The cannabis plant has a wide variety of beneficial compounds. About 150 of these compounds belong to a large class of unsaturated hydrocarbons known as terpenes. But what are terpenes in weed, and what do they do?
The cannabis plant is incredibly complex, and although most people shopping for strains depend on the THC concentration, that percentage doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
The effects of other cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes and other compounds can’t be ignored. Terpenes, or “Terps” are responsible for a significant part of the cannabis experience. But what are terpenes, and do they affect the human body?
Terpenes are aromatic compounds produced by plants and some animals. The terpene class comprises more than 30,000 compounds, and although the cannabis plant only contains about 150 to 200, many people associate them with pot because they occur in high concentrations.
Only about 16 or so terpenes commonly found in the plant are typically tested to determine the properties of a cannabis strain.
Terps alongside cannabinoids and flavonoids are synthesized in the glandular trichomes – the fine outgrowths on cannabis buds and have a crystal-like appearance. Terpenes serve several purposes in plant survival.
In cannabis, terps are responsible for the unmistakable weed scent and flavour. Different blends of terpenes give strains their unique fragrance. Research also shows that they may have benefits to our health and wellness.
What is the difference between terpenes and terpenoids? Terpene and terpenoids are two common words in the cannabis space that are often used interchangeably despite having different meanings.
Both are aromatic organic compounds that originate from the plant. Essentially, they are the same except for one critical difference.
Terpenes are the aromatic compounds produced in the plant, while terpenoids are a form of terpenes that have undergone oxidation, i.e. during the drying and curing stage of cannabis processing.
In short, terpenes are simple hydrocarbons found in the live plant, while terpenoids are a modified class of terps that have undergone oxidation. That means that the cannabis flower can contain both terpenes and terpenoids simultaneously.
Terpenes are bioactive, which means they may affect the body. However, their effects depend on whether they are used alone or alongside other cannabis compounds such as cannabinoids. Some people believe that terpenes can affect or enhance your high through the entourage effect.
Terpenes produce the vibrant smells of many essential oils used for various alternative therapies, including aromatherapy. Inhaling the scents terps produce may be calming and can alter your mood and stress levels. If you have used lavender oil to help relax, you can attest to the mood-altering effects of terpenes.
These mood-lifting effects can also be observed in cannabis, with strains rich in stress-relieving terps such as limonene and myrcene being recommended to help reduce anxiety. However, the effects of these compounds appear to extend beyond mood-lifting and stress relief.
Here are five medicinal benefits of terpenes.
Different terpenes including menthol, eucalyptol and geraniol have been found to have potent antimicrobial activity. This means they may be used to kill or stop the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria, protozoans and fungi.
Some studies suggest that terpenes may help inhibit the activity or growth of cancer cells. Several terpenes have been found to exhibit anticancer qualities at different stages of tumour development, including ‘inhibition of the initiation and progression of tumorigenesis.’
Limonene, pinene, myrcene and camphor are some of the terpenes that have displayed these properties.
One research study found that 25% of the antidepressant drugs prescribed by doctors are obtained from herbs through various extracts and that terpenes formed a large part of the extracts that exerted the actual antidepressant effects.
This is no surprise, as many terpenes are already known to alter moods. Linalool and beta-pinene are some of the common terpenes used in antidepressant medications.
Different studies have examined terpenes for their pain and inflammation relieving effects. One 2021 study, in particular, found that cannabis terpenes have a high potential for managing pain alone or as adjunctive treatments.
Another study found that terpenes can mimic the analgesic effects of cannabinoids or amplify the pain-relieving effects of cannabinoids. Terpenes studied for their pain-relieving activities include linalool, humulene, beta-pinene, and geraniol.
Terpenes such as myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene and terpinolene have calming and tranquillizing effects, making them perfect for winding down for the night.
Myrcene is the most common terpene produced by the cannabis plant. It provides a musky, earthy, herbal, spicy aroma characteristic of many strains. Myrcene is also found in hops, lemongrass, mangoes and thyme.
Myrcene is a potent pain-reliever, antibiotic and anti-inflammation agent. Strains with high myrcene concentration (usually over 0.5%) result in the couch-lock effect, while those with lower myrcene levels are likely to produce an energetic high.
Also known as beta-caryophyllene, this terpene is responsible for peppery, woody and spicy aroma in some cannabis strains. It is also found in other herbs and vegetables, including black pepper and cloves.
Caryophyllene effects include relaxation, reducing anxiety and stress. Beta-caryophyllene is the only known terpene in the cannabis plant that binds to the CB2 receptor of the ECS, which suggests it may help treat chronic pain.
Humulene is an isomer of beta-caryophyllene that occurs naturally in cannabis strains, Vietnamese coriander, and other plants. Humulene is the terpene responsible for the ‘hoppy’ aroma in some strains.
Humulene is said to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties. It is also an appetite suppressant and may aid in weight loss.
As the name suggests, strains high in limonene will have strong citrusy scents. This terpene is also found in other plants, including rosemary and peppermint, and is the primary constituent of citrus fruit (lemon, orange) rinds.
Limonene can help ease stress, elevate mood, and its fungi and bacteria suppressing properties are well documented.
Linalool is a terpene primarily found in lavender and cannabis plants. It gives strains floral, spicy and lavender overtones. Linalool has been used as a sleep aid for centuries.
Strains high in Linalool are known to provide calming and relaxing effects. This terpene is also said to have anti-inflammation and antimicrobial benefits.
Made from flash-frozen plant materials, this product delivers terps as they exist in the live cannabis plant. This terp slush is also potent, delivering between 72% – 80% THC, and is made from Greybeard’s SLK Sativa cultivar that consistently achieves 17-22% THC.
Buy this Greybeard SLK live resin terp slush and experience unmatched aromas and flavours.
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