Cannabis Terpenes

Cannabis Terpenes

Ever thought about the smell of foods and can tell the difference between say a hotdog and a good old boerie roll. Then your sense of smell is working excellent! The differences you are sensing in fruits, different meals, flowers and even your household cleaning products are terpenes.

The reason you can tell the difference between a pear and an apple comes down to these organic compounds. Just as fruits, veggies, and foods smell so different, so does our cannabis.

So today let’s dive into how terpenes behave, what they really are. how you can make properly informed decisions when buying and consuming cannabis.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes, or terpenoids, are organic compounds found in the oils of all plants. There are at least 20,000 terpenes that we know of today and more than 100 are produced by the cannabis plant. Terpene production evolved in plants over time to attract pollination and act as a form of defense against pests or animals looking for a snack.

Female cannabis plants produce trichomes, which are small mushroom-shaped crystals that cover the plants’ flowers and leaves. These trichomes contain crucial compounds such as the famous THC and CBD but also contain flavonoids and terpenes.

When cannabis is carefully harvested and dried to avoid damage or loss of trichomes, we get excellent cannabis with strong and very distinct flavours, colours and smells. For cannabis users, these terpenes act as natural guides to the discovery of your favourite strains.

Terpene production is very much affected by factors such as temperature, humidity and light intensity (think about the wonderful smell of flowers at night). This is why high-end growers put so much into production and emphasis on keeping growing conditions a certain way for certain strains.

Cannabis Terpenes

Terpenoids or terpenes?

Terpenoids and terpenes are definitely related to each other. Terpenes can be called the “on the plant” version of terpenoids. Terpenoids are the transformed version we get through the process of drying and curing. The drying process and conditions change the structure of the molecules and the way they end up tasting.

Terpenoids are used outside of cannabis and other plants for their aromatic qualities. These terpenoids are how we create perfumes, spices, and essential oils. The more research that is being done suggests that terpenoids play a major role in the medical effects of cannabinoids.

Before you decide which cannabis strain to purchase, it can be very helpful to narrow down your options:

  • What flavours do you like or respond to (terpenes)?
  • How do you generally want to feel (sativa or indica)?
  • Do you want healing and calming effects or a psychotropic high (THC : CBD)?

These are just guides to help you along the way and help you decide what you prefer. All these questions basically come down to how you want to feel after consuming cannabis.

Tip: Consider terpenes to be a connoisseur’s approach to cannabis. Just as a wine lover would take note of the “undertones” and scents of wine when comparing to another.

Before the modern research on terpenes and how they affect you after consuming cannabis, people typically based their cannabis choice solely on sativa or indica strains. New research now shows that terpenes not only influence the flavour and smell of bud but also can have a significant impact on the effects of strains on us.

Terpenes & the entourage effect

Many studies that go as far back as the 1980s have shown terpenes to work alongside cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream and pass the blood-brain barrier easier. This basically means that you feel the effects of a strain more or less based on the terpenes found in it.

So not only do terpenes provide the taste and smell of cannabis but because they have their own medicinal effects they amp up or chill out other cannabinoids found in the plant. This effect is called the “entourage effect” because of how the different compounds work together and enhance or downplay the end effects.

If all the cannabinoids and terpenes are working towards the same goal then you are more likely to notice much stronger effects. On the other hand, if they are counterbalancing each other, the effect as a whole would be muted. Because of the way terpenes and cannabinoids work together, producers are now able to create “super strains” that are created to focus on specifics and giving patients the best experience.

This can mean having a THC “high” with anti-anxiety or anti-inflammatory properties or doubling the antidepressant properties of a CBD-rich strain. The medical possibilities are possibly endless. Research into this area of medical cannabis in ongoing and the industry is definitely looking forward to learning more about terpenes.

A great example is the terpene “myrcene” which is known for lowering the resistance of the blood-brain barrier, which speeds up the effects of cannabinoids. If myrcene was found in THC-rich strains, it will lessen the time between consumption and the psychoactive after effect.

How terpenes work in the body

So as we mentioned earlier, terpenes have their own effects apart from working alongside cannabinoids in our bodies. These are not limited to inhibiting serotonin uptake and enhancing norepinephrine but terpenes also increase dopamine and change GABA effects. More research needs to be done to know the full extent of the compounded effect of terpenes and cannabinoids.

What we know now is that terpenes either compound or lighten the effects of of the cannabinoids. by binding to the receptors in our bodies. In the USA, the FDA has acknowledged that terpenes are safe. which is strange because if they weren’t than tomatoes and cinnamon would be illegal!

Now that we are so far into studies and research. cannabis growers and scientists are creating strains that use terpenes to balance any negative effects. An example would be using the terpene “pinene” to balance any short-term memory loss from high THC strains.

cannabis terpenes

Terpenes found in cannabis

  • Limonene (citrus): Just as its name suggests, limonene smells like oranges, limes, lemons, mandarins, and grapefruits. Also, it is probably found in many of your household cleaning products or perfumes because of its citrus scent. This terpene has been found to elevate mood, relieve stress and has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties too. Limonene also improves the absorption of other terpenes and chemicals through the skin.
  • Myrcene (fruity, earthy, musky): Myrcene can be found in hops, thyme, mangos, lemongrass, and basil. Myrcene is the most commonly found terpene in cannabis. Along with anti-inflammatory properties, Myrcene is a sedative and a muscle relaxer. Many indica strains have high levels of this compound which create a tied/stoned feeling (higher than 0.5% and you are “couch locked”).
  • Pinene (pine): Pinene is the most common terpene in the world. It is found in orange peels, pine needles, basil and parsley. Pinene has great anti-inflammatory properties and is used to counter memory loss. It also will improve airflow to your lungs and promote alertness.
  • Terpinolene (woody, smokey): Terpinolene is found in rosemary and sage and has slight antibacterial, antioxidant and sedative properties. It has also been found to depress your central nervous system and reduce anxiety and induce drowsiness.
  • Linalool (floral, spicy): Linalool is found in spices and flowers like coriander and lavender. This terpene is widely known for its anti-depressant, stress-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Linalool balances out the anxious side effects of THC, making it an effective treatment of anxiety and psychosis. Studies also suggest that Linalool can boost the immune system and significantly reduce lung inflammation.
  • Caryophyllene (spicy, peppery): Caryophyllene is found in black pepper, cinnamon leaves, Thai basil, and cloves. Studies show that it can help treat depression, anxiety and act as an anti-inflammatory.

Flavonoids vs. Terpenes

By reading the name, you may think flavonoids sound like flavours but these are actually the colour giving nutrients in living things. Not only this, but they are the largest nutrient families known to scientists. About 20 of these compounds can be found in cannabis plants. This is great news because like some terpenes, flavonoids also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits.

Flavonoids are what gives cannabis plants a brighter green or a purple colour.

ConclusionMedical Cannabis Blog

Choosing your cannabis strains no longer needs to be based on Sativa or Indica alone. Research has come such a long way. We understand so much more than we did 20 years ago, better-informed choices can be made. We now know the individual effects of terpenes and how they can combine with cannabinoids.

Not only do we have strains that make us feel good in every way. There are also strains with medical benefits that weren’t thought possible. If you are a recreational smoker or a medical user, there is a strain to suit your every need.

~ Seedly Team