Terpenes are any of a large group of volatile unsaturated carbons found in the essential oils of plants, especially conifers and citrus trees. They are based on a cyclic molecule having the formula C10H16. (*)(oxford) Simply stated, terpenes are the chemical compounds in plants (and some insects) that function as part of the plant’s defense system and contribute to scent and therapeutic value.
Cannabis is among the many plants that produce unique terpenes as part of their essential oil makeup and natural resins. These terpenes are located in the cannabis plant’s trichomes along with their synergistic cannabinoid partners. Like cannabinoids, they bind with receptors and are responsible for aiding in blocking or inhibiting signals in cells just like THC and CBD. By working with cannabinoids and each other, terpenes contribute to the overall synergy of the compounds resulting in a variety of neuro and physiological responses. Continued research and analysis of terpenes in cannabis will reveal important discoveries about how these compounds can positively impact health and well being; through terpene profiling, we can gauge which combinations will produce aromas, flavors, and effects desired most.
Around two-hundred terpenes have been found in cannabis, but only a few of these appear in amounts substantial enough to be noteworthy.(*)(CBDP) The following are eleven common terpenes and their general properties:
Myrcene - An abundant terpene found predominantly in sativas. It’s a building block for menthol, citronella and geraniol. It possesses muscle relaxing, antidepressant, anti inflammatory, and analgesic effects. Myrcene contributes to the permeability of other cannabinoids. It is one of the highest concentrated terpenes in mangos.
Linalool - Known for its floral and spice essence. Linalool is found in many flowers, mint, cinnamon, and fungi. It is thought to help modulate motor movement.
Alphabisabolol - Abundant in chamomile, this terpene helps heal wounds, fight bacteria, and acts as a deodorizer.
Delta 3 Carene - Functions as an anti-inflammatory and helps dry fluids.
Borneal - Described as earthy and camphor like. Borneal is considered an analgesic, antiseptic, and anti insomnia terpene and is common in Haze strains.
Terpineol - Gives pine and clove scent/flavor, acts as an antioxidant. Terpineol is the unique flavor in Jack Herer strains.
Caryophyllene - Classified as hoppy in aroma and often referred to as “hop’s cousins”. Caryophyllene shows promise for dealing with anxiety and depression. This terpene is abundant in trainwreck strains.
Cineole - Possesses an herbal aroma. Considered anti-inflammatory, an antibiotic, and antiviral. Another terpene common in Haze strains.
Alphapinene - Found in rosemary, sage, and pine trees. This terpene increases mental focus, energy, acts as an expectorant (clears out mucous), bronchodilator and topical antiseptic. Alphapinene has been used in traditional medicines over 1,000 years old.
Limonene - Responsible for the relaxing effect in anything with citrus including, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, rosemary and juniper. Known to have anti-bacterial, anti-depressant, and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Beta-caryophyllene (BCP)- A special terpene also considered a cannabinoid. Part of the essential oils of rosemary and contributes to spiciness of black pepper. BCP binds to CB2 receptors and functions like CBD in that it is non psychoactive.
Although these are just a handful of terpenes found in cannabis, they are some of the more easily identifiable. Any number of combinations for these chemical compounds is possible and will create unique characteristics, flavors, and effects in specific strains. The potential for terpenes to treat specific conditions is a relatively new focus on whole plant healing and a promising approach to discovering more medicinal value from the cannabis plant and its constituents.
-Ryan O'Malley, General Manager at Tahoe Wellness Center - 'Notes on Cannabis'