Have you ever walked into a dispensary, opened up a display jar and marveled at the richness and complexity of the odor coming from the fresh buds inside (if you don’t live in state where marijuana sales are banned then, sorry, no)? Terpenes are the natural compounds that influence the flavors and fragrances of plants. This is true even for plants and ingredients you commonly use or interact with; be it basil, sage, peppercorn – even lemons and oranges! But there is much more terpenes can do for plants and humans than provide tastes and smells. In this post, we go over the many medicinal and therapeutic uses of terpenes found in the cannabis plant.
Terpenes in Nature
Terpenes are not as superficial as you might think. From an evolutionary standpoint, terpenes provide a critical function by warding off harmful bacteria, parasites, fungi and herbivores. Specific terpenes also develop during different stages of a plant’s life cycle, signaling anything from the ripening of fruit to the readiness of a flower for pollination.
Terpenes in Cannabis Consumption
Over 200 terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant alone, and research shows that they have considerable influence over the nature of the “high” we get from cannabis products. This is due to their ability to interact with our CB2 receptors. Further research shows that the common terpenes present in cannabis hold tremendous therapeutic and medicinal value.
Examples of Beneficial Qualities in Cannabis Terpenes
Different terpenes are present in varying levels across different cannabis strains, which is why separate strains provide distinct sensations and effects that set them apart from one another. It’s worth noting that the method of consumption (whether it’s smoking, vaping or edibles et cetera) influences terpene content as well. Below are three examples of the most abundant and popular terpenes found in cannabis
- • Myrcene Myrcene is the most prevalent terpene in the cannabis plant, and is abundant in practically any tested strain on the market. Its fragrance and flavor is often described as fruity and earthy. Myrcene provides potent anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic and sedative effects, and is credited for the famous “couch-lock” effect of indica.
- • Alpha-Bisabolol or simply Bisabolol is a naturally fragrant chemical compound that can also be found in chamomile. With its anti-irritant and anti-microbial properties, Bisabolol is surprisingly viable for a number of serious infections including staph and epidermidis. The strains Oracle and Harle-Tsu are good examples of strains with high levels of Bisabolol.
- • Linalool Linalool is by no means exclusive to cannabis, and can be found in a variety of plants including lavender, cinnamon, laurels and birch trees. In fact, Linalool is such a common terpene that the average person is estimated to consume over two grams of it every year without consuming cannabis. Its potent analgesic and anticonvulsant properties have made it a popular choice for ameliorating chronic pain, seizures and epilepsy in the world of alternative medicine. Linalool is present in large amounts in strains like Sour Diesel, Tangerine Dream and Bubblegum.
When It All Comes Together: Producing the Entourage Effect
The findings of recent medical research suggest that terpenes not only interact with our CB2 receptors during cannabis consumption; they are able to modulate the behavior of our brain cells as well. This (combined with their natural synergy with the cannabinoids present in cannabis) lead to their enhancement or amplification of the effects of cannabis products. This sequence of molecular bindings and reactions has been dubbed the “Entourage Effect” by Israeli organic chemists S. Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam, who have been leading researchers in the field since 1994.
Terpenes: Revolutionizing the Health, Wellness & Alternative Medicine Industries
While there is still plenty of research to be done on terpenes, it’s obvious that they hold incredible potential in terms of medicinal and therapeutic value. Because of this, terpenes are increasingly being incorporated into a wide range of products; from soaps and creams to salves, CBD medications – even infused cocktails!
Time will tell how large of a role terpenes play in the next frontier of natural medicine. Fortunately, the study of terpenoid and cannabinoid behaviors in medical (and recreational) cannabis products are progressing us along to knowing everything we need to know about these modern miracles of nature. Unfortunately, big pharma may not be keen to see CBD and terpenes take a share of their existing business. Let’s hope uber big pharma companies don’t spend their war-chests on PAC lobbying efforts against potentially game-changing new cannabis related treatments.