What are terpenes and why do they matter? 

What are terpenes and why do they matter? 

For many people the word “terpene” is a strange and unfamiliar term. But as science and technology carry us to a better understanding of cannabis, we’re beginning to see that there’s a lot more to this healing plant than its cannabinoid content.

In the following article we will discuss the many beneficial compounds found in cannabis, and introduce you to the amazing world of terpenes. These special compounds definitely deserve your attention.

An introduction to cannabis.

Cannabis is an incredible plant which has been utilised for its therapeutic properties for thousands of years. Although CBD is the cannabis compound that has been receiving the most attention over the past few years, the cannabis plant actually contains hundreds of compounds which all contribute to its potential health benefits.

The cannabis plant produces as many as 400 compounds; cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. There are also many nutritious components in cannabis including an abundance of vitamins and minerals, fibre, essential fatty acids and protein. So cannabis and hemp are great additions to any healthy diet.

What are cannabinoids and flavonoids?

Cannabinoids are a diverse class of chemical compounds that occur naturally in the human body and also in some plants, most notably, cannabis. The cannabis plant produces as many as 113 different cannabinoids. Among these cannabinoids, THC and CBD are the most prevalent and the most well understood, but each cannabinoid has its own specific therapeutic properties.

Flavonoids are the colour-giving nutrients in living things. They’re also one of the largest nutrient families known to scientists at over 6,000 members. Around 20 of these compounds have been identified in the cannabis plant, which is great because they’re also known for their many beneficial properties.

An introduction to terpenes.

Now that we have introduced the cannabis plant, we can delve into the subject of terpenes. What are terpenes?

Terpenes are fragrant oils that give cannabis its aromatic diversity. These oils are secreted in the flower’s sticky resin glands, the same ones that produce THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Terpenes are by no means unique to cannabis; they can be found in many other herbs, fruits, and plants as well.

There are more than 20,000 terpenes in existence and at least 100 produced by the cannabis plant.

At first glance, terpenes are the organic compounds responsible for the wide variety of fragrant flavours and smells in cannabis, but that’s only the beginning. Each terpene has its own therapeutic properties and many of them positively interact with the body’s native endocannabinoid system (ECS). Terpenes also have a synergistic effect with the other compounds in cannabis – they work together to influence the dominant effects of the other cannabinoids, in what is commonly called the “entourage effect”.

Some terpenes are relatively well known for their potential in biomedicine and have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, while others are yet to be studied in detail. Because of the very low toxicity, terpenes are already widely used as food additives and in cosmetic products. Thus, they have been proven safe and well-tolerated.

Terpenes or terpenoids – how do they differ?

You may have heard the term “terpenoid”. The name is very similar to terpenes, but what are terpenoids and how do they differ from terpenes?

Terpenes and terpenoids are definitely related. Terpenes can be considered the natural “on-the-growing-plant” version of terpenoids – which are transformed by drying and curing the cannabis flower. The drying process and conditions change the way the molecules transform (and taste) at the end of the day.

Terpenoids are used constantly outside of cannabis (and outside of plants) for their aromatic qualities: it’s how perfumes, essential oils, and spices are created.

More and more research is indicating that terpenoids also play a significant role in the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids.

Terpenes & the entourage effect

Several studies [1] (some from as early as the 1980s) have shown that terpenes work together to help cannabinoids (like THC and CBD) pass through the bloodstream easier and “lower” the blood-to-brain barrier. Basically, you feel more or less of the effects of cannabis based on the terpenes found in it.

Not only that, but because terpenes have their own beneficial effects (apart from providing the tastes and smells of cannabis), when the “whole plant”, including an abundance of cannabinoids and terpenes, is ingested, the benefits are amplified in what is referred to as the “entourage effect”. This means the combined beneficial effect is greater than the individual components. This is why “full spectrum” CBD oils, which are made from the whole plant, are considered more effective, and therefore far superior to isolated CBD oils.

Terpenes and the endocannabinoid system (ECS)
Terpenes have therapeutic effects on the body, not only through their own individual characteristics, but also with the positive way many of them influence our native endocannabinoid system (ECS). Many terpenes have also been found to interact synergistically with cannabinoids by directly or indirectly acting on the cannabinoid receptors.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is found in all mammals, is a network on cannabinoids and receptors. The ECS is tasked with regulating a wide array of the body’s functions like mood, appetite, sleep, hormone production, and even stress and immune system responses. It provides an essential function and helps our bodies reach homeostasis or balance. Like cannabinoids, many terpenes interact with receptors within the ECS and give rise to various effects.

