Terpenes are odorous organic hydrocarbons. They are naturally found in many plants - think of the smell of pine, or lemon rind, or lavender.
Today we will outline some of the main terpenes found in cannabis and explain how terpenes affect how cannabis affects humans.
Terpenes naturally occur in plants for a reason - to protect them from predators. However these terpenes are powerful compounds, and have been traditionally used in medical practices cross-culturally for thousands of years. Terpenes are the basis for aromatherapy - an old holistic health modality that has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to essential oils.
When examining the range of effects cannabis can have on humans, cannabinoids are often talked about first. However it has been found that terpenes can also interact with our endocannabinoid system. There is also evidence that terpenes can modify the effects of cannabinoids, and different combinations and concentrations can produce different outcomes. We refer to this as “The Entourage effect”.
.... No, Not that Entourage
Below we cover the most common terpenes found in Cannabis and lay out what we know about how these terpenes enhance cannabis.
Caryophyllene: peppery, woody and spicy. Often found in cotton, black pepper, cloves basil and oregano. Found in one of two forms: beta caryophyllene ( β-Caryophyllene) & trans-caryophyllene or TC. Thought to be a powerful antioxidant, caryophyllene has been reported as one of the first non-cannabinoids to stimulate cannabinoid receptors in humans.
Humulene: Woody and earthy, humulene is found naturally in ginger, hops and coriander. There is evidence that it may suppress appetite, and is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.
Limonene: Smelling of citrus, lemon and orange. Limonene is found in citrus rinds, peppermint and juniper. It is thought to elevate moods and relieve stress.
Linalool: Floraly with a citrusy spice, linalool naturally occurs in lavender, citrus, birch and rosewood. This terpene is found in many flowers and spice plants. It is thought to be sedative and calming, and to relieve insomnia and stress.
Myrcene: Musk, cloves and herbaly citrus best describes myrcene. Myrcene can be found in mangoes, thyme, lemongrass and bay leaves. Myrcene is one of the most abundant terpenes in cannabis. On its own, myrcene is thought to be relaxing and sedative. However, when combined with the cannabinoid THC, myrcene has been shown to enhance the psychoactive properties of THC.
Pinene: Sharp, sweet and well, piney. Pinene is found in pine needles, conifers and sage. Pinene is thought to assist with memory retention and alertness.
These terpenes plus many more all contribute to the ‘entourage effect’. Terpenes can vary between cannabis strains and even plants, hence the vast array of effects cannabis can have on humans. We hope this helped you learn a little more about the chemistry of cannabis!