Sniff the Benefits
Have you ever noticed that you feel peaceful while walking in the most lush, dense part of the woods? Or that you wax nostalgia after catching a whiff of a cigar that reminds you of your beloved grandfather? Are you happily satiated after eating a hot orange bun?
It’s in the terpenes.
Terpenes (pronounced tur-peens) are aromatic metabolites that are found in most plants and in some animals and even insects. They are what make certain aromas – those strong, pungent smells from pine to lavender – make one feel, well, good.
Aromatic herbs are well-known for their impact on the mind. Much of this stems from the belief that herbs’ various scents exert those feel-good effects as the olfactory receptors are connected to our emotions. Humans have consumed terpenes for hundreds of years as these organic compounds are highly abundant in many plants that have been consumed for flavor, aroma or therapeutic properties for centuries.
The use of aromatic plants in medicine dates back to 2800 BC in China where the powers of plants, herbs and spices were discovered by the stimulating effects of orange and the healing qualities of ginger. In 12th Century Europe, terpene extraction from lipids – oils and fats – was perfected with a focus on herbs like rosemary and sage. Several therapeutic benefits were found with these terpenes, or more specifically, “aromatherapy,” which was used for medicinal and spiritual purposes.
Terpenes are the most abundant biomolecules on earth. Although cannabis produce a number of terpenes that vary by strain, there are many other natural sources of terpenes that are therapeutic (i.e., essential oils). When inhaled, special terpene blends can work instantly to reduce stress and invigorate the body. Their therapeutic potential is increased when consumed in conjunction with cannabinoids from the cannabis plant.
Terpenes have a significant effect on a cannabis strain’s fragrance and flavor and are what make certain strains smell and taste different from one another. They are bioactive which means that their effects to the human body depend on the concentration of the terpene, the combination of other terpenes, and how a person uses it. Terpenes are psychoactive, but not intoxicating by themselves.
While terpenes enhance or alter the effects of THC and CBD in the body, terpenes can also increase the “high” a person gets from consuming cannabis. This is known as the entourage effect. This full cannabis experience is when all of the cannabinoids work together to modulate the psychoactive effects of the plant. No wonder terpenes and cannabinoids seemingly go well together!
Due to the increasing interest and demand for cannabis blends, cannabis researchers and connoisseurs are increasingly studying terpenes as a way to classify cannabis products and predict their effects. It’s important to note that while many terpenes have been found to have pharmacological effects, most studies have been conducted in the laboratory, and clinical research in humans is still in its early stages.
There are more than 30,000 unique terpenes, including those found in plants, animals, microbes and even fungi. Here are some of the most common terpenes and their potential effects:
Limonene: This common terpene is one that most people can recognize by its scent. As the name suggests, limonene gives the rinds of fruits such as lemons and oranges their citrusy smell. A study in Chemico-Biological Interactions notes that limonene contains therapeutic properties such as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral and antidiabetic. Limonene appears to modulate the way certain immune cells behave, which may protect the body from a range of illnesses and disorders.
Pinene: This naturally abundant terpene provides the fresh, bright scent of many plants, including pine needles, rosemary, and basil. Pinene may have some therapeutic benefits to a person’s psyche and physiology. A study in Acta Salus Vitae notes that the amount of pinene in the air of a healthy forest is enough to be therapeutic. Pinene acts as a bronchodilator, allowing more air into the lungs. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect and may fight against some infectious germs when inhaled.
Linalool: This is abundant in the lavender plant and gives the flower its rich scent. Linalool is one of the more important compounds in aromatherapy and is responsible for the calming effect many people get when smelling lavender or its essential oil. A study in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces notes that linalool may affect the body in a variety of ways due to a range of properties and that includes anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, antidepressant and anti-anxiety. Linalool is also found in cannabis.
Myrcene: The flowers of the cannabis plant contain this terpene. It’s most commonly found in plants such as hops, lemongrass, and thyme. Myrcene can be a powerful antioxidant. One study concluded that myrcene could help protect the brain from oxidative damage following a stroke. Another study in mice found that myrcene had a similar protective effect in heart tissue. Myrcene also appears to have an anti-inflammatory effect and may prevent the breakdown of some cartilage cells which could make it useful against osteoarthritis.
Beta-caryophyllene: This terpene exists in many herbs and vegetables, such as cloves and black pepper. Some studies have shown that this terpene can reduce pain from inflammation and nerve pain. In one study, researchers noted that this anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect might be useful for treating long-term chronic pain because the body showed no sign of developing a tolerance to these effects.
Humulene: This terpene is a key component of the hop plant. Other plants, such as clove and ginger, also contain this terpene. In one study in Frontiers in Pharmacology researchers found that humulene may have potential in preventing allergic reactions and asthma. In animal models, humulene reduced allergic inflammation in the airways. This could make it a helpful compound for natural asthma treatments.
The combination of certain terpenes along with cannabinoids can produce a great deal of healing properties. For instance, the combination of pinene, linalool and limonene can boost the effectiveness of THC. When limonene and linalool are combined, they create a fresh scent that helps enhance effectiveness of CBD.
This information alone on terpenes is just a fraction as to what they are and what can be done with them. While there are many advantages in using them, it can be overwhelming to fully understand them. As always, be sure to ask the professionals at your local CBD store like GetMeSomeGreen Apotecary or dispensary when selecting a product.