Why Terpenes Matter
The therapeutic effects you get from cannabis don’t just come from cannabinoids. There are other essential cannabis oils involved, including terpenes and flavonoids. These essential oils are made in the trichomes, which are the beautiful hair-like white structures you often see glistening like diamonds all over the plant, located most abundantly on the flowers. While there are over 100 cannabinoids, around 150 cannabis terpenes have been identified in various cannabis plants.
There’s a reason why terpenes are being sought after in certain strains and why people are purchasing them in concentrates and adding them to food and drinks. And why researchers are eager to discover (now that they can finally study cannabis more freely) the wide range of medicinal potential terpenes have to offer and how they contribute to the entourage effect of cannabis compounds.
And that reason is because terpenes are believed to have a horde of therapeutic properties, which have already been proven in preliminary studies and experienced by consumers of medical cannabis.
What Are Terpenes?
Y’all know by now, humans have always had a medicinal relationship with cannabis. But we haven’t always known about cannabinoids, terpenes, and all the various contributing compounds cannabis has to offer. Here’s another revelation: terpenes, like flavonoids, are not even unique to cannabis. They’ve had a role to play in nature all along.
Terpenes are essential oils that are found in a wide variety of plants and their fruit, like pine trees, lemons, eucalyptus, lavender, and so forth. That distinctive aroma that lets your nose know what kind of plant or fruit it’s whiffing — that’s the work of terpenes. And they did a helluva job with cannabis, don’t you think? There’s no other odor like it.
In all plants, terpenes are there to defend against predators and environmental factors. Which is also their main contribution to the cannabis plant. Aside from giving its unique aromatic character, that is.
How Are Terpenes Made in Cannabis?
Like other compounds in cannabis, terpenes happen through what’s known as biosynthesis, “a multi-step, enzyme-catalyzed process where substrates are converted into more complex products in living organisms.” Sheesh! What you really need to know is that they end up in those glorious trichomes, where they secrete the odor and flavor that act as deterrents to bugs and animals that might otherwise view a cannabis field as a giant buffet. However, some of them are meant to attract insects for pollination. Cannabis is complex … go figure.
This tango of defense mechanism and allure, of course, is what also gives various types of cannabis strains their characteristics. What tells some insects to bug off and others to come closer, many humans find very inviting as well … and some don’t. It’s like anything that involves an acquired taste: Scotch, wine, coffee, craft beer, cigars … you get the point. In fact, terpenes do the same thing for hops in beer—give it that bitter taste that so many people love. Terpenes create taste experiences. But is that all they do?
Not by a long shot.
Are Terpenes Good for You?
Aside from making certain things taste and smell the way you like them to taste and smell? The answer according to preclinical evidence is “yes.”
There’s a good deal of preliminary evidence that terpenes—in all plants—have therapeutic properties. A scientific review from 2017 titled Terpenes from Forests and Human Health, provides several studies on animal models as evidence that terpenes have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-tumor effects.
While there are certain flavonoids that are unique to cannabis, called cannaflavins, the terpenes in cannabis are found in many other plants in nature. However, the myriad cannabis compounds are thought to work in a synergistic manner known as the entourage effect, and researchers have their eye on cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions.
A study in 2018 looked at the distinct compositions of terpenoids in certain cannabis strains and concluded that terpenes had acute anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive (blocks pain detection) properties in animal models.
Neurologist and cannabis expert Dr. Ethan Russo believes there are many cannabinoid-terpenoid relationships that contribute to the entourage effect. The following is a list of eight major terpenes from his research that shows the effects of these cannabis terpenes, where else they can be found in nature, and what cannabinoid(s) they may interact with to execute the entourage effect.
● Limonene is also found in lemon. This terpene has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-acne properties. Studies also suggest that it can treat anxiety and depression. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBD, CBG, and THC
● Pinene, like the name suggest, is also found in pines. Its therapeutic effects include anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, and memory aiding properties. Suspected ntourage effect partners: CBD and THC
● Myrcene is in hops and lemongrass. This terpene abundant in cannabis is about blocking inflammation, pain-relieving, sedating, muscle-relaxing, and antibiotic effects. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBD, CBG, and THC
● Linalool can be found in lavender too. Effects include anti-anxiety, sedation, anesthetic, pain-relieving, and anti-seizure. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBD, CBG, THC, THCV, CBDV
● Caryophyllene is also a terpene in pepper. It’s believed to be the only terpene to act on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In this way, it’s believed to help moderate pain sensation and inflammation, and enhance cannabis’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBD and THC.
● Caryophyllene Oxide is found in lemon balm. Anti-fungal, insecticidal, and decreases platelet aggregation. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBC, CBG, THC, THCA, CBGA.
● Nerolidol terpene is found in oranges. Preliminary studies show it’s a sedative, a skin penetrant, antimalarial, and anti-leishmanial. Suspected entourage effect partners: THC, CBN
● Phytol exists also in green tea and is the product of chlorophyll breakdown. This terpene demonstrates sedative and anti-anxiety effects by inhibiting the enzyme that degrades GABA. Suspected entourage effect partners: CBG
Terpenes Add Benefits
Terpenes are another argument for medical cannabis. Certain strains have certain concentrations of terpenes, allowing you to further customize your medical cannabis to your needs and tastes. Dispensaries and budtenders are (or should be) as rich in knowledge about the terpenes in cannabis strains as the plant is in benefits. We want the benefits of medical marijuana to be as easy and accessible to our Elevate family.
If you’re ready to start the evaluation process and get headed in a dispensary direction, we can make it fast and easy for you today from the comfort of your own home. Click HERE to book an appointment.