The therapeutic benefits of terpenes.

Cannabis is an incredibly diverse plant regarding its biological makeup and potential benefits – and terpenes – are no exception.

A September 2011 report by Dr. Ethan Russo [2] in the British Journal of Pharmacology discussed the wide-ranging therapeutic attributes of terpenes, which are typically lacking in “CBD-only” products.

It states: “They [terpenes] display unique therapeutic effects that may contribute meaningfully to the entourage effects of cannabis-based medicinal extracts.”

The potential therapeutic properties of terpenes have been of great interest for thousands of years, and a wide variety of terpenes’ properties are supported by numerous in vitro, animal and clinical trials.

We will discuss the therapeutic properties of different terpenes in more detail in part two of our introduction to terpenes.

Love Hemp terpene-infused products.

At Love Hemp we offer a selection of products that allow you to experience the positive benefits of terpenes. All our CBD oils, capsules and edibles are “full spectrum”, containing an abundance of cannabinoids and terpenes, which allows for the “entourage effect”.

In addition to our CBD oils, capsules and edibles, we also offer high quality terpene-infused products including:

  • Liquid terpenes. Available in many different varieties. We have worked hard to produce the highest grade, strain specific plant derived terpene formulations. Customers can create bespoke CBD oil and vape liquid formulations using our all natural terpene blends. We recommend you add our plant derived terpenes to your favourite CBD oil/extracts and e-liquid vape juice.
  • Terpene infused CBD crystals 90% CBD- 10% terpenes. This high quality product has been individually infused with cannabis terpene profile molecules. It’s an exceptional quality CBD extract, flavoursome and aromatic. A CBD concentrate infused with 100% cannabis terpene profiles.
  • 85% CBD crumble – THC free – full terpene profile. Our super high concentrate full spectrum 85% CBD wax crumble contains 850mg CBD in 1 gram. It also contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes and healthy fatty acids. 

An introduction to some of main terpenes found in cannabis.

You now have a better understanding about what terpenes are and why they matter. We will now introduce you to some of the main terpenes found in cannabis. You can find many of these terpenes in our high quality terpene-infused products.

  1. Myrcene (earthy, musky, fruity): Myrcene can be found in mangoes, hops, thyme, lemongrass, and basil, and is the most commonly found terpene in cannabis. It can compose up to 50 percent of a cannabis plant’s terpenes.
  2. Pinene (pine): Pinene actually comes in two types: alpha, which smells like pine needles and is the most commonly found terpene in nature, and beta, which smells like rosemary, basil, dill, or parsley. Pinene is also found in conifer trees, citrus peels, and turpentine.
  3. Caryophyllene (peppery, woody, spicy): Caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene found in many plants such as Thai basils, cloves, cinnamon leaves and black pepper, and in minor quantities in lavender. It’s aroma has been described as peppery, woody and/or spicy.
  4. Limonene (citrus): Limonene is another common terpene found in cannabis. Like its name suggests, limonene smells like lemons, oranges, mandarins, limes, and grapefruits. It’s also probably found in your favourite cleaning products or perfumes because of its’ citrusy scent.
  5. Linalool (floral, spicy): Linalool is found in flowers and spices like lavender and coriander. It is a common ingredient in perfumes because of its pleasant floral aroma. It is naturally found in lavender, citrus, mint, cinnamon, and birch.
  6. Humulene (hoppy, earthy): Humulene is found in hops, coriander, cloves, and basil. It is responsible for the distinct bouquets and flavours of a number of well-known herbs and products. Beer would not be beer without the hoppy taste that humulene gives to the hop plant.
  7. Terpinolene (piney, herbal, floral): Terpinolene is a common component of sage and rosemary. Its largest use is in soaps and perfumes. It is also a great insect repellent. Terpinolene is known to have a piney aroma with slight herbal and floral nuances.
  8. Camphene (woodsy, fir needles): Camphene, a plant-derived monoterpene, emits pungent odors of damp woodlands and fir needles. It is a minor component of many essential oils such as turpentine, camphor oil, citronella oil and ginger oil. It is used as a food additive for flavouring, and also used in the preparation of fragrances.

This is just a brief introduction to the main terpenes found in cannabis but we will take a more detailed look at each one, along with their therapeutic properties, in part two.

Terpenes definitely deserve your attention.

Terpenes are quite amazing compounds which not only enhance the smell and taste of many plants, including cannabis, but also offer many properties beneficial for health – they definitely deserve your attention.

