A tribute to the terpenes of the plant
The terpenes, or more correctly terpenoids, are what give cannabis its aroma and, depending on the variety, a slight berry, lemon or rose flavour, making it taste and smell spicier or sweeter.
Terpenes are found in many plants, fruits and herbs, and their properties are proven to be therapeutic. They act on receptors and neurotransmitters similarly to antidepressants and increase dopamine activity in the human body.
The FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) and other health agencies have recognized terpenes as “safe”. However, more research is needed to accurately capture the ways in which cannabis terpenes can be used medically to help treat diseases.
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The Terpenes of Hemp
Myrcene is the most common terpene contained in cannabis. Its aroma and earthy taste are reminiscent of musk and cloves.
Myrcene is found in hop oil, citrus fruits, bay leaves, eucalyptus, wild thyme, lemon and many other plants.
A high level of myrcene in cannabis (usually above 0.5%) often results in a “couch-lock” situation. Once the user is in it, they are practically too “high” to get off the couch and function normally, hence the term that could be translated as “locked on the couch” .
Myrcene is a powerful analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and anti-mutagenic.
The pinene has subtle aromas of pine and fir. There are two naturally occurring structural isomers of pinene: alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Both forms are found in high concentrations in pine resin.
Pinene is used in medicine as an anti-inflammatory, expectorant, bronchodilator and topical antiseptic. In fact, alpha-pinene is a natural compound isolated from pine needle oil and has been used as an anti-cancer agent in traditional Chinese medicine for many years.
Limonene is one of the two main compounds formed from pinene. As the name suggests, high limonene varieties have strong citrus smells such as oranges, lemons and limes.
Varieties with a high limonene content create a general mood lift.
Limonene is strongly absorbed by inhalation and appears rapidly in the bloodstream. It helps in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and other body tissues.
It is documented that limonene suppresses the growth of many types of fungi and bacteria.
Limonene is also thought to be beneficial in protecting against various cancers.
Oral limonene is currently undergoing clinical trials in the treatment of breast cancer and has also been found to contribute to weight loss.
Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene found in many plants such as Thai basil, cloves, cinnamon leaves and black pepper and small amounts in lavender. Its aroma has been described as peppery, woody or even spicy.
Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact with the endocannabinoid system (CB2).
Studies show that beta-caryophyllene may have potential applications in cancer treatments.
Linalool has hints of floral and lavender fragrance. Cannabis varieties with a high content of linalool have sedative, relaxing effects.
Linalool has been used for centuries as a sleep aid as it reduces the feelings of anxiety that pure THC can cause, making it useful in the treatment of both psychosis and anxiety.
Studies also show that linalool boosts the immune system, can significantly reduce lung inflammation and restore cognitive and emotional function (making it useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease).
Terpinolenium has a piney aroma with light herbal and floral tones and tends to have a sweet taste reminiscent of citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons.
Terpinolenium is a common component of sage and rosemary and is found in the oil derived from the Monterey cypress.
In the United States it is particularly common in soaps and perfumes, and is also a very good insect repellent.
Terpinolene has been documented as a central nervous system depressant and inhibits cell proliferation involved in a variety of human cancers.
The camphene emits spicy scents of wet woodlands and needles of fir trees.
Camphene may play a critical role in cardiovascular disease as it lowered cholesterol and triglycerides in the experimental animals it was given to.
The fragrance of terpineol has been compared to that of lilacs and flowers. Terpineol is often found in cannabis varieties that have high levels of pinene, whose strong aroma unfortunately often masks the aromas of terpineol.
Terpineol is known to have sedative, relaxing effects. It also shows antibiotic and antioxidant properties.
Phellandrene is described as peppery, with a light citrus aroma and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat digestive disorders.
Phellandrene can be found in various herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, garlic, dill, ginger and parsley.
Pepper oil and dill oil consist almost exclusively of phellandrene. This terpene is absorbed through the skin, which is why it is used in perfumes and is often found as a flavouring in food products.
It has a sweet and strong smell and is found in many healthy beneficial essential oils such as cypress oil and pine oil essential oils and is used as a fragrance in many products.
At higher concentrations it can act as a central nervous system depressant.
It is non-toxic, but may cause irritation when inhaled. This is why it can cause coughing as well as itchy throat and irritation to the eyes when smoking cannabis that contains a large amount of it.
It is also found in pine, pepper, basil oil, but also in grapefruit and orange juice, lemon peel, lime, tangerine and kumquat oils.
Humulene is what gives beer its distinctive hop aroma and is found in hemp sativa strains and Vietnamese coriander.
Humulene is considered anti-cancer, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and appetite suppressant. It is commonly used as a major remedy for inflammation, and has been particularly used in Chinese medicine.
Pulegone is a minor component of cannabis, while higher concentrations of pulegone are found in rosemary, which has a pleasant minty aroma and is considered a powerful insecticide.
An ethnopharmacology study suggests that pulegone may have important sedative and antipyretic properties. It can also relieve the side effects of short-term memory loss.
Savinene is a terpene whose aromas are reminiscent of a mixture of pine, oranges and spices.
It occurs in many plants such as spruce, black pepper and basil.
Geraniol produces a sweet, pleasant smell similar to roses. This makes it a popular choice for many bath and body products.
It is also known to be an effective mosquito repellent. Medically, geraniol shows a lot of promise for the treatment of neuropathy.