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What is the Role of Terpenes in Cannabis?

By August 28, 2017 January 4th, 2019 No Comments

We have brought up terpenes in several of our articles, but we haven’t gone super in-depth about their role in cannabis or their proven health benefits. Terpenes aren’t just for flavor and aroma in cannabis, they do so much more for the plant and your body. This piece will discuss what the role of terpenes is in cannabis and how they benefit your body.

Flavor

Terpenes help provide cannabis with their unique flavor profiles. Strains that taste like oranges, lemons, blueberries and other fruits get that flavor from terpene oils naturally occurring in the cannabis plant. They’re also what gives some strains their pungent, strong, skunky flavors (like Sour Diesel and Rolls Choice).

Every strain contains a different concentration of terpenes. Every strain contains different terpenes in general. Depending on the concentration of the terpenes, it helps determine what the strain will taste like.

Terpenes are also what help give everyday items like black pepper, basil, lemongrass and other herbs/spices their unique flavor profiles.

Aroma

Terpenes don’t just provide cannabis strains with their flavor profiles, they also help in creating the aroma in raw and heated cannabis flower. When terpenes are extracted in full spectrum extraction processes, they are also taken along to help provide the aroma you smell when the cannabis is heated and exhaled. In vape products, terpenes are typically added to mimic the flavor of the strain, however, the terpenes are derived from natural sources (in high-quality products) to maintain the health benefits of those terpenes.

Now, if terpenes are heated too much, past their boiling points, it kills their aroma and flavor attributes. It can also diminish their potential health benefits.

Entourage Effect

Have you heard of the entourage effect? This is when all of the cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis work together in your body. One of the only ways to achieve the entourage effect is with whole plant medicine (full spectrum), where nothing is removed from the plant or a concentrate extracted from hemp or cannabis.

Read more about the entourage effect in this article: The Entourage Effect – Why Whole Plant Medicine Matters

Therapeutic Benefits

Terpenes and terpenoids have therapeutic benefits. This has been proved by science for centuries. Since terpenes and terpenoids don’t come just from cannabis, research on these naturally occurring compounds has been possible. Terpenes are found in thousands of plants, flowers, trees/shrubs, herbs and other types of vegetation.

The therapeutic benefits of terpenes range from reducing inflammation to working as a broncodilator to open up airways.

Some therapeutic benefits of terpenes include:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antibacterial
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-dandruff
  • Relaxant
  • Anti-allergenic
  • Anti-proliferative
  • Antioxidant
  • Gastroprotective
  • Neuroprotective
  • Antidepressant
  • Anti-cancer
  • Anesthetic
  • Anxiolytic
  • Sedative
  • Immunostimulant
  • Anti-carcinogenic
  • Antimutagenic
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Antipsychotic
  • Antiparasitic
  • Antimalarial
  • Anti-tumor
  • Antiexzematic
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Anticoagulant
  • Antifungal

As you can see from this extensive list, terpenes do a lot of good in the body. Cannabis, in its natural state, is your best opportunity for benefitting from terpenes. Another great alternative is in tinctures and oils that have added natural terpenes in them.

Some of the vegetation used to obtain terpenes include:

  • Basil
  • Lemongrass
  • Clove
  • Jasmine
  • Spearmint
  • Black pepper
  • Coriander
  • Sage
  • Hops
  • Lavender
  • Citronella
  • Ginger
  • Pine trees
  • Lime flowers
  • Lilacs
  • Oregano
  • Lemon peel
  • Cajuput oil
  • Eucalyptus
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Orange peel
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • Caraway
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Pine trees

This is just a very small list of some of the common sources of terpenes. It’s likely that you consume some of these foods on a daily basis and don’t even know that you’re helping your body by doing so. The amount of terpenes consumed through food is typically minimal since no one eats large amounts of black pepper and no one eats pine trees. While you are still getting some terpenes on a regular, and often unintentional, basis – it’s not a significant amount.

Use in CBD Products

Most CBD products are derived from European hemp CBD oil, some manufacturers use U.S. sources but most come from Europe, have little to no terpene profile. Hemp does have terpenes, but not as many as cannabis, and during the extraction process, some of these terpenes may be lost or diminished in concentration. So, CBD manufacturers often add natural terpenes to formulas to help them be more effective and supply that formula with a good flavor and aroma.

It is important to look at the terpenes included in a formula so that you can understand why the manufacturer created that specific formula. Formulas are designed to help achieve specific relief or a specific action – such as helping with sleep, reducing anxiety and reducing inflammation. So, product developers, researchers and chemists work together to create a formula that will benefit the user of the CBD product with their chief complaint the most. Creating these formulas is an exact science that takes time to perfect.

Main Terpenes and their Properties

There are terpenes that are commonly used in the cannabis industry. You may see these terpenes listed as ingredients in numerous CBD products, and some THC products where terpenes or cannabinoids are lost in the extraction process. Extraction processes, such as supercritical CO2 extraction, do maintain more terpenes that other, butane-using methods.

