Terpenes this, terpenes that. You’ve probably heard the term a lot recently with a rise in CBD oil awareness. But what are cannabis terpenes? We explain.
By now, you’ve likely heard all about cannabinoids like CBD and THC. These are substances in cannabis that seem to be responsible for its health effects. In THC’s case, they’re also responsible for getting you high.
Cannabinoids aren’t the only compounds in cannabis Sativa plants though. You may have heard a lot of talk about terpenes. Some people think terpenes could play a powerful role in the health effects of cannabis.
If you just asked yourself, “What the heck are cannabis terpenes?”, you’re not alone. We put together this guide to answer the most burning questions about terpenes.
The Flavorful World of Terpenes
What are terpenes anyway? The simple answer is that they’re essential oils that occur naturally in many plants. Terpenes are what give cinnamon its kick and pine needles their distinctive scent.
Cannabis terpenes are terpenes that occur in cannabis Sativa plants. The terpenes in any given strain of cannabis contribute to its unique flavor. So, for example, if your cannabis has a citrusy scent, there’s probably a high level of the terpene limonene in it.
Common marijuana terpenes include:
- Pinene, which occurs in pine needles, rosemary, and dill. It flavors strains like Purple Kush.
- Myrcene, which adds flavor to lemongrass and thyme. You can also find it in Granddaddy Purple and other strains.
- Linalool, which also lends lavender its distinctive aroma and taste. Hybrid strain Sour Kush has a high linalool content.
- Caryophyllene, which is found in pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. It also gives the popular Girl Scout Cookies strain its flavor.
- Limonene, which we already mentioned. You can find it in peppermint and juniper. Fruity cannabis strains like Lemon G and Strawberry Banana tend to be high in limonene.
It’s clear terpenes play a role in how cannabis smells and tastes. Some scientists believe terpenes could be much more important.
The Surprising Health Benefits of Terpenes
Cannabis users aren’t the only people interested in terpenes. Researchers have been delving into what terpenes can do. As it turns out, the results show terpenes have many health benefits all on their own.
Linalool, for example, promotes relaxation. That may account for why lavender is often used in products designed to help people unwind or get to sleep. By contrast, limonene seems to elevate mood.
Studies on caryllophene have shown it acts as an anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant properties. Myrcene acts as an antiseptic, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal agent. Other terpenes appear to impact on appetite and the perception of pain.
The Entourage Effect
A growing body of research has also pointed to the health benefits of cannabinoids. CBD, which is found in both hemp and cannabis plants, is an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. It also seems to be able to uplift mood.
THC also impacts on pain perception, relaxation, and appetite. What’s more, CBD and THC seem to work together. This has led some researchers to speculate about a CBD “entourage effect.”
More recent inquiries seem to show the CBD entourage effect does exist. Even more surprising, the terpene profile of a strain plays a key role in this effect.
With the entourage effect, the presence of other chemicals enhances CBD’s effects. CBD also enhances the effect of those other substances. The end result is a much more pronounced effect than if you took CBD alone.
Terpenes Could Explain Strain Effects
Why different strains have different effects has been something of a puzzle. Initially, researchers thought it had to do with the cannabinoid profile of the plant. But most cannabis plants have been bred to have high THC content and low CBD levels.
If the cannabinoid profile is the same or similar, why don’t similar strains do the same thing?
Terpenes could make one strain better for pain and another better for anxiety. Levels of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids matter, but terpenes seem to enhance strain effects.
In fact, using a terpene profile to predict the effects of a strain is much more accurate. Next time you shop, think about terpenes in addition to asking about THC vs CBD or indica vs Sativa.
Thinking across the Spectrum
As we’ve learned more about terpenes, a debate has cropped up around CBD oil in particular. On the one hand, some people advocate CBD isolate. At the other end of the debate, there are those who say full-spectrum CBD oil is better.
What’s the difference? CBD isolate is as pure as possible, which means most of the other compounds in cannabis have been taken out. Full-spectrum oils leave terpenes, flavonoids, and other substances in the oil.
Some people suggest that full-spectrum is the better choice in this case. The presence of other substances allows the CBD entourage effect to really go to work. Others say purer oil has more health benefits, thanks to the higher concentration of CBD.
One solution has been broad-spectrum oils, which are less refined and keep more of the plant. Another solution, as explained by this shop here, is to infuse pure CBD oil with terpenes. Remember that terpenes are essential oils, and you can see how easy this would be to do.
Find the Right Product
CBD products are legal across the US now, so long as they’re derived from hemp. As a result, there’s been an uptick in the number of CBD products available.
More states are legalizing recreational cannabis too, and many have medical marijuana programs. The long and short of it is that more Americans have more choice when it comes to supporting their health with cannabis or hemp products.
So how do you choose?
Keeping the terpene profile in mind could be key to finding the right cannabis strain or CBD product. In any case, you won’t go wrong if you ask about the terpene content alongside THC and CBD profiles.
The cannabis industry in the US is changing fast, from products to the science behind the plants. Follow us to stay up to date with the latest cannabis terpenes news.