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What are terpenes and how do they work?

Terpenes is the latest buzzword in the cannabis industry, with many people coming to learn that these chemicals play an integral role in how cannabis is experienced.

Whenever you enter a dispensary or walk through a cannabis garden in full bloom, the air is rich with the characteristic smell of marijuana. Thanks to terpenes, we are able to identify things in the environment with our most instinctive sense: smell.

Cannabis has long been known for its therapeutic effects, with sleep-related disorders being one of the most common reasons for self-medication. What many cannabis and hemp lovers already know from experience, research is just beginning to catch up with. Science is just beginning to uncover some of the mechanisms by which these compounds interact with the human brain.

How terpenes are defined?

Terpenes are defined as organic compounds, often with distinctive odors and flavors, that are produced by a variety of plants – including cannabis. Although there are in total approximately 200 different terpenes contained in the cannabis plant, around 10 are classified as “primary terpenes”

Why are they important?

There have been more than 200 different terpenes identified in nature to date. Having said that, there are a handful of terpenes that are rather prominent, each with their own unique set of effects. From this, we can conclude that terpenes may be useful if you have trouble sleeping. This list is not exhaustive, but below are some of the most common terpenes known:

  • Myrcene (herb) – One of the most common terpenes in hemp. Not only is myrcene great for putting the body in a state of rest, but it is also the perfect terpene to complement with an herbal concoction to provide a powerful calm for the next time insomnia creeps in.
  • Pinene (pine) – Helps alleviate pain, inflammation, and anxiety, all of which can help you achieve a blissful sleep.
  • Terpinolene (fruit) – Helps boost a person’s mood and provide sedative effects. High-terpineol strains such as Jack Herer, White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, OG Kush pack quite a punch when it comes to sedation and is often described by consumers to produce an extra-calming, sedated feel.
  • Caryophyllene (pepper) – This terpene is associated with anti-inflammatory effects. Before bed, feel free to indulge in hemp-derived products which contain an exceptionally high caryophyllene content to silence those worries that generally keep you up at night.
  • Linalool (floral) – Found in perfumes because of its floral notes, this terpene may have calming effects thanks to its sedative properties.

These aromatic compounds may be able to provide a whole slew of benefits, especially for the troubled sleeper, but consuming products containing certain terpenes such as alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, or limonene can be counterproductive, as these terpenes are more energizing and will do everything but help you catch those much-needed Z’s.

The new “thing” in Cannabis

Terpenes is the latest buzzword in the cannabis industry, with many people coming to learn that these chemicals play an integral role in how cannabis is experienced.

With all the talk about terpenes, cannabis users began to understand this term and the implications it has on the remedial effects of cannabis. Every full-spectrum cannabis extraction contains the naturally occurring terpenes of the cannabis plant, all of which contribute, in some way, to the effects felt after consuming.

The Entourage Effect

As mentioned above, when used on their own, terpenes may have a subtle effect on the human nervous system. Aromatherapy is based in this principle, whereby consuming small amounts of essential oil or simply inhaling the aroma repetitively affects the nervous system in a subtle and gentle way. This may affect mood, sleep latency, digestion and a plethora of other things. However, when we look at the effect of terpenes in the context of consuming cannabis, we are confronted with something very different.

When terpenes such as eucalyptol are consumed in the context of cannabis, their effect is said to be synergistic with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. It means that the properties of both the terpenes and cannabinoids are enhanced by each other, increasing the effects that the user would otherwise feel if they used cannabinoids or terpenes on their own.

Full-spectrum cannabis extracts or simple cannabis flowers give the opportunity to experience the entourage effect. Most herbalists and naturopaths prefer this holistic form of medicine, rather than the modern medical paradigm of reductionism. Essentially, the human body is far too complex to be reduced down to one of its parts. Holism, along with systems biology, try to harness the power of phenomena such as the entourage effect because these phenomena address multiple aspects of human health all at the same time.

As a matter of fact, cannabis is loaded with a myriad of different terpenes, eucalyptol being only one of them. Consuming cannabis is something like cannabinoid therapy and aromatherapy all in one hit.

In the next articles, we will cover 4 of the best known terpenes that we believe have a great future in the cannabis products industry, and more particularly as isolated ingredients. These are Eucalyptol, Humulene, Caryophyllene and Myrcene. Keep reading!