
The Benefits of Terpenes
Although there has been much scientific research on THC, the main psychotropic in cannabis, researchers have spent less time studying terpenes which boost the therapeutic effects of cannabis. Yet, what we do understand is promising. Terpenes interact with neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing serotonin and dopamine levels while also enhancing norepinephrine activity. In addition, scientific evidence shows that terpenes inhibit the intoxicating effects of THC, making it more therapeutic. Therefore, plants with the highest concentration of terpenes can treat common ailments such as pain, depression, and mild pain.
But how exactly do you identify cannabis strains with a high concentration of terpenes? Because terpenes are the compounds that give medical marijuana its potent smell, you can use your senses to determine what type of effect to expect. For example, musk or clove-smelling terpenes are relaxing, piney terpenes are great for mental clarity, and lemon-smelling terpenes improve mood. Each terpene that produces a unique spell provides unique benefits.
If you’ve ever experienced an earthy or herbal Indica strain, the chances are that you’ve already experienced the monoterpene myrcene. It’s the most common terpene in cannabis, and it works by enhancing the effects of THC within the body. It does this by lowering the blood-brain barrier so that chemicals can travel throughout your body quicker. Therefore, myrcene is anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antimutagenic.
Limonene has a citrus aroma and typically forms from another terpenoid called pinene. If your cannabis product has an orange, lemon, or lime smell, it will likely uplift your mood and improve your attitude. It also enters the bloodstream quickly through inhalation and has topical use for killing fungi and bacteria. For plants, it helps fight off predators by working as a natural, non-toxic insecticide.
In conclusion, terpenes exist in plants worldwide, but most people know about them because it develops within cannabis strains. Although terpenes have not been studied like THC has, scientific research has proven that terpenes have various therapeutic effects. These aromatic compounds give each cannabis plant a unique smell and assortment of health properties. Next time you try a cannabis product, notice how it smells and tell what types of terpenes it contains.