Cannabis Science

25 June 2020

How do terpenes influence the effect of cannabis?

Over the years, the reputation of Cannabis has been improving, albeit slowly, thanks to the wide press it’s been generating among the communities. The stigma related to Cannabis has continued to play a major factor in keeping it in the sidelines.

However, now with the onslaught of CBD, a form of cannabis gaining legal status across the US and other parts of the globe, it has been generating quite a buzz. Many are now learning of the various beneficial effects involving the medical and recreational use of cannabis with extensive studies and researches.

While THC and CBD have been in the spotlight, with CBD being the prime component actively sought in medical marijuana, and the former being the primary psychoactive element, there is another equally significant component that has left many to wonder, Terpenes.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds which are found in a variety of plants apart from Cannabis, which is slated to have therapeutic benefits, especially in convention with cannabinoids. But before we go on a briefing on its varied positive influences, let’s discuss what terpenes are and what they do.

What are Terpenes?

Cannabis plants have a variety of compounds and chemicals, of which, 140 of them belong to the group of aromatic organic hydrocarbons called Terpenes. The fragrance of these compounds can be exceptionally distinctive, with some being fruity and musky, while others can have a spicy or a robust pine aroma.

Found in plants like cannabis, eucalyptus, thyme, lemongrass, etc., terpenes serve as a means of defence mechanism in nature, protecting the plant from fungal & bacterial growth, herbivores, and other environmental attacks.

With the legal use of marijuana extending, the presence of terpenes in marijuana compounds has gained significance over time. Cultivators are now devoting extra attention to prioritize terpenes in their produce with the intent to enhance flavour, taste, and aroma of cannabis.

When discussing terpenes, there is another term called ‘Terpenoids’ which may get interchangeably used with terpenes. However, the terms mean two very different things. At one end, Terpenes are hydrocarbons, meaning they constitute of carbon and hydrogen alone while Terpenoids, on the other end, contain an oxygen element. Technically speaking, terpenoids are denatured due to oxidation.

How Do Terpenes Influence Cannabis?

With marijuana still deemed illegal on a federal basis, there have been a limited number of studies and researches headed on terpenes and other related components, leaving the whole ordeal unexplored. But even the limited results pave the way to promising revelations, particularly in relation to its ‘combined effect’.

Terpenes, associated with flavourings and odour, has been recognized by the FDA as ‘safe’ component. However, it is also said to have benefits especially in convention with the presence of other compounds.

Kris Krane, president of the medical cannabis brand 4Front Ventures, development and advising company, stated that extensive studies and researches have shown that CBD on its own is less potent, and only when in aggregation with a little of THC and other cannabinoids and terpenes, is it wholly effective. This backend support of terpenes and other compounds renders medical marijuana to be more potent.  The “entourage effect”, as doctors term, refers to the action of terpenes reacting synergistically with THC in the endocannabinoid system, thereby affecting the body and mind.

Dr. Ethan B. Russo in his research reinstated that terpenes are known to exhibit physical and physiological effects on the human body and health. He went on to support his theory on the role of terpenes in cannabis stating that it controlled the hallucinogenic effects of THC while also enhancing the therapeutic nature of cannabis.

The Physical and Physiological Effects of Terpenes

While the physical effects of terpenes can be largely singular to the nature of it, certain effects can be summarized as general properties of terpenes. On another note, it is also found that compounds with similar aroma may further share a resemblance in their effects.

Such effects could comprise of its anti-inflammatory nature, pain relief, antibacterial properties, antifungal properties, and aid in relieving muscle spasms.

Apart from it, terpenes are also slated to aid with mental implications following conditions with depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, and such. Though further research is required, it is understood that terpenes act on receptors and neurotransmitters by combining with lipids in one’s body, inhibiting serotonin intake and also augmenting norepinephrine and dopamine activity, which is similar to the working of anti-depressants.

In conjunction with terpenes, cannabis-based medicinal extracts have the potential to treat conditions of pain, inflammation, bacterial infections, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, and even cancer. To summarize, Terpenes may not be a singular stop for treating and alleviating pain symptoms; however, in union with other compounds, they can vastly affect the physical and mental health of individuals.

