Terpenes play a large role in how you experience cannabis, and many of us were unaware of their importance. At first, cannabis cultivators troubleshooted terpene profiles with flavor and taste in mind, but once research identified terpenes as possible factors behind cannabis’ medical effects, they took a medical approach to classifying terpenes. This has produced more effective recreational and medical cannabis alike. More than likely, terpenes were a preservative adaptation, as the pungent oils protect the cannabis plant from insects and other environmental threats. Luckily, for those who use cannabis flower, terpenes also serve as a useful exaptation, or function different from its original adaptive purpose.
More than likely, you have encountered more terpenoids than pure terpenes in your experience with cannabis. The difference is oxygen. Terpenes consist of only carbon and hydrogen, but the dry and cure process, which produces smokable cannabis flower, oxidizes these terpenes, modifying them, creating the terpenoids that contribute to smoked cannabis’ taste and aroma. The term is used interchangeably often.
But terpenes and terpenoids contribute more than taste alone. Sticking with the “same old-same old” with cannabis will reduce your high or your perceived high. If you’ve been a cannabis user for some time, you appreciate the value of changing strains and habits. But, novices should consider their options for keeping their experience enjoyable.
Soon after you use cannabis, whether you smoke, dab, or eat edibles, those all important cannabinoids, THC and CBD, bind to your EC receptors. However, before they bind to your EC receptors, terpenes crash the receptor site and interact with THC and CBD, bind to and block some receptor sites, working to mediate and amplife THC’s complex psychoactive profile. Put another way, these terpenes create an entourage effect that works with cannabinoids to bind to your EC and produce their effects. This is called potentiation. A study by Carlini et al found that there may be this potentiation of THC by other substances present in cannabis, like terpenes.
THC and CBD get plenty of fanfare when it comes to cannabis chemicals, or cannabinoids, and for good reason. When you use cannabis, you tap into your brain’s endocannabinoid system, or EC, which is responsible for regulating many natural physiological processes, like mood, appetite, pain sensation, memory, and others. Your body’s EC also has cannabinoids receptors! We know and love the endocannabinoid system because THC and CBD cannabinoids bind to these EC receptors, producing the effects of the euphoria associated with cannabis’ high.
THC and CBD are formed inside cannabis trichomes. These tiny, crystal like structures appear like hair on cannabis flower and produce these crucial cannabinoids, all with the help of terpenes and terpenoids. Organic chemicals, including terpenes, exist in the stocks of trichomes in cannabis plant material as it grows under light. These terpenes push to the head of the plant material. Once they receive light they form the cannabinoids we rely on for cannabis’ therapeutic effects.
The most common terpene found in cannabis, Myrcene, has a musky, hoppy taste that is commonly associated with Indica strains and Indica dominant hybrids. Most people have heard of the drowsy, “couch lock” effect heavy Indica strains offer. The common culprit? Myrcene. Common foods with myrcene include mangos, lemongrass, and hops have myrcene.
This terpene acts as a pain manager, a sleep aid, and it possesses anti inflammatory properties. Myrcene creates a mellow, deep relaxation that can be particularly beneficial to those with anxiety. You may just want a nice, sleep inducing strain to get some rest, this terpene is for you.
Linalool smells quite a bit like lavender, or a field of wildflowers. Linalool can act as an anxiolytic, and it is commonly associated with strains that create stronger, clearer head highs that aid in concentration and help reduce anxiety. Strains high in Linalool are known to combat depression. The terpene itself has a sweet taste that is found in natural essential oils. You can smell Linalool in lavender, mint, cinnamon, coriander, and other spices and plants.
Many herbs contain pinene such as thyme, sage, bay leaves, and of course the herbal trees pine. There are a variety of other terpene rich foods listed in this article. Pinene is known to assist in opening the lungs allowing for more THC absorption. It is also known to have vast therapeutic potential and may help combat paranoia.
Terpenes help provide effects that THC and other cannabinoids can’t provide alone. To those who use cannabis recreationally, you will recognize the entourage effect of terpenes as different highs. For the medical cannabis patient, you will be keen to note different terpenes interactions for different medical remedies.
Limonene, known for a citrus type taste and smell, is the second most abundant terpene/terpenoid in cannabis. Limonene can be found in high concentrations in sativa dominant strains, and it acts with THC to produce an uplifting effect that energizes and stimulates creativity, which can help with depression, anxiety, stress, and even fatigue.
For cannabis patients, Limonene may be remembered for something else, it’s cancer killing properties. Limonene has been found to reduce the destruction of the RAS gene, known to be a contributor to tumor growth. Some secondary medical benefits of this terpene are strong anti inflammatory problems, making Limonene a favorite terpene for those with arthritis. The clarity and concentration of the high has been seen to be beneficial for those with high stress and anxiety.
It’s important to note that 200 identified cannabis terpenes exist, compared to about 60 identified cannabinoids, so terpenes role in creating and preserving cannabinoids cannot be understated. Terpenes don’t just create important cannabinoids, they enhance the effects these cannabinoids produce through their interaction with your body’s EC.