Research [3] suggests that terpenes offer many therapeutic benefits including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. And when taken alongside other cannabis compounds they can amplify the beneficial effects experienced. Terpenes also positively influence our body’s own endocannabinoid system (ECS)

In part two we will learn more about terpenes, and how they play a significant role in the potential therapeutic applications of cannabis.

The therapeutic properties of terpenes.

As we have discussed, there are more than 20,000 terpenes in existence. While over 100 different terpenes are produced by the cannabis plant in varying concentrations, there are a few which appear more commonly and in greater concentrations.

As terpenes are produced by most plants, their potential therapeutic properties have been of great interest for thousands of years, and a wide variety of terpenes’ properties are supported by numerous in vitro, animal and clinical trials. But because many claims made about terpenes are still unsupported by evidence, we will limit discussion in this article to benefits that can be backed-up by research studies.

To understand why terpenes matter, you need to understand a bit more about how they work. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common terpenes and their therapeutic properties.

 

  1. Myrcene.
    Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis. In fact, a study in Switzerland revealed myrcene composes up to 50 percent of the terpene content in the cannabis plant. The aroma offers an earthy, fruity scent, and the taste offers a mango with hints of mint experience. Myrcene is also plentiful in mango, hops, eucalyptus, thyme, and lemongrass.

Myrcene has a number of therapeutic properties:

Myrcene is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers have evaluated the anti-inflammatory effects of myrcene in multiple studies.

They used plants from different countries, like the Mexican Yerba porosa [1]

and Korean mountain magnolia [2], both of which contain high doses of myrcene, to test for anti-inflammatory properties.

Scientists administered yerba porosa orally to mice with inflammation in the lung lining (also known as pleurisy). The results showed [3] myrcene inhibited the inflammation and slowed the production of nitrogen oxide (NO) and other interferons normally produced during lung inflammation.

Oil from Korean mountain magnolia [4], which contains 12.72% myrcene, was also capable of inhibiting nitrogen oxide (NO) production induced by endotoxins as a signal of inflammation. This suggests myrcene plays a role in the oil’s anti-inflammatory activity.

While the previous studies dealt with inflammation of the lungs, other plants containing myrcene may improve inflammation of the skin. Spaniards use essential oils derived from the Distoselinum plant to treat dermatitis and skin infections, and myrcene is the main compound present in the oil. Christina Tavares published results of her study [5] on the plant in a 2010 edition of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. According to the findings, myrcene inhibited nitrogen oxide production to reduce inflammation of the skin.

Another study [6] showed injections of myrcene significantly inhibited pain perception in mice in tests of both peripheral analgesia and Central Nervous System (CNS) modulation

Myrcene also has properties capable of increasing your sleep and relaxing muscles. In a study [7] performed on mice, myrcene increased sleep duration by around 2.6 times. It’s sedative and relaxing effects [8] also make it a viable treatment option for insomnia and pain.

  1. Pinene.

Pinene is one of the most common terpenes in the world (not just cannabis). In fact, there are actually two types of pinene – alpha and beta. Alpha-pinene is found in pine trees and is responsible for the plant’s signature scent. It also happens to be the dominant pinene in cannabis.

Beyond scent, pinene provides a number of therapeutic qualities.

A study from Northeast Forestry University [9] in China found that pinene possesses potent anti-microbial qualities. The researchers concluded the terpene is so effective at treating bacterial and viral infections, pinene could even be used for bronchitis – a condition that is typically difficult to treat due to a resistance of antibiotics.

Some studies [10] suggest pinene even has the ability to kill MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections. This would be great considering that very few antibiotics on the market today are capable of this.

Pinene is also used in medicine as an anti-inflammatory [11] and a bronchodilator [12], a drug that relaxes bronchial muscle resulting in expansion of the bronchial air passages. An example of this would be an inhaler used to treat asthma.

  1. Caryophyllene (also known as beta-caryophyllene).

Caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene found in many plants such as Thai basils, cloves, cinnamon leaves and black pepper, and in minor quantities in lavender. It’s aroma has been described as peppery, woody and/or spicy.

The Horváth et al study [13] suggests beta-caryophyllene, through a CB2 receptor dependent pathway, may be an excellent therapeutic agent to prevent nephrotoxicity (poisonous effect on the kidneys) caused by anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin.

The Jeena, Liju et al study [14] investigated the chemical composition of essential oil isolated from black pepper, of which caryophyllene is a main constituent, and studied its pharmacological properties. Black pepper oil was found to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties.