Types of Terpenes in Cannabis

Interestingly, the myriad number of terpenes present in cannabis also contribute their own in increasing the therapeutic index of cannabis. The common types of terpenes found in cannabis are Myrcene, Pinene, Limonene, Humulene, Linalool, Caryophyllene, Borneol, Terpineol, Geraniol, Pulegone, Carene, and Phellandrene, among others. Of these, let’s take a closer look at two of the significant types of terpenes that have a strong effect on Cannabis.

Myrcene

Myrcene, one of the terpenes found in cannabis, has a distinctive earthy and musty smell akin to cloves. Also found in citrus fruits, eucalyptus and bay leaves, Myrcene, according to several studies, is notable for its sedative properties while also showing proof of acting as a muscle relaxant in lab tests. It also allows for the cannabinoid to take effect swiftly. Apart from its sedative nature, Myrcene is also a strong analgesic, effective anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and even antimutagenic.

Pinene

Pinene, as the name suggests, has a unique smell of pine and fir. Found in many coniferous plants and citrus fruits, Pinene is slated to have anti-inflammatory properties, while is also noted to serve as a local antiseptic and bronchodilator, aiding conditions of asthma. Apart from it, certain compounds of Pinene have showcased anti-cancer activity, which prevents tumor cells from metastasizing and exhibits cytotoxic tendencies towards cancer cells. Dr.Russo’ study further noted evidence that Pinene could also prevent short-term memory loss often associated with the use of THC.

Humulene

Humulene, which can be identified with its distinct earthy aroma, is found commonly in hops; also responsible for the distinct hoppy taste in beers. It is also one of the terpenes that has been studied for its potential in treating cancer and tumor activity in cells. It is suggested to have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory tendencies. It is even anorectic in nature, which means it can be instrumental in suppressing appetite. Though research has been limited on its many benefits, the results are nothing but promising.

Limonene

With its strong lemon fragrance, especially resonant with those found in rich citrus fruits such as oranges and limes, Limonene is found in abundance in nature. Apart from cannabis, it is present in many fruits, rosemary, juniper, and even peppermint. Though research on cannabis concerning Limonene has been a bit narrow, it has sparked much interest in citrus oils with studies suggesting many positive outcomes.

It is purported that Limonene can aid those with conditions of depression and anxiety, uplifting one’s mood and attitude. It’s antioxidant properties is stated to reduce inflammation in lungs while also found to exhibit cytotoxic tendencies towards cancer cells preventing their further spreading. It is interesting to note that clinical trials are on full swing with the oral administration of Limonene in treating breast cancer. It is also related to weight loss. 

Linalool

Linalool, found in specific strains of cannabis, has a strong floral aroma with lavender undertones. Employed in essential oils for aromatherapies, Linalool, which apart from its sedative properties also promotes relaxing and calming effects on its users. This nature of it allows it to be exceptionally therapeutic in nature by treating conditions of depression, stress, and anxiety. It’s other fold of benefits includes its role in boosting one’s immune system while also having the innate ability to reduce the intensity of seizure by aiding with convulsions. In fact, the latter reason has worked as a major incentive in legalizing medical marijuana.

Buy cannabis seeds bases on terpene profile

Terpenes are significant components in plant hormones and other chemical substances. Cannabinoids are no exception with terpenes constituting the ‘entourage effect’ in dealing with a variety of health conditions. So, with medical marijuana legalized, how does an interested and informed individual take advantage of it?

Terpenes which create vivid fragrances and physiological effects can now be identified to the benefit of consumers. Purchasing legal products have their labels clearly stipulating the different constituents in question. Many brands are now incorporating their terpene listing and percentages to pander to the likes of consumers who look to intake certain compounds specifically.

The unique aroma of different strains of terpenes can also come in handy in identifying the different compounds and its supposed medical merits. For instance, many agree that clove or musk smelling variety of terpenes function as sedatives and relaxants (Myrcene); while pine aroma (Pinene) helps enhance alertness and memory retention; and lemon fragrant ones (Limonene) aid in uplifting mood and attitude.

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