The psychoactive cannabinoids in the contents of some species of Cannabis sativa have long held the spotlight, but a rich, complex world of other compounds lives right under our noses - untapped and understudied. Nowhere is this more evident than with terpenes. With over 140 naturally occurring in different cannabis breeds, terpenes are highly