Terpenes 101: Introduction to Terpenes
January 07, 2022
Ever walked down the street and the sharp and skunky smell of cannabis hits you all of a sudden? As far as plants go, cannabis is a particularly pungent one thanks to its high concentrations of terpenes. What are terpenes? They’re the reason why your cannabis smells so strong and tastes so good! Early research also indicates many possible terpene-related, therapeutic medical cannabis benefits.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbon compounds that are responsible for giving plants and certain insects their smell. There are many different types of terpenes. In fact, it’s estimated that there are over 30,000 terpenes in the world, and over 150 different terpenes in cannabis.
It’s believed that plants and even some insects developed terpenes as part of their evolutionary processes in order to help them attract pollinators (think flowers and bees) and deter predators.
When it comes to cannabis, each cannabis strain can contain several different terpenes, though there are usually only one or two that are truly dominant in a given strain’s terpene profile. The biggest determining factor when it comes to terpenes is a strain’s genetics. The terpene profile of its parent strains tend to have the biggest influence on the terpene profile of any individual strain.
However, genetics isn’t the only factor to consider. The final ratio of terpenes in any one batch of cannabis can also depend on several other factors, including how the strain was grown, how it was handled, how it was cured, and how old it is.
Cannabis Terpenes Benefits: More Than Just Flavor?
While terpenes are known primarily for their contributions to aroma, recent research indicates that they may actually do much more than that. What are terpenes benefits apart from their smell? Like with essential oils, some researchers have discovered that terpenes may actually have therapeutic effects of their own beyond smell.
Here are just a few possible terpenes benefits that researchers have identified:
Terpenes may be able to play a role in the reduction of inflammation. One study found that terpenes may reduce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, while another found that they may increase autophagy (which contributes to homeostasis). Additionally, research indicates that myrcene may have an anti-inflammatory effect in a model of osteoarthritis and may slow down the progression of the disease.
Terpenes may also have some antiviral benefits. One study found that essential oils containing certain terpenes displayed activity against certain viruses including HSV1 (herpes simplex).
Terpenes may have some effect on the serotonergic pathway and the reuptake of serotonin, which affect stress and mood. One study found that terpenes interacted with 5HT1A receptors in the serotonergic pathway, while another found that caryophyllene, a major terpene in cannabis, possibly reduced depressive symptoms in mice.
Terpenes may be able to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Researchers believe that pinene, a common terpene in cannabis, may have anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects in mice.
The Entourage Effect: How Cannabis Compounds Work Together
When it comes to cannabis, it’s been suggested that terpene effects may actually be produced or enhanced through a phenomenon called the entourage effect.
When we smoke or vape cannabis, we ingest hundreds of different chemical compounds. The entourage effect posits that all of these different compounds actually work together in synergy to produce the overall intoxicating and therapeutic effects of cannabis. It isn’t just THC or CBD that’s responsible for these effects, instead, cannabinoids may actually work together with terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant compounds to produce these effects.
Exactly how terpenes contribute to the entourage effect is still a mystery, and much more research is still needed. However, it’s quite possible that the terpene effects and terpenes benefits that researchers have noticed may be boosted by this phenomenon, allowing terpenes to play a serious role in the effects produced by cannabis.
What are Terpenes That You Might Find in Cannabis?
While there are tons of different terpenes out in nature, each plant variety is more likely to feature some more than others. As a result, in cannabis, some terpenes are much more common than others.
What terpenes might you find in different cannabis strains? Here are the 5 most common cannabis terpenes that you’re likely to come across when enjoying cannabis or cannabis-derived products.
Myrcene: Of all the different types of terpenes in cannabis, myrcene is a must-know. The cannabis experts at Leafly believe that myrcene makes up over 20% of the terpene profile of modern commercial cannabis strains. Moreover, it’s likely to be the dominant terpene in any given strain.
Myrcene is believed to have calming effects and can also be found in other plants such as thyme, mango, and lemongrass. It may have potential anti-inflammatory benefits and may also function as a sedative.
Limonene: Limonene is a lemony and citrusy terpene that can be found in the peels of certain citrus fruits. It’s sometimes used as a flavoring agent in gum and soda, and may have potential antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Pinene: Pinene is the most common terpene in nature. It smells like—you guessed it—pine, and can be found in pine needles, basil, and rosemary. Pinene may have possible anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety benefits and can be found in some popular strains such as Blue Dream and Grape Ape.
Caryophyllene: Caryophyllene produces a spicy aroma and can be found in black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. It functions differently than other terpenes in that it is the only terpene that is believed to bind directly to cell receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Shopping for Cannabis Terpenes at Your Local Dispensary
For a long time, it was thought that the THC or CBD content of a strain or product was all that mattered. In reality, the terpenes a strain or product contains should also be taken into consideration when shopping for cannabis. Not only will they influence the flavor of your cannabis, but they may also provide terpene effects of their own.
However, knowing exactly which terpenes are in any one strain can be difficult. One way to find out more about a strain’s terpene profile is to look it up in a strain directory such as Leafly or Allbud. Another way is by carefully checking the product’s label to see if its terpene profile is listed on it, or by asking a budtender for more information about its terpene content.
Come down to our dispensary today or check out our online menu to browse a wide selection of terpene-rich cannabis strains and products that you’re sure to love. Looking for a specific terpene? Just ask one of our budtenders and we’ll do everything we can to help you find the strain or product that’s just right for you! Can’t find the time to come down and see us in person? No problem! If you’re in our delivery zone, you can always just place an order for delivery instead.