Complex Cannabis - Terpenes Terpenoids Flavonoids

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Humans have used aromatic plants as part of their pharmacopoeia for thousands of years. Extractions from aromatic plants are the basis for aromatherapy and are used commercially and industrially used as, among many other uses, food flavourings and solvents. The aroma of these essential oils are provided by volatile compounds called terpenes, terpenoids and flavonoids.

The psychotropic effects of THC are well documented as are the therapeutic effects of CBD and CBN. The cannabinoid family alone is not fully responsible for the reaction to cannabis by the human organism. Investigations into the effects of marijuana are myopic if only focusing on the cannabinoid family of compounds.

Terpenes, terpenoids and flavonoids play an important role in the overall life cycle and end use of the cannabis plant. From protecting the plant while growing to favourably stimulating or therapeutically enhancing humans after consumption. The polyfunctional cannabis plant is a synergistic hothouse of complex resins that are more than THC alone.

A quick Google search will uncover literally thousands of different marijuana strains. Each with distinctive bouquets, psychotropic and therapeutic properties that set one apart from the other. Here, we provide you with some information as to why.


Flavonoids are a diverse family of plant chemicals that are largely responsible for giving fruit and vegetables their colour. They are the reasons for apples being red, blue berries being blue and why Purple Urkle is purple. Flavonoids are part of the poly-phenol group of phytonutrients.

There are over 6000 flavonoids in the plant kingdom and they have been used therapeutically in Ayurvedic Medicine for millenia. There are a number of groups and sub-groups of flavonoids and marijuana contains specific flavonoids of it's own called cannaflavins.

Like many other flavonoids cannaflavins are known to be pharmacologically active. Cannaflavin A is shown to reduce inflammation and does so thirty times more effectively than aspirin.

As cannabis prohibition slowly dissolves on a global scale open research is being conducted into the other cannaflavins in the hope of unlocking new vectors for the treatment of cancers, auto-immune diseases and pain.


Terpenes are volatile organic compounds found in the essential oils of plants. Predominantly responsible for odour they can be found in cannabis, on sweaty socks and chicken skin. Terpenes and terpinoids are an extremely large family of unsaturated hydrocarbons. Cannabis contains over two hundred terpenes, and counting, as research progresses.

Terpenes are thought to perform a number of biological functions for the cannabis plant. Along with the cannabinoids they act as anti-desiccants, anti-fungal agents, animal and insect deterrents and anti-biotics. They are produced in abundance in the glandular trichomes and cell walls of cannabis flowers. **Terpene concentrations can be affected for good and bad by growing conditions, light intensity and nutrient availability.

Subtle combinations of these aromatic chemicals accomplish a number of things. They are what give cannabis the broad range of attractive aromas we enjoy across countless species. Often being psychoactive compounds themselves terpenes modify the effects of the cannabinoids and give nuance to the cannabis experience.

Directly terpenes are known for their therapuetic effect. D-Limonene, common to cannabis, is an anxiolytic and has been shown to be a beneficial treatment for migraines. Isovaleric acid, which is prevalent in the Cheese strain, is an anti-convulsive and soporific and has a pleasant aroma that acts on the brain like a pheromone.

Terpenes are simple hydrocarbons, meaning they are only made up of carbon and hydrogen, while terpenoids have additional functional groups. Terpenoids are terpenes that have been denatured by oxidization through the drying and curing process.


Some cannabis can give you couch lock with eyelids and limbs weighing a thousand kilos. Some can trigger soaring creative highs and demand physical activity while others bring about waking dream states of shamanistic power. That is the entourage effect at work.

Intricate combinations of flavonoids, terpenes, terpinoids and cannabinoids (as well as phenols, amino acids, glycoproteins and sugars to name only a few) are what give cannabis it's remarkable range of properties. Have you ever noticed that some strains lower in THC than others can get you twice as high? Or that particular strains are good for arthritis while others help manage anxiety? That's the other compounds attaching to receptors in the brain other than those used for cannabinoids.

Therapeutically and recreationally a myriad of secondary systems are at play with our neuronal receptors producing a complex and unique experience from strain to strain. Some terpenes mitigate the flow of THC through the blood brain barrier, some increase it, some magnify the effects of CBD.