Alpha Pinene

Alpha-pinene is often added to inflammation products. It works best synergistically with cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN). It can help reduce the effect of THC a little bit.

Other properties of alpha-pinene include:

  • Broncodilator – opens the lungs and airways
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antibiotic
  • Analgesic
  • Antioxidant
  • Improves the “entourage effect”
  • Promotes alertness
  • Anti-proliferative

Some of the most common plants to find alpha-pinene in, besides some strains of cannabis, include pine trees and eucalyptus. It is found in cannabis strains such as Chemdawg, Bubba Kush, Super Silver Haze, Jack Herer, Trainwreck, OG Kush and Strawberry Cough.

Beta-caryophyllene

Beta-caryophyllene is a wonderful terpene that helps relax the body. You are likely to see this terpene included in anxiety and sleep formulas. IT is also known for it’s anti-proliferative and anti-cancer properties.

Additional properties of beta-caryophyllene include:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • analgesic
  • Neuroprotective
  • Antidepressant
  • Gastric protectant
  • Anxiolytic
  • Curbs craving for nicotine and alcohol
  • Anti-nociceptive (lowers experience of pain)
  • Anticarcinogenic

Beta-caryophyllene may help give cannabis a spicy, earthy or herbal flavor.

It can be found in these natural sources:

  • Black pepper
  • Cloves
  • Oregano
  • Cinnamon
  • Lavender
  • Basil
  • Black caraway
  • Hops

In terms of therapeutic benefit, from the properties listed above, beta-caryophyllene may help reduce the symptoms of arthritis, may help hinder tumor and cancer cell growth and may help calm anxiety.

Cannabis strains containing higher concentrations of beta-caryophyllene are:

  • Sour Diesel
  • Chemdawg
  • OG Kush
  • Bubba Kush
  • Skywalker OG

Limonene

Limonene provides citrusy flavors to cannabis strains. It is used as a natural terpene in many different formulas for both flavor and health benefit.

Properties of Limonene include:

  • Anti-carcinogenic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Immunostimulant
  • Anti-proliferative
  • Anxiolytic
  • Antifungal
  • Antibacterial

These properties make limonene ideal for conditions such as mood disorders, arthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia and cancer.

Limonene is found in:

  • Citrus peels and pulp (mainly lemons and limes)
  • Orange
  • Mandarin
  • Grapefruit
  • Cardamom
  • Fennel
  • Celery
  • Caraway

The cannabis strains known for containing limonene in higher concentrations are:

  • Jack the Ripper
  • Lemon Skunk
  • Super Lemon Haze
  • OG Kush

Linalool

Linalool is a funny name for a terpene, and can sometimes be hard to say. It has several health benefits that make it a terpene that you really want to look for in cannabis and CBD products. It typically helps provide floral, sweet and citrusy flavors and aromas to cannabis strains.

Properties of Linalool:

  • Anxiolytic
  • Anti-convulsant (seizure control)
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-depressant
  • Anti-acne
  • Sedative
  • Analgesic
  • Mood stabilization

These properties indicate that linalool would be ideal for helping to reduce symptoms of arthritis, cancer, seizure disorders, chronic pain and skin conditions.

Linalool is naturally found in:

  • Mint
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus fruits
  • Birch trees
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Coriander

Cannabis strains with higher concentrations of linalool include:

  • LA Confidential
  • Lavender
  • G-13
  • Amnesia Haze

Myrcene

Myrcene is another valuable terpene. It has a long list of properties and provides dozens of benefits to the body. It is a terpene that aids in providing cannabis strains with herbal flavor profiles, sometimes a little skunky or minty as well.

Properites of myrcene include:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Analgesic
  • Antibiotic
  • Sedative
  • Antimutagenic
  • Anti-proliferative
  • Anti-psychotic
  • Antispasmodic
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anti-carcinogenic
  • Antioxidant

These properties suggest that myrcene is beneficial in reducing inflammation in dozens of immune and autoimmune diseases where inflammation is a factor. It also suggests that its sedative properties aid in reducing bouts with insomnia. It may also help calm mood/emotional health disorders and may help regulate blood sugars in diabetics.

Sources of myrcene include:

  • Bay
  • Parsley
  • Wild thyme
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemongrass
  • Basil
  • Mangoes
  • Hops
  • Cardamom

Strains containing higher concentrations of myrcene include:

  • El Nino
  • Pure Kush
  • White Widow – can cause dizziness and anxiety so do not use if you have anxiety or mobility issues
  • Skunk #1
  • Himalayan Gold

Closing Thoughts

As you can see from this information, terpenes are very valuable to the human body and to the cannabis plant. They are part of what helps create the entourage effect and help the synergy between cannabinoids and other terpenes. This information may help you pay a little more attention to terpenes and may even have you looking for specific terpenes the next time you visit a medical cannabis dispensary or recreational cannabis retailer.

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