For those of you unfamiliar with the make-up of the cannabis plant, this article is for you. Cannabis sativa contains over 400 compounds comprised of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. They work together, synergetically, to provide a myriad of medicinal benefits. The focus of this piece will be on terpenes; how they are different from cannabinoids and how they interact with them.
What is a Terpene?
Terpenes are a large class of organic hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of the cannabis plant. Their strong odor sets them apart from flavonoids and cannabinoids. They give each cannabis product a unique taste and aroma. They are produced in the trichomes or small resin glands of the plant along with cannabinoids. If you have seen pictures of the cannabis plant, you will be familiar with the glistening, sticky crystals that cover the buds and fan leaves of cannabis. Those are the trichomes, derived from the Greek meaning “growth of hair.”
One of their major functions is as a defense system that protects cannabis from predatory insects and animals. Their fragrance acts as a repellent. By the same token, their fragrance also attracts bees in order to pollinate the cannabis flowers.
Terpenes can be grouped into the following 4 categories:
Some terpenes promote relaxation and stress relief, while others enhance focus and perception. The effects include anti-inflammatory, analgesic, sedative, antifungal, anxiolytic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antibiotic, appetite suppressant, sleep aid, antimutagenic and immune booster.
There are somewhere between 100-200 terpenes in the cannabis plant. They are not only produced by cannabis and hemp, but also by fruits, vegetables, flowers, conifers some insects and animals. However, there are only about 15 different terpenes that appear in most of the cannabis strains and products. The majority of terpenes are only produced in trace amounts.
The Entourage Effect
You have probably heard of the “Entourage Effect” which describes the synergy between the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids in cannabis. Each of them has a specific medical attribute, but when they are combined, they work together in a way where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Together, terpenes and cannabinoids increase blood flow, improve brain cortical activity and kill respiratory pathogens. They work in tandem to successfully relieve pain and inflammation, reduce depression and anxiety, ease addiction, control epilepsy, kill cancer and eradicate fungal and bacterial infections.
Terpenes are a much more volatile compound than are cannabinoids. Exposure to high temperatures can cause them to break down or disappear altogether. As a result, cannabis products that use extraction methods requiring high temperatures will lead to the loss of the terpene content.
Bloom Medicinals Strain Content
At Bloom Medicinals, we pride ourselves in displaying on all our products not only the content of 7 different cannabinoids, but also that of 12 different terpenes.
The 5 most prevalent terpenes in cannabis are Myrcene, Terpinolene, Pinene, Caryophyllene and Limonene.
Terpenes can also be found in appreciable amounts in mango, citrus fruits, spearmint and peppermint, pumpkin, papaya, grapes, figs, broccoli and sweet potato.
To get the best results, vaping is highly recommended. Be sure to invest in a vaporizer with temperature controls.
Here are details for 5 of the major terpenes found in medical cannabis products:
Myrcene Boiling Point is 330°F
Earthy and Herbal
Effects: Relaxing and responsible for the sedating “couch lock”
Medical Value: Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and an antimutagenic
Also found in mango, lemongrass, bay leaves, thyme, cardamom, cloves, hops
Limonene Boiling Point is 350°F
Effects: Elevated mood and stress relief
Medical Value: Anti-cancer, antidepressant, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory
Also found in citrus fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint
Linalool Boiling Point is 388°F
It has a floral, lavender scent with a touch of spice
Effects: Mood enhancement and sedating
Medical Value: Anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, anxiolytic, sleep aid and immune booster
Alpha-Pinene Boiling Point is 313°F
Medical Value: Anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, stimulant, antibiotic, expectorant and AChE inhibitor
Effects: Alertness, memory retention, counteracts some THC effects
Pine aroma, also found in rosemary, camphorweed, sage, basil, parsley and dill
Beta-Caryophyllene Boiling Point 268°F
Peppery, Woody, Spicy, Cloves
Effects: Stress relief
Medical Value: Anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, analgesic and protects the cell lining of the digestive tract
Also found in black pepper, cloves, cinnamon
Terpenes are finally starting to get the media attention that they deserve. The majority of information about medical cannabis used to be about cannabinoids, especially THC and CBD. More and more cultivators are paying attention to terpenes when developing their strains, with good reason. The terpene profile in a medical cannabis product is just as important as the cannabinoids.
Cannainsider.com, What Are Terpenes?
Leafly.news, What Are Cannabis Terpenes and What Do They Do, Bailey Rahn, February 12, 2014
Thestreet.com, Terpenes: Effects, Examples and Products, Stee Fiorillo, August 22, 2018
Medicaljane.com, Terpenes: What Are Terpenoids And What Do They Do?
Greencamp.com, Cannabis Terpenes and Their Effects Explained (Complete Guide), Helena