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It's All About the Terpenes

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

Learn more about the common terpenes found in your cannabis medicine.

Terpenes, or terpenoids, are volatile aromatic essential oils created by the cannabis plant, during its grow cycle, that serve multiple purposes. They are the oils that contribute to the flavor, aroma, and effect the cannabis plant produces, and they act as a defense mechanism for the plant from pests and other potential predators. If THC is a road that is straight by nature, the terpenes are the curves to the left and right. Sometimes smooth, and sometimes sharp, terpenes create a journey of effect that is different for each plant. Many terpenes offer anxiolytic, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and analgesic effects. Terpenes also offer a spectrum of flavor and aroma unique to each chemical compound creating what is known as the plant’s “terpene profile”.

Perhaps the most common terpene present in all of cannabis, b-myrcene is found in just about every strain. B-myrcene has been shown to thin the blood-brain-barrier, allowing more THC to enter the brain at a time. Strains with a b-myrcene content >.5% could potentially help aid in pain relief and offer a sedative effect. It is found in nature in mango, hops, cloves, and lemongrass. 

B-caryophyllene is a unique terpene as it is the only terpene that has been found to selectively bind to CB2 receptors. Studies have shown that activation at the CB2 receptor cite in mice by b-caryophyllene leads to anti-inflammatory effects. B-caryophyllene is non-psychoactive inducing and can be found in high concentrations in many cake strains (birthday cake, ice cream cake, coffee ice cream, etc.). 

a-Pinene is the same terpene that gives pine trees their iconic aroma. Ever walk through a forest of pine trees in the summer? When you breathe in that familiar scent you are breathing in a-pinene. A-pinene works as a bronchodilator, opening air ways in the lungs to help patients with asthma breathe easier. This also allows for more THC to enter the blood through the lungs making strains with a-pinene a bit more effective. A-pinene also has shown potential to aid in memory retention and focus. Other benefits could include anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and analgesic effects. 

Linalool is perhaps one of the more heavily sedating terpenes found in cannabis. Naturally occurring in lavender, linalool has been used for thousands of years as a sleep aid. Potentially, linalool could provide anti-anxiety, stress relieving, muscle relaxant, and anti-depressant properties. Linalool is responsible for the floral and spicy aromas you may find in your cannabis flower. Some say linalool’s presence can also provide the “funky” undertones of a flower’s aroma.

As a top note, limonene can contribute to a strains fruity and citrusy aroma. In nature, limonene is found in the rinds of fruits and has been used in many cleaners due to its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, as well as its pungent aroma. Limonene could potentially provide uplifting effects that boost mood and promote homeostasis for those with chronic depression. Like all terpenes limonene has a spectrum of flavor and aroma from bitter (think lemon rinds) to sweet (like lemonheads).

Commonly known as the most abundant of the minor terpenes, terpinolene could have different effects depending upon the level present. Strains dominant in terpinolene could offer focus and energy when in high amounts. When mixed with b-myrcene, terpinolene could be sedative, helping patients relax and focus on a specific task, perfect for those suffering from ADHD or a manic episode. Terpinolene can be found naturally in apples, lilac, cumin, and nutmeg. 

Mostly found naturally in chamomile, bisabolol could provide heavily sedating and relaxing effects. It can give off a sweet and spicy aroma like that of chamomile tea. Bisabolol may produce anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and sedative effects.

Previously categorized as a-caryophyllene, humulene can primarily be found naturally occurring in hops. Humulene is a known appetite suppressant making it perfect for patients seeking to counteract the hungry feeling produced when consuming THC. Humulene can have an earthy or spicy flavor and aroma. Other benefits include anti-anxiety, relaxation, sedation, anti-cancer, and it has been shown in some studies to possibly produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) that fight tumors.

*Always consult with a physician before any new medical regime.

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