  1. Limonene.
    Limonene is another abundant terpene both in cannabis and other plants. It offers a fresh, sweet aroma with a hint of citrus. It’s been shown to have sedative and motor relaxant effects, and also has antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Myrcene is not the only terpene to make you sleepy. A study showed [15] citral and limonene also presented sedative and motor relaxant effects

Limonene is also a promising lipid-lowering agent [16], which means it can help lower both triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels. And also an antioxidant [17] and anti-inflammatory [18] agent.

Limonene helps prevent build-up of fat that results in a fatty liver while also preventing insulin resistance [19] (pre-diabetes and diabetes).

Interestingly, limonene improves absorption of other terpenes and chemicals through the skin, which makes it great in tinctures, ointments, and other topicals.

 

  1. Linalool.
    Linalool has been used in aromatherapy for thousands of years. While best known for giving lavender its distinct scent, linalool is also present in cannabis varieties. The flavour is lemony with hints of coriander, lavender, and rose. This terpene produces a variety of effects and is most widely recognised for reducing stress.

 

A recent study [20] involving lab rats demonstrates linalool’s anti-stress effects. During the course of the study, the rats inhaled linalool while being exposed to stressful conditions. The researchers found that linalool actually helped return the rat’s stress levels to normal. Results of reduced stress-expression in both blood profiles and genes suggests a healthier immune system better prepared to fight infection and disease, as well.

Linalool also has sedative effects. People tend to use lavender essential oils to help them sleep, as studies show it increases slow-wave sleep. This is instrumental in muscle relaxation and heart rate reduction. In a study [21] researchers found simply sniffing lavender oil before bed increased sleep quality and increased their energy the morning after. Peanut stems and leaves also have high concentrations of linalool, and studies suggest [22] this terpene is one of the main components responsible for producing sedative effects.

 

  1. Humulene.

Humulene is a very common terpene in nature. It is responsible for the distinct bouquets and flavours of a number of well-known herbs and products. Beer would not be beer without the hoppy taste that humulene gives to the hop plant.

Humulene has been shown to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

The most recent studies [23] concluded that humulene was as effective of an anti-inflammatory [24] as the steroidal drug dexamethasone.

 

A 2003 study [25] showed that humulene, especially when acting in concert with other terpenes and cannabinoids, killed cancer cells. The study tested the effects of humulene in several tumor cell lines. The findings revealed that humulene has the ability to produce ROS (reactive oxygen species), which oxidises cancer cells and slows their growth through apoptosis. Subsequent research studies also confirmed these effects of humulene.

In fact, one study revealed that when beta-caryophyllene [26] (another terpene found in cannabis as well as black pepper) is present with humulene, the anti-cancer properties of humulene are exacerbated. Some studies suggest by up to 50 percent.

Also, In small quantities [27] humulene has been shown to kill the S.aureus bacteria.

  1. 7.
    Terpinolene is a common component of sage and rosemary and is found in the oil derived from Monterey cypress. Its largest use is in soaps and perfumes. Terpinolene is known to have a piney aroma with slight herbal and floral nuances.

    Terpinolene has been found to be a central nervous system depressant [28] used to induce drowsiness or sleep or to reduce psychological excitement or anxiety. Further, terpinolene was found to markedly reduce the protein expression of AKT1 in K562 cells and inhibited cell [29] proliferation involved in a variety of human cancers.
  2. Camphene.
    Camphene, a plant-derived monoterpene, emits pungent odors of damp woodlands and fir needles. It is a minor component of many essential oils such as turpentine, camphor oil, citronella oil and ginger oil. It is used as a food additive for flavouring, and also used in the preparation of fragrances.

Latest research shows that camphene is particularly significant in its ability to lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides in the blood, therefore reducing the risk for heart disease. A study published in 2011 [30] was able to demonstrate camphene’s ability to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, the two main causes for heart disease, including stroke and heart attack. The researchers concluded that camphene could be an effective “alternative lipid lowering agent and merits further evaluation”.

Given the importance that the control of hyperlipidemia plays in heart disease, the results of this study provide insight into to how camphene might be used as an alternative to pharmaceutical lipid lowering agents which are proven to cause intestinal problems, liver damage and muscle inflammation.

Terpenes are incredible compounds.

As you can see, terpenes are quite incredible compounds that offer many therapeutic properties. They not only add to the aroma and taste of many plants, including cannabis, but they also interact synergistically with other compounds to create what is called the entourage effect. Terpenes positively influence our endocannabinoid system (ECS) , a system which plays a vital role in homeostasis or balance, within the body.

There is still much to learn about these dynamic compounds, but as science brings us to a greater understanding of their potential applications, we know their importance in health supplements with continue to grow.

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