A Simple Guide to the Role & Benefits of Marijuana Terpenes
Medical marijuana producers and connoisseurs often emphasize whether a product is Sativa or Indica. But...this can be misleading. Did you know that the interplay between terpenes and cannabinoids is what determines the effects of your favorite strains?
- So what exactly are terpenes and why do they matter?
- What are the characteristics and benefits of the most common marijuana terpenes?
- ...how do terpenes work in harmony with cannabinoids like CBD, THC and CBN to unlock the therapeutic potential of different strains?
What is Terpene?
Terpenes are essential oils containing hydrogen and carbon that carry powerful medicinal properties. They also give different marijuana strains their distinct aroma and flavor.
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When cannabis herbs are dried and cured, terpenoids (aka isoprenoids) give way to terpenes. But terpenoids and terpenes are often used interchangeably. Terpenes are fragrant, non-psychoactive organic compounds. They represent the largest, most ancient, and most diverse class of phytochemicals in cannabis and other plant species today. As of now, 40,000+ unique terpenes exist (that we know of, at least). But new ones are regularly discovered.
What are the Most Common Cannabis Terpenes?
The most abundant marijuana terpenes, which make up the majority of its essential oil, are:
- The monoterpenes myrcene, pinene, limonene, linalool, AND;
- The sesquiterpene caryophyllene.
Monoterpenes vs. sesquiterpenes are basically the two overarching classes of terpenes. Monoterpenes have two isoprene units (chemical compounds), whereas sesquiterpenes have three.
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What are the Benefits of Terpenes?
The synthesis (i.e. extractor or isolation) of terpenes in marijuana is best known for its role in alleviating inflammation and pain, depression, stress and anxiety, trauma and PTSD, epilepsy and seizure-related disorders. Many terpenes are also known for their success in combating various types of cancer, the negative effects of chemotherapy, infection (both bacterial and fungal), high blood pressure, circulation problems, and digestion complaints. Let’s dive into the unique features and health benefits of the five most common marijuana terpenes…
Benefits of Terpenes
|Myrcene or β-myrcene terpene||Wild thyme|
**and the most prevalent terpene in cannabis flower
Fights DNA damage from toxins
|Fire Alien Kush|
|Alpha-Pinene (α-Pineneα)||Conifer trees|
Most abundant terpene in nature.
The primary active ingredient in grapefruit essential oil.
Alertness & focus
Boosts energy & airflow
Prevents the break down of proteins
Improves memory retention
Fresh Mountain Air
9 Pound Hammer
A major component in the oil of oranges
Girl Scout Cookies
Variety of other common herbs
Tied to higher levels of social interaction and less aggressive behavior
Touch of tropical spiciness
Almost like bergamot oil & French lavender
9 Pound Hammer
Attenuates digestion and gastrointestinal problems
Sage N Sour
Eucalyptol (Cineol) is another notable class of terpenes.
It’s highly prevalent in eucalyptus oil (hence its name). But most cannabis strains don’t have a whole lot of it. It usually only makes up about 0.06% of terpenes in a marijuana strain. But eucalyptol/cineol has powerful benefits that stretch far and wide. These exceptionally rare, mint-flavored terpenes help to:
- Control airway mucus and asthma with its anti-inflammatory
- Improve circulation and lower blood pressure.
- Ease pain and digestion complaints.
- Suppress coughing.
- Slow the growth of bacteria and fungus with its antimicrobial activity.
- Fight colon and leukemia cancer cells.
But since eucalyptol terpenes are so scarce in marijuana, it’s best to get a concentrate like CBD oil that contains eucalyptol. But in term of straight cannabis strains, Super Silver Haze, Headband, Bubba Kush, and Girl Scout Cookies are good options if you want to maximize the eucalyptol terpene count.
What is the Entourage Effect?
Did you know that terpenes in cannabis share a precursor with cannabinoids that naturally bind to receptors in our brain? Together, terpenes and plant-derived cannabinoids (among other cannabis nutrients) produce some of the most beneficial effects of marijuana. The entourage effect pertains to the terpenoid- phytocannabinoid synergy that supercharges the therapeutic index of marijuana. Many medicinal cannabis products are brought to market specifically because of their unique blend of cannabinoids and terpenes.
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The interaction between terpene phytochemicals and phytocannabinoids on our body’s endocannabinoid system offers the following medicinal benefits.
- Increases the effectiveness of cannabinoids by altering the blood-brain barrier.
- Curtails the intoxicating effects or “high” of THC, increasing its therapeutic index.
- Better alleviates pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, cancer, and infections.
- Increases cell permeability, making it easier and quicker for cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream.
- Improves skin permeability, which is helpful for transdermal cannabis applications.
So, what are some examples of the entourage effect ignited by different terpene-cannabinoid interactions? The mind and body effects that different combinations of terpenes and phytocannabinoids produce are endless…
- A blend of pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene terpenes helps relieve anxiety.
- The synergy of the terpene myrcene with THC produces full-body hypnotic and sedative effects.
- Interaction of linalool and limonene terpenes with CBD combats acne.
- Linalool and limonene terpenes synergized with the cannabinoid cannabigerol is an MRSA remedy.
Where are Terpenes in Marijuana?
The resin in trichomes of the cannabis plant is rich in delicious and nutritious terpenes. Trichomes also contain the THC and CBD in marijuana strains as well as the other trace phytocannabinoids. So, in essence, trichomes hold the medicinal value of cannabis. They are the shiny, sticky crystals sprinkled on the leaves and buds of marijuana herb. The fragrant terpenes in trichomes add a layer of defense to the cannabis plant. Their aromas help to deter insects, rodents, and other pests. But for us humans, the smell of terpenes can say a lot about the strain and effects it may have.
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How to Maximize Your Intake of Terpenes
One of the reasons people use concentrates is because it preserves trichomes more effectively than other methods of use. While the trichome quality in whole-flower cannabis slowly degrades over time, full-spectrum CBD oil is minimally refined. So most of the terpene molecules and cannabinoids remain intact in marijuana extracts.
Interested in learning more about the role of terpenes in marijuana? Explore the differences in the terpene profiles of Sativa vs. Indica strains in our new article.