What are terpenes and why do they matter?
For many people the word “terpene” is a strange and unfamiliar term.
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 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 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 benefits.
If you are interested in CBD and your optimal dose check out our latest article.
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.
What are cannabinoids and flavonoids?
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.
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 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.
Terpenes & the entourage effect
Several studies (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 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.
The therapeutic benefits of terpenes
Cannabis is an incredibly diverse plant regarding its biological makeup and potential benefits - and terpenes - are no exception.
The potential 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 properties of different terpenes in more detail in part two of our introduction to terpenes.
Our Terpene-infused products
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 - they definitely deserve your attention.
In part two we will learn more about terpenes, and how they play a significant role in the potential applications of cannabis.
The 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 uses have been of great interest for thousands of years. 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.
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.
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.