Ever opened up a big bag of fine cannabis buds just to be blown away by their strong skunky smell? Cannabis is loaded with aromatic compounds that give it its unique scent and aroma. These compounds are called terpenes, and they’re quickly becoming a hot topic of discussion in the cannabis world. That’s because terpenes are believed to do more than just give cannabis its strong aroma, they may also have a role to play in the effects it produces.
Just what are terpenes and what do they do? Here’s everything you need to know!
Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbon compounds that give plants like cannabis their signature aromas and flavors. Whether it’s the sweet scent of a strawberry or the spicy scent of onions, you can be sure terpenes are responsible. It’s believed that terpenes developed as part of the natural evolutionary process of plants in order to help them attract pollinators with sweet scents, and deter predators with bitter, spicy, or foul ones.
When it comes to cannabis, terpenes give plants and buds their signature scent and unique flavors. The unique terpene profiles of different cannabis strains is the reason why they can smell and taste so differently from one another. Ever vaped or smoked a super fruity strain that had notes of citrus or berries? These strains are able to smell and taste like that thanks to the fruity terpenes they contain.
So far, over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant in one strain or another. Thankfully, many of these strains have been named after their unique scents and flavors, making it easier to know what you’re getting without the need to look at the actual terpene profile of a strain or product. For example, you can bet that Sour Diesel will have a diesel-like kick and Blueberry will feature a berry-flavored taste and aroma.
The flavor or aroma of a certain strain of cannabis product is certainly important, but terpenes may actually contribute much more than that. What’s really got people buzzing about terpenes is the potential role they play in determining the effects produced by cannabis.
For example, a study from 2018 found that certain terpenes found in cannabis may have anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties which researchers believe may make them useful in alleviating acute inflammation. A more recent review of studies from 2019 found that pinene may have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anticancer, and antiallergic properties. Additionally, Limonene has been found to potentially have anti-stress benefits in addition to its potential anti-inflammatory effects.
These are just a few of many different studies indicating that some of the terpenes typically found in cannabis may have value beyond just their contributions to flavor and aroma. As more research is conducted, we’ll likely see much more scientific evidence supporting the multi-faceted role that terpenes play in cannabis.
One of the ways that terpenes may be able to influence the effects of a cannabis strain or product is through the entourage effect.
The entourage effect is a phenomenon suggesting that the many different compounds found in cannabis may work together in synergy to produce the overall effects experienced when it is ingested. When you consider the potential therapeutic benefits that terpenes have on their own, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that they may be working together with cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds to contribute to the overall effects produced by a given cannabis strain or product.
Some terpenes are more common than others in cannabis. Here are 3 of the most common terpenes that you’re likely to come across in different cannabis strains:
Myrcene is the most common terpene in cannabis and can also be found in hops, lemongrass, and mango. It has a herbal aroma and may have calming, sedating, and relaxing properties.
Pinene is the most common terpene found in nature and, as its name suggests, has an aroma similar to pine. It can be found in pine needles, rosemary, and basil, and may have a variety of therapeutic benefits.
Caryophyllene is a spicy terpene that can be found in black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. It is the only terpene known to function similarly to cannabinoids by activating the body’s endocannabinoid system, which may be how it produces its effects.
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