Cannabis Terpenes Explained: Uses and Benefits
After a long, arduous day of carrying out mundane tasks, everyone has a different method of unwinding and engaging in something that gives them joy and relieves stress. This will look different for all of us. Perhaps it is a meditation session, music, a glass of red or like an increasing number of people, maybe a cannabis candy or a few hits off of a freshly rolled doobie. Ah that pungent plume! The humble marijuana plant has over 500 different chemical constituents including THC and CBD, but also aromatic chemicals called terpenes or terpenoids, that exert effects and benefits to the user.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are types of aromatic hydrocarbons made of repeating units called isoprenes, producing long, linear chains of hydrogen and carbon atoms that may have the presence of other signature chemical functional groups attached. They imbue distinctive smells, tastes and pigments to plants, and allow us to distinguish essential oils such as lavender or tea tree, or indeed, weed. Terpenoids are essentially terpenes that have been oxidized.
Terpenes are produced by all plants, imparting them with an array of advantages for propagation and protection of the plant in terms of attracting pollinators, deterring, and repelling predators and preventing the growth of microbial pathogens. These bioactive chemicals can be concentrated into a distillate called an essential oil for medicinal purposes.
The Entourage Effect
This term was coined in the late 80’s and theorized that ratios and concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes in a given strain, would work in synchronicity to produce unique effects in the user. That is, the various chemical constituents comprising the cannabis plant, act synergistically to produce effects characteristic to each strain or cultivar. Cannabis Terpenes themselves may not provide the classic psychoactivity or high of marijuana, but they attenuate or bolster the effects of certain cannabinoids such as THC.
Benefits and Properties
Cannabis contains over 120 terpenes that, as was previously mentioned, vary depending on the strain in question. Myrcene and beta-caryophyllene, are among the most common terpenes found in cannabis. Strains containing great quantities of the former, produce a languid, sedating effect, with a contrasting energetic effect in plants with low amounts. Myrcene and caryophyllene have promise as muscle relaxants, antipsychotics, analgesics, anti-inflammatories, as well as having gastroprotective, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-tumorigenic properties. Further study has even found that caryophyllene has in-vitro efficacy at being somewhat cytotoxic to cold sore (HSV-1) infected cells.
As there is a plethora of terpenes and terpenoids in the cannabis plant, their elucidation and explanation here is limited. However, the other most abundant terpenes include the monoterpenes, limonene, linalool, alpha-pinene, humulene and terpineol. Though some cannabis terpenes may have unique and specific effects, they generally overlap in their therapeutic value as follows:
● Analgesics/pain relieving
The health and therapeutic value of Cannabis Terpenes in medicine and psychiatry of the historically notorious and stigmatized Mary Jane, is only just on the horizon of discovery. The main cannabinoids such as CBD and THC have taken most of the glory, but terpene molecules in cannabis also hold their own in this emerging field.