What Are Terpenes? Why Do They Matter?

Terpenes are aromatic compounds, specifically found in cannabis, and secreted from the same glands responsible for the production of cannabinoids. They offer distinct colors, scents, and flavors. Can you imagine if all chicken, cheese, perfume, wine or essential oils tasted and/or smelled the same? Boring!
In addition to the nearly countless cannabis strains, terpenes offer even more options by doing its part in determining how an individual strain will taste and smell. With over 100 distinctive terpenes per cannabis plant, terpenes offer something for every palate while also determining whether an individual strain will serve as Sativa, Indica or a hybrid variety.

What, you may wonder, determines the outcome of individual terpenes? Each individual plant is affected by its environment, just like all living things. Some of the things that influence the development of terpenes are the same as those that affect us: genetics, location, climate, age, soil type (what they “eat”), time of day, crowdedness, and more.

When added to established compounds, terpene experiences an occurrence known as the entourage effect. Chris Emerson, an accomplished chemist, described the entourage effect this way, “the sum of all the parts that leads to the magic or power of cannabis.” Besides flavor and smell, terpenes are key factors in their gift to bind to the same receptors as cannabinoids do and add to the overall effects.

Natural Terpenes can be found in the cannabis plant and also in certain herbs and fruit and also in a host of other plants. Where do you guess terpene names like limonene and pinene come from? You guessed it! Lemons and pine needles. And, the list goes on.
Biologically speaking, terpenes can work as predator deterrents and pollinator attractors, much like the herbs in an organic garden.

Synthetic Terpenes are synthetic compounds that are created in a laboratory, much like sugar and salt substitutes and zero-calorie syrups and jams. They can come close to looking, smelling and tasting like they were formulated naturally.

While there are plenty of terpenes to choose from, some of the most common are:
  • Myrcene (Mc), arguably the most common and responsible for calming effects, treatment of inflammation and a great antioxidant. Myrcene, pronounced, (MUR-seen) can also be found in thyme, mango, and lemongrass.
  • Limonene (Lm), known to provide anxiety and stress relief. Limonene pronounced (LIM-o-neen) can also be found in lemon rind, orange rind, and juniper.
  • Caryophyllene (Cr) is the only known terpene to act as a cannabinoid by activating the endocannabinoid system. Caryophyllene, pronounced, (carry-OFF-uh-leen) is best known as an anti-inflammatory and is found naturally in black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon.
  • Terpinolene (Te) About one in ten strains is terpinolene-dominate. Belived to have uplifting effects. Effects are uplifing and also found in nutmeg, tea tree, apples and more…
  • Pinene (Pn) Most common terpene in the natural world. It may be useful for pain, inflammation or anxiety. It is also found in Pine needles, Rosemary and basil. Studies have shown it assists in asthma, pain, inflammation, ulcers, anxiety and cancer.
  • Humulene (Hu) Herbal aroma, May provide anti-inflammatory benefits. It is also found in hops and wood. 
  • Ocimene (On) A Beautiful, sweet, earthy, citrusy aroma frequently used in perfume. It is also found in mint, parsley and orchids
  • Linalool (Ln) Floral aroma, Believed to promote relaxation and calming effects. Assisting in anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, inflammation. It is also found in lavender and birch bark. 

“Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.”

-Joycelyn Elders, Pediatrician, Public Health Administrator
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