To give some idea of why different breeds of cannabis provide differing actions for the recreational or therapeutic user here is a list of terpenes you should know about.

In cannabis the chemical precursor geranyl pyro phosphate forms in the resin producing glands of unfertilized female cannabis flowers. As the plant ages and is exposed to more light this plastic chemical is used to create a smorgasbord of useful compounds.


Geraniol is a fundamental terpene in the smell of most flowers. It is what gives roses and unsurprisingly, geraniums their sweet smells. A favourite of perfumiers it is often used in soaps and is an excellent mosquito repellant. Medically geraniol is showing promise as a neuropathic treatment.


Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpenoid. It is one of the most common terpenes in nature existing in two forms a-pinene and b-pinene. As the name suggests it is the reason for the aroma of several species of pine needles and most conifers. It also plays a significant role in the smells of balsamic resin, some citrus fruits and pine woods and is the main constituent of turpentine.

Pinene can be an antagonist to and can mitigate the effects of THC. Therapeutically it has been used as an anti-inflammatory, bronchiodilator and expectorant.


Limonene is a monocyclic monoterpene and is formed by the cannabis plant through the synthesis of pinene. It gives the strong citrus smell easily recognized in lemons, limes and oranges. It is also one of the main constituents of rosemary, juniper and peppermint.

Limonene is easily absorbed into the body and into the bloodstream after inhalation making it ideal for fast delivery. Clinical trials are under way to test the efficiency of limonene as a cancer precursor antagonist and in the treatment of anxiety.


Myrcene is a monoterpene that is most predominantly produced by marijuana. Some species are known to be up to 60% Myrcene. Responsible for musk like and earthy tones similar to clove and star anise and is what gives hops, bay leaves and thyme their warming scents.

Myrcene is a powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory and is partly responsible for the numbing effect clove oil has on sore teeth. Myrcene lowers resistance across the blood brain barrier facilitating the easy crossing of the barrier by other chemical substances. Myrcene increases the THC saturation of cannabinoid receptors. Eating mangoes increases the "high" of cannabis thanks to their myrcene content.


Carryophylene is a sesquiterpene that imbibes black pepper, cinnamon leaves, lavender and cloves with their spicy and woody tones. Known as the only terpene that interacts with the endocannabinoid system, specifically the CB2 receptor. This action shows promise as a non psychoactive fully functional anti-inflammatory and treatment for chronic pain, anxiety and depression.


Linalool is a monocyclic monoterpene that is responsible for the unique and long lasting smell of lavender and mint as well as many other floral plants. Lavender parcels under pillows act as soporifics and have been used for centuries. Linalool is a favourite of soap and perfume manufacturers. It is linalool that keeps mosquitoes and fleas at bay when lavender is grown around a house.

Linalool mitigates anxious emotions caused by pure THC and is a known booster for the immune system. Studies suggest that linalool increases cognitive function and can reduce lung inflammation caused by known carcinogens like cigarettes.


Camphene is a very pungent monoterpene evoking foggy fir forests and rotting logs. It is a minor component in an array of essential oils such as ginger oil, camphor and citronella oils and turpentine.

Camphene has been used to lower plasma cholesterol and may play a prominent part in cardiovascular disease control. A non pharmaceutical alternative that does not cause bowel irritation or liver damage.


Humulene is a sesquiterpene common to cannabis sativa strains and plays a part in the earthy smells of Vietnamese coriander and hops which are a close relative of marijuana. Humulene is still used in traditional Chinese medicine as an appetite suppressant or anorectic.

Modern medicine considers humulene as an excellent anti-tumour, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agent.


Having a high THC or CBD percentage is no longer the sole criteria for categorizing cannabis. The nuanced blend of volatile essential oils and cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids is similarly important.

The synergistic action of these complimentary compounds can modify the way the brain and body absorbs and transports, accesses and distributes psychoactive or therapeutic compounds. As prohibition continues to be outdated (the war on drugs was lost before it began), science is free to rediscover the many beneficial tributes of the cannabis plant.

Developing the skills to identify aromas and bouquets that hint at the essential oil profile of marijuana is now just as important as a semellier in a michelin rated restaurant. That's if you want to get exactly what you want.



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