What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic organic compounds concentrated in unfertilized female flowers that are responsible for the odor, color, and flavor of cannabis. They’re part of a plant’s defense mechanism, working to repel insects and grazing animals while attractinghelpful predators and pollinators . Terpenes are biologically active, meaning they affect animal and human behavior even when they are inhaled in small amounts. Cannabinoids like CBD work synergistically with terpenes to enhance the therapeutic benefits of CBD. Over 15,000 terpenes have been identified in nature, with 200 primary and secondary terpenes described in cannabis.
Primary Terpenes & Their Effects
α Pinene is one of the most abundant terpenes in nature. It’s responsible for the familiar odor of cannabis that’s often associated with pine trees. Its therapeutic properties are most associated with anti-inflammation and respiratory conditions.
Linalool has a floral and spicy scent that’s often noticed in lavender plants. In addition to its sedative properties, linalool is known to reduce anxiety and stress.
Mercyne is the most abundant terpene in cannabis plants. Its odor is associated with cloves and hops. In addition to being an antioxidant, Myrcene has sedating and muscle relaxing effects in high doses and energizing effects in low doses.
Limonene is common in sativa varieties of cannabis. It’s know for its citrus aroma and used for its anti-anxiety, antidepressant, and immunostimulating effects. It’s often used in topicals because of its ability to help in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin.
Ocimene is popular in perfume because of its pleasant herbaceous scent. It plays a role in plant defense and has antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, and antiviral properties.
Terpinolene is a familiar scent in ginger and jasmine. In addition to its sedative effects, terpinolene is touted for its antibacterial, anti-cancer, and antifungal properties.
Terpineol’s smell is reminiscent of a forest. Its relaxing effects make it a common ingredient in soaps and perfumes. Some studies suggest that Terpineol works as an immune system stimulant.
Valencene’s sweet and citrusy aroma is easily identifiable in Valencia oranges. It’s often used as a citrus flavor additive in the food industry and believed to have Anti-inflammatory effects.
β Caryophyllene is most familiar in black pepper. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic with anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties as well.
Geraniol smells like roses, making it a popular ingredient in perfumes. This terpene is recognized for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticancer, and antifungal potential.
Humulene is a major contributor to the hoppy aroma of beer. It is believed to be an anti-inflammatory with the ability to treat allergies and suppress appetites.
The Entourage Effect
Coined in 1998 by cannabis researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam — who is considered to be the godfather of cannabis research — the entourage effect is used to describe how cannabinoids like CBD work synergistically with terpenes to enhance the beneficial effects of cannabis in the human body. The entourage effect explains why broad spectrum cannabis products that contain cannabinoids and terpenes are more effective than CBD on its own.