Cannabis 101: What the Heck are Terpenes?
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
Most individuals have heard of THC and CBD, two prominent cannabinoid molecules which are unique to cannabis plants. CBD is known for its medicinal properties, such as reducing nausea, and combating anxiety/depression, among others. Meanwhile THC is known for being the psychoactive component in cannabis which makes you high. However, more and more conversation is being had around terpenes and how they interact with cannabinoids to influence the plant’s effects.
So what exactly are terpenes? They’re organic hydrocarbons which can be found in most plants and even some insects. These aromatic molecules are the main ingredient in essential oils, which provide the scents for many perfumes, soaps, and food. Whether it’s piney, diesel, citrus, or floral, they’re what gives a cannabis plant its distinct smell.
Recent research has taken interest in how terpenes interact with cannabinoid receptors in order to either increase or inhibit the effects of cannabinoids. This idea that terpenes support other cannabis molecules to produce desired effects is known as the entourage or ensemble effect.
There are more than 100 different terpenes that can be expressed in the cannabis plant, although some are only found in trace amounts. In this article, we will list just a few of the common terpenes that can be found in cannabis.
Pinene is most famously found in pine trees and other conifers. This terpene gives off the piney aroma you may notice in certain cannabis strains. Pinene creates alertness in people and additionally, can be used as a topical antiseptic and bronchodilator (opening up the airways in the lungs for easier breathing).
This terpene is most commonly found in citrus fruits and has a pungent citrus aroma, giving off lemon and orange scents. Limonene has an effect of relieving stress and elevating moods. It additionally has antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Myrcene is one of the two most prominent terpenes in cannabis, along with caryophyllene, and gives off the signature earthy smell which is found in many cannabis plants. It can also be found in bay, wild thyme, parsley and hops. Myrcene is known for its sedative effects and has been used as an antioxidant, an anti-carcinogenic and for reducing pain inflammation.
Beta-Caryophyllene is the other most prominent terpene found in cannabis and its aroma is often described as woody, sweet, spicy or peppery. This terpene is also found in hops, cloves, and rosemary. Caryophyllene has been used to take away pain and as an anti-inflammatory remedy.
This terpene has a pleasant floral scent and is commonly used in soaps and perfumes. Linalool promotes relaxation, and can be used for anti-convulsing, anti-anxiety, antidepressant and anti-acne treatments.
More research still needs to be done into the exact effects of specific terpenes interacting with cannabinoids. However, it’s becoming clear that there’s much more to how cannabis affects our bodies and our experiences than just THC/CBD content alone. So the next time you visit your local Montana dispensary, be sure to give your cannabis a good sniff!