Terpenes (and terpenoids) are aromatic organic compounds found in many plants and even some insects. Plants developed terpenes to ward off herbivores that might eat them and to attract helpful predators and pollinators. Cannabis (marijuana) has naturally high levels of terpenes. “Dank” flower gets its dank stank from being rich in terpenes.
So – why do terpenes matter?
- They directly affect your high and contribute to The Entourage Effect of cannabis
- They have medical benefits
- They give cannabis and vape oil its natural flavour
Some terpenes have sedative properties, while others are more prone to cause an uplifted mood. Linalool can help you manage symptoms of arthritis, myrcene provides relief from chronic pain and humulene reduces inflammation. Besides marijuana, these terpenes can be found in several other plants. Caryophyllene is also present in green leafy veggies, as well as spices like rosemary and oregano. As for limonene, the name says for itself. This terpene is the major component of citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges and it’s no wonder that it can be found in strains like Lemon Haze.
Besides all their medical power, terpenes are responsible for improving symbiosis between cannabinoids, a phenomenon also known as the entourage effect. Basically, what happens is that terpenes work together to assist cannabinoids to pass through to our bloodstream easier. That way terpenes enhance their own medical properties, as well as those coming from cannabinoids. Thanks to that same entourage effect, the psychoactive effect of cannabis is modulated, as to say diminished. For example, CBD, along with other terpenes, diminishes long term memory loss and reduces the psychoactive effect of THC. On the other hand, linalool modulates the way neurotransmitters contribute to anxiolytic and sedative effects, so strains containing this terpene will not make you anxious.
There are more than 100 terpenes in just one cannabis flower. Here are some of the most well known terpenes right now, most of which you’ll find in legal cannabis products in your area.
Myrcene is the most common terpene in marijuana strains (up to 60% of the essential oils of certain varieties) however, it is not found in hemp textiles. It is also found in large quantities in hops or in the West Indian wood (Saint Thomas Bay). Its smell is very similar to cloves (girofle). Myrcene is a potent analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic. It blocks the action of cytochrome, aflatoxin B, and other pro-mutagenic carcinogens. It also has a relaxing, calming, anti spasmodic and sedative effect. Acting in synergy with THC, myrcene increases its psychoactive potential.
Limonene is the second most abundant terpene in all cannabis strains, but not all strains necessarily have it.
As its name says, limonene gives strains a citrusy smell that resembles lemons, which is no surprise as all citrus fruits contain large amounts of this compound. Limonene is used in cosmetics and also in cleaning products. For therapeutic purposes, limonene is known to improve mood and reduce stress. Researchers also found it to have antifungal and antibacterial properties and one research even found it to have a role in reducing tumor size. Strains that have “lemon” or “sour” in their name are usually rich in limonene. High levels of limonene can be found in strains like O.G. Kush, Sour Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, Durban Poison, Jack Herer, and Jack the Ripper.
Linalool has a floral smell like lavender and spring flowers. Humans are able to smell it at very low levels, from 1 PPM in air. Linalool is currently used in the treatment of various cancers. It also has a powerful calming action, anti anxiety, and produces a sedative effect. In tests on mice it was discovered that their activity decreased by 75%. Linalool is thus partly responsible for the sedative effects of certain marijuana strains. It also has analgesic and anti-epileptic properties.
Best known for its spicy and peppery note, caryophyllene is also found in black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and spices like oregano, basil and rosemary. Beta-caryophyllene binds to CB2 receptors, which makes it an ingredient in anti-inflammatory topicals and creams. Caryophyllene is the only terpene that binds to cannabinoid receptors. Besides its analgesic and anti-anxiety properties, some studies have found that caryophyllene has some very promising properties when it comes to alcoholism rehabilitation.
A group of scientists performed research on mice and found that this terpene reduces voluntary intake of alcohol. They even recommended caryophyllene for treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms. You can benefit from caryophyllene by using strains like Super Silver Haze, Skywalker and Rock Star.
Pinene is responsible for the familiar smell associated with pine and fir trees, and to be more precise, its resin. It is the main ingredient of the essence of turpentine. It is present also in many plants such as Sage or Rosemary. Pinene is used in medicine as an expectorant, bronchodilator, anti inflammatory and local antiseptic. It also crosses the hemato encaphalic barrier very easily, where it acts as an inhibitor of acetylcolynesterasics, preventing the destruction of molecules responsible for the transmission of information, which results in memory improvement.
It is largely due to the presence of pinenes that Rosemary and Sage have been considered to be beneficial plants during thousands of years of traditional medicine. This terpene ca, in part, counteracts the effects of THC, which leads to a decrease in the acetylcholine levels. The result is that the memory fails more with pure THC than with THC mixed with pinene. Skunk strains are, for example, recognised for their high levels of pinenes. Because this produces a bronco dilator effect, the smoke of plants rich in pinene give the sensation of sucking more air, which can cause hyperventilation or sometimes cough. Pinene also improves concentration, personal satisfaction and energy, but it may be limited by the effects of the terpinol.
The aroma of terpineol can be best described as floral-like, reminiscent of lilacs, apple blossom, and a little bit citrusy. Terpineol tastes like anise and mint. Terpineol has a pleasant scent, similar to lilac, and is a common ingredient in perfumes, cosmetics, and flavors.
It relaxes heavily and it’s usually the one responsible for the notorious couch lock effect. Medical benefits of terpineol also include antibiotic and antioxidant
properties. It can be found Girl Scout Cookies, Jack Herer, and OG Kush strains.
Nerolidol, with woody and fresh bark aromas, can be found in ginger, niaouli and citronella. It has anti leishmaniasis and anti-malarial properties. It also produces a sedative effect.
This terpene got its name from sweet Valencia oranges — where it’s been found in large amounts. With its sweet citrusy aromas and flavors, it’s used as an insect repellant, too. Valencene can be found in strains like Tangie and Agent Orange.
Besides cannabis, geraniol can be found in lemons and tobacco. Its smell reminds of rose grass, peaches and plums. It’s usually used in aromatic bath products and body lotions. Geraniol has shown a lot of potential as a neuroprotectant and antioxidant. It’s present in strains like Amnesia Haze, Great White Shark, Afghani, Headband, Island Sweet Skunk, OG Shark and Master Kush.
Eucalyptol (also called 1,8-cineol) is the main ingredient of eucalyptus essential oil. It has the characteristic minty smell of this tree and is also found in small amounts in marijuana. Its effects relieve pain and improve concentration and inner balance. Plants containing eucalyptol enhance meditation and concentration.