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Scientists Agree: Terpenes Are a Bigger Deal Than Anyone Thought. So what are they?

3 Mins read

Terpenes have become a big deal in the cannabis and cosmetic industry thanks to their distinctive aroma and health benefits to users. These compounds have found great use as flavoring agents, raw materials for pharmaceutical products, insecticides, and medicine. 

They are often only described as aroma compounds that are responsible for how your favorite cannabis strain smells. While that may be true to some extent, it is important to note that terpenes are more powerful than that. So how powerful are terpenes?  

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

Terpenes are aroma compounds responsible for the unique smell of plants. Terpenes are the major constituent of essential oils and are the secret behind the lemon, earthy, musky, and peppery smell of cannabis. 

Cannabis terpenes are secondary metabolites synthesized by the cannabis plant as a response to environmental changes. These changes may come from environmental factors like temperature, UV rays, pH, humidity, nutrient supply, and pest and disease invasion. They are primarily secreted to offer a layer of protection to the plant by wading off insects and protecting them against harsh growth conditions. 

While scientists have identified the existence of over 30,000 terpenes in plants, only about 150 have been recorded in the cannabis plant, and these cannabis terpenes have been identified to play a major in the medical and recreational use of cannabis. 

It is important to note that cannabis terpenes are not different from what we have in other plants. They were singled out due to their synergistic relationship with cannabinoids and their receptors. Apart from this synergistic relationship with cannabinoids and their receptors, terpenes are also identified to be directly involved in other activities, which are described below; 

Role of Terpenes in Medical cannabis

Scientists have identified five important roles of terpenes in improving the experience of medical cannabis. These roles include but are not limited to the following; 

  1. Provide scent/aroma: 

This is very important in identifying certain strains and chemovars. Cannabis aroma and scents are also important since it allows users to enjoy different flavors while using the products. A good aroma is often described as a robust indicator of quality cannabis flowers. 

  1. Increase the absorption of cannabinoids:

Cannabis-based terpenes like Beta-caryophyllene and limonene have been identified to increase the adsorption of cannabinoids and other terpenes when administered together. The ability of some of these cannabinoids to interact with other systems, like the serotonergic and dopamine system, creates a bigger room for cannabis activity. This is why most broad-spectrum and full-spectrum products show a more robust effect on users. 

  1. Modulate the effect of cannabinoids: 

Cannabinoids and terpenes tend to make a good team via the entourage effect. The entourage effect is often described as the synergistic relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes to modulate the psychotropic effects of THC and other sister molecules. While some cannabinoids can reduce the effect of THC, others can intensify its effect. Myrcene, for instance, is sedative and may directly intensify the effect of THC and other psychotropic cannabinoids. Some scientists have attested to the role of limonene in boosting CBD activity. 

  1. Interact with cannabinoid receptors: 

Scientists have reported how certain cannabinoids like beta-caryophyllene (CBP), alpha-humulene, and linalool also interact with cannabinoid receptors. Their cannabimimetic activity can come in handy in activating the Endocannabinoid system to promote the proposed benefits of cannabinoids. 

  1. Possess therapeutic benefits

While acting singly or in synergy with cannabinoids, terpenes also possess some important therapeutic benefits, some of which have been identified to include; antioxidant, anticancer, antidepressant, antimicrobial, pain relief, and antiviral. 

Where Do Cannabis Terpenes Come From?

Cannabis terpenes are a major constituent of trichomes in cannabis flowers. As stated earlier, they are primarily secreted as a defense mechanism against pest and insect invasion and also play critical roles in protecting the plant against harsh environmental conditions. In addition, terpenes help to improve the attractiveness of cannabis and other plants. 

In combination with other aroma compounds like thiols, aldehydes, and esters, terpenes can contribute to the plant’s immune system by repelling insect and disease invasion. 

The Therapeutic Benefits of Terpenes

The therapeutic benefits of cannabis terpenes have been identified by several scientists and reported on many websites, including Leafly. Some of these commonly promoted benefits are listed below; 

  1. Anticancer
  2. Antimicrobial 
  3. Antiviral 
  4. Antidepressant
  5. Pain relief. 
  6. Skincare
  7. Anti-inflammatory 
  8. Improve digestion
  9. Anti-diabetic 

Terpenes have continued to serve as some of the most important compounds in the cannabis plant thanks to their numerous beneficial roles in cannabis medicine. They have been identified to promote the absorption of cannabinoids, increase the activity of cannabis receptors, and interact with receptors.

How many cannabis terpenes do you know? Tell us in the comment section below. 

10 posts

About author
Daniel Gana is a cannabis scientist, researcher, and content creator. He is interested in psychedelics, cannabis science, cannabis tech, and cannabis cultivation. He applies his knowledge of the cannabis plant to assist cannabis companies with SEO Copywriting, educational content, articles, compliant product descriptions, and emails.
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