Those who are still new to the world of cannabis may have encountered the term “terpene” every now and then without caring so much about what it really means. It is not as commonly used as terms like cannabinoids, CBD, and THC, so many would think it is also not as important.
However, the more you read up on the topic of cannabis and the more you familiarize yourself with the different terms related to the cannabis industry, the harder it is to ignore the word “terpenes.” Well, here’s the simple truth: it is a significant part of the cannabis glossary, and it is time you know what it is and what it does.
Terpenes is the term for the large class of fragrant organic oils that contribute to the aromatic diversity of cannabis. They are not unique to cannabis, though. They are also found in many other types of plants, herbs, and fruits.
Terpenes are the main constituents of the essential oils from various types of medicinal herbs, flowers, and fruits. These essential oils are used as flavorings and fragrances in perfumes, as well as in medicine and in natural alternative medicine. In other words, it is terpenes that give lavender its relaxing aroma, rose its rich floral scent, and citronella its grassy insect-repelling smell, to name a few.
Over a hundred different terpenes have been found and identified in cannabis plants and each cannabis plant strain possesses a unique terpene composition.
When it comes to cannabis, terpenes are secreted in the cannabis flower’s sticky resin glands. These are the same glands that produce the active chemical compounds THC, CBD, as well as other cannabinoids.
Just like other strong-scented flowers and plants, the development of cannabis terpenes began for adaptive purposes, which is to lure pollinators and at the same time repel predators. Over a hundred different terpenes have been found and identified in cannabis plants and each cannabis plant strain possesses a unique terpene composition. Because of this, different strains possess different scents and flavors – some strains are known for their citrusy flavor, others for their minty taste, or berry-like, or pine-y, cheesy, or earthy.
Terpenes, like cannabinoids, interact with receptors and neurotransmitters in the body’s endocannabinoid system. When ingested, or just when inhaled, the terpenes serve as assistants to the cannabinoids while they penetrate your blood-brain barrier.
Terpenes are also able to influence neurotransmitters and affect the production and destruction of dopamine and serotonin. This is the reason why, aside from smelling and tasting differently, different strains of cannabis plants also affect our moods differently and cause different levels of high. In other words, the effects produced vary from one terpene to another.
Some terpenes, for instance, are particularly successful in promoting focus, while some are effective in relieving stress. One specific example is the terpene Myrcene, which has a musky and earthy aroma with citrusy and fruity notes, and which induces sleep. Meanwhile, a common citrusy terpene called limonene can increase the production of serotonin and therefore elevates the user’s mood and relieves stress. Alpha-Pinene, which has a piney aroma, promotes alertness and memory retention. Linalool, which has a floral, citrus, and candy-like aroma, is known for its sedation and anxiety relief effects. There are also terpenes whose effects are imperceptible, such as the spicy and pepper-scented caryophyllene, which has gastroprotective properties.
Most importantly, terpenes offer additional therapeutic value as they help mediate the interaction between therapeutic cannabinoids and our body. Cannabis analysis labs are now testing terpene content so weed users can have a better idea of the unique effects that their preferred strain produces. Moreover, with the terpenes’ unlimited number of combinations for synergistic effects, it is highly likely that they will open up new medical and scientific terrains for cannabis research.