What are the terpenes in cannabis?


The terpenes in cannabis. Much more tan organoleptic properties

Everybody knows that each cannabis strain has its own smell. Some are very good, like berries, pine or incense, and others not that good. It is the statement true? It is not indeed. As a matter of fact cannabis has only one fragrance and taste. Then, why do we perceive it in a different way? This is due to the terpenes: aromatic molecules located in the small resin glands of cannabis flowers.

Terpenes can produce different types of smell. Some strains smell like skunk while others smell like lavender or exotic fruits. Anyway, don’t think the smell produced by terpenes is the only important question about these small glands. There are many other factors. They have also different medical properties. And depending on their combination with cannabinoids, their ability will change.

Most plants segregate terpenes. And some animals too. Terpenes are molecules that evaporate very easily.

These substances have two main functions in a plant. Terpenes are the primary component of the resin and they are meant to protect the plant against pests and plagues.

Terpenes and cannabinoids share their biosynthetic routes. As a matter of fact, cannabinoids are terpeno-fenolic compounds. In a cannabis plant, terpenes also share the biosynthesis and accumulation spaces. Therefore, these two types of compounds are biosynthesised in the glandular trichomes of leaves and flowers. They are accumulated in great quantities in the resin. Anyhow, it seems that certain non-capitular glandular trichomes, which are more abundantly found in leaves , are specialised in synthesizing terpenes.

It has been demonstrated that the ratio between monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes in leaves and flowers is quite different. This happens because of the predominance of trichomes, known as “sessile trichomes” in the leaves, which are more specialised in synthesizing terpenes. However, capitate trichomes are more abundant in flowers and are specialised in the synthesis of monoterpenes and cannabinoids. Anyhow, a cannabis plant doesn’t have more than a 1% of terpenes.

Terpenes have several and different functions. The most important ones are to protect against plagues of insects and herbivorous animals. They are also important to protect from the heat.

Monoterpenes are more abundant in the flowers and repel insects. Sesquiterpenes are more bitter and more abundant in the leaves. Therefore , they protect the plant against herbivores like donkeys, rabbits etc.

Some strains produce certain terpenes as a decoy to attract insects that are natural predators of the pathogen ones. As plants feel the temperature increase, they begin synthesizing more terpenes and under high temperatures during night or day, more terpenes are released. 

Terpenes are used to produce essential oils for homeopathy and the beauty industry.

Terpenes give each cannabis strain its own odor and flavor. And on top of it, terpenes reinforce the medical properties of the plant.

Let’s see this matter.

The way terpenes and cannabinoids interact

We smoke only the flowers of cannabis. And these flowers, depending on the genetic they come from, have their unique smell.

Most strains have about 120 terpenes in their flowers. Don’t forget (as we said before) that these terpenes exist in the flowers as the cannabinoids, like THC, do. However, terpenes are not psychoactive.

As we said before, when it comes to terpenes, the most important issue is not the smell or the flavor. Remember that terpenes have several medical properties. They interact with the human endocannabinoid system and help the cannabinoids to get into the bloodstream.

For example, myrcene, one of the well known terpenes, improves the cell permeability which helps cannabinoids to be absorbed much faster. .

Limonene is also one of the most investigated terpenes. It is well known its ability to develop higher levels of serotonin; the neurotransmitter on which our mood depends. This is the reason why our strain has its own effect on our mood. The more limonene it has, the better mood we will experience.

The Entouragge effect

This term was firstly coined by S. Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam in 1998. This amazing research explains what it also could be named “the reinforcement”. It is amazing because it explains the synergy among terpenes and other compounds. What compounds? Cannabinoids and flavonoids.

We know terpenes have medical properties. And we know cannabinoids have medical properties too. The question is that both, cannabinoids and terpenes, are much more beneficial when they “work” together. Terpenes are beneficial. Cannabinoids are beneficial too. But when they are consumed at the same time, the effect is much stronger. They reinforce each other.

Different medical effects of terpenes

In a cannabis plant we can find different terpenes to treat many diseases. For example, some have the ability to relieve stress. Others are fantastic for other disorders, as we will see now.

For instance, myrcene, one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis, is very efficient to treat insomnia. Limonene, another well known terpene, makes us uplifted after consuming marijuana.

During the last years, cannabis terpenes are being deeply studying. Professor Jürg Gertsch discovered the capacity of beta-caryophyllene to bind to CB2 receptors. He stated that this terpene was absolutely beneficial for human use.

 Dr. Ethan Russo wrote an article in 2011, in the British Journal of Pharmacology. In this article he talked about the medical properties of terpenes in cannabis. Writing about the synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids, Dr Russo said “ it was a synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections”.

More studies discovered that terpenes, terpenoids, and cannabinoids, when combined, have the capacity to get rid of respiratory pathogens. But the ability of terpenes to treat diseases goes much further.

The most important terpenes in cannabis

We are going to review the ability of the following 15 terpenes found in cannabis.

Myrcene

Being the the most abundant terpene in cannabis, myrcene is as much as 65% of total amount of terpenes in several strains.

Its smells is earthy and musky, with certain nuances of fruit.

Most indicas have a 0,5% of myrcene and It has remarkable sedative effects. It also helps to treat inflammation and chronic pain. Due to this ability myrcene is recommended as a diet complement when we are suffering from cancer treatments.

Some vegetables like mango, for example, contain terpenes. It is a good tip to eat a mango about 50 minutes before we smoke a joint. Why? Because the large amount of myrcene contained in a piece of mango will increase the effect of THC of cannabis and, moreover, it will help you with the absorption of other cannabinoids.

Limonene

It is the second most abundant terpene in cannabis. Limonene is responsible for that delicious smell of lemon some strains have. It boosts your mood and reduces stress. It has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties,

Linalool

Linaool, along with myrcene, is the terpene that makes cannabis smell the way it does. It produces a spicy odor.

 Linalool also has the ability to induce sedation and relaxation.

It is efficient to ease the suffering from patients with arthritis, depression, seizures, insomnia and cancer.

Caryophillene

Its smell is spicy and peppery. Beta-caryophyllene binds to CB2 receptors, which is excellent to be used as an anti-inflammatory. It is the only terpene that binds to cannabinoid receptors.

Some researchers are studying the ability of this terpene to fight alcoholism: But these studies are being carried out and we need more investigation. Some sicientists recommended caryophyllene for treating alcohol abstinence symptom.

Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene

Both terpenes are commonly found in pine trees. They have an anti-inflammatory effect. They enhance the airflow and respiratory system. And if you consume too much THC they will help you with the memory loss related to this cannabinoid when it is abused.

Pinene is also beneficial for those who are suffering from arthritis, Cronhn disease and cancer.

Alpha-bisabolol

It has a very nice floral smell.  It is used mostly in the cosmetics industry but recent studies are discovering certain medical properties. Above all, to treat bacterial infections and wounds. It is also a good antioxidant with anti-irritation and analgesic abilities.

Eucalyptol

Most cannabis varieties only have it in small quantities: no more than a 0.06% of the complete cannabis terpene profile. When it comes to medicine, it is useful to relieve pain and to slow down the growth of bacteria and fungus too.

Even though it is too early to confirm it, it seems it could have benefits to treat effects on Alzheimer’s.

Trans-nerolidol

It is considered a secondary terpene. It has antiparasitic, antioxidant, antifungal, anticancer and antimicrobial properties.

Humulene

This terpene has plenty of medical abilities. It helps to suppress appetite and, therefore, very useful to lose weight. It also reduces inflammation, eases pain and fights bacterial infections.

Delta 3 Carene

Delta 3 carene is quite beneficial when it comes to treat broken bones. It is a hope for people who suffer from osteoporosis, arthritis and even fibromyalgia.

It is also efficient to improve memory. This represents a hope to treat people who suffer from the Alzheimer’s Disease.

Camphene

Camphene smell reminds of earth and woodlands. Eventually it can be mistaken with myrcene, that is the most recognizable smell of marijuana. If we mixed with vitamin C, Camphene becomes a very efficient antioxidant. It is used in medicine for skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis. However, its main potential is to lower down cholesterol and triglycerides.

Borneol

It has a clear mint smell.

It is used in medicine as a relaxant. Borneol is an excellent repellent for mosquitoes and fleas. This ability makes it very good to prevent diseases like the West Nile virus.

There is a study that says it is efficient to kill breast cancer cells.

Terpineol

Its smell reminds of lilacs with a clear touch of lemon. It is quite relaxing and it can let you sitting in the couch for hours. It is very common in pure indicas.

Among the different medical benefits of this terpene it highlights its antibiotic and antioxidant ability.

Valencene

This terpene gets its name from the oranges bred in Valencia (Spain). The fragrance is delicious. Precisely because of its citrusy fragrance and taste is an excellent insect repellant.

Geraniol

Its smell reminds of a mixture of rose grass and peaches. It has a touch of plums too.

It has a great ability as a neuroprotectant and antioxidant.

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