You might have heard of some words related to cannabis, like cannabinoid, indica, and sativa. But there’s another word you might not know: terpenes. Terpenes are another type of chemical found in cannabis.
But what exactly are terpenes, and why is it important to know what kinds and how much of them are in cannabis before you buy it? Keep reading to find out what scientists have learned so far.
What Are Cannabis Terpenes and How Do They Work?
Cannabis is a complex plant with many organic compounds, including cannabinol, cannabinoids, THC, and terpenes. Besides the cannabis plant, terpenes are also present in cannabis products, including Delta-8 gummies, Delta-8 pre-rolls, and vape cartridges.
While cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, have been the primary focus of cannabis research in recent years, terpenes have gained significant attention due to their potential therapeutic benefits.
What Are Cannabis Terpenes?
Cannabis contains a diverse and broad group of organic compounds known as terpenes, also present in other plant species. The unique scents and tastes of various strains of cannabis, such as citrus, pine, and earthy, can be traced back to the terpenes present in the plant.
Terpenes also play a significant role in the effects of cannabis. They can modulate the effects of cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG), Delta-8 THC, cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabinol (CBN).
Plus, these compounds can influence the way they interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Studies show that the cannabis plant has over a hundred terpenes, all have unique effects and properties. Cannabis contains a wide variety of terpenes, but some of the more common ones include:
You will find high concentrations of this terpene in the Cannabis indica strain. This terpene has a musky, earthy aroma. Myrcene is a very popular terpene because of its potential analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and sedative effects.
Limonene is a citrusy-smelling terpene that is abundantly present in citrus fruits. Many experts believe that this terpene has potential anti-anxiety, mood-enhancing, and anti-inflammatory effects.
Pinene is a piney-smelling terpene that is abundantly present in pine trees. Pinene is a popular terpene among delta-8 users because of its potential bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory, and cognitive-enhancing effects.
How Do Terpenes Work?
Terpenes interact with various receptors and enzymes in the body, including the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a complex cell-signaling system that regulates many physiological and cognitive processes, such as pain, mood, appetite, and memory.
It consists of three main components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Terpenes can modulate the effects of cannabinoids by enhancing or inhibiting their activity at the receptors.
For example, some terpenes, such as myrcene, can increase the permeability of cell membranes, allowing cannabinoids to enter cells more easily.
Other terpenes, such as limonene, can reduce the breakdown of cannabinoids by enzymes, leading to longer-lasting effects. Terpenes can also interact with receptors and enzymes in the body, such as the serotonin and dopamine receptors, which play a role in mood regulation.
Some terpenes, such as limonene, can act as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, increasing serotonin levels and potentially alleviating depression and anxiety.
Potential Benefits of Terpenes
Terpenes are a large group of different chemical compounds that are found in plants, such as fruits and vegetables. Organic compounds like this are what give plants their unique aromas and flavors.
Terpenes have a unique smell and taste, and they may also be good for your health in some ways. Here are some of the potential health benefits of terpenes:
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene, myrcene, and pinene have anti-inflammatory properties. Heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes are just a few of the chronic diseases that have inflammation as a common root cause. Reducing inflammation can help alleviate symptoms and improve overall health.
- Analgesic Effects
Studies show beta-caryophyllene and linalool have analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. One possible explanation is that they can influence the body’s endocannabinoid system. Note that this system plays a major role in the processing of pain signals.
- Antimicrobial Effects
Terpenes such as limonene and alpha-pinene have antimicrobial properties, meaning they can help fight off bacteria and other pathogens. This could be useful in preventing or treating infections.
- Anti-Anxiety Effects
Researchers believe that terpenes like linalool and limonene can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Some research shows that the calming and anxiety-relieving effects of these terpenes are caused by their effect on the release of calming neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin.
- Neuroprotective Effects
Terpenes such as pinene and limonene have neuroprotective properties; they can help protect the brain from damage and degeneration. This could be useful in preventing or treating neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- Anti-Cancer Effects
Beta-caryophyllene and limonene are two examples of terpenes that experts believe to have anti-cancer properties. They may work by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells or by inhibiting the growth and spread of tumors.
- Respiratory Benefits
Terpenes such as eucalyptol and pinene have been found to have respiratory benefits, such as helping to clear the airways and reducing inflammation in conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects
The Therapeutic Potential of Terpenes in Cannabis-Based Therapies
Terpenes are a large and diverse group of organic compounds present in cannabis. They are responsible for many of cannabis’ psychoactive effects. They can modulate the effects of cannabinoids and interact with various receptors and enzymes in the body, potentially offering a wide range of therapeutic benefits.
While further research is needed to understand the potential benefits of terpenes fully, they have already gained significant attention. They are being explored as a promising avenue for new cannabis-based therapies.
Lastly, note that terpenes are what make Delta-8 and other cannabis products work faster and better than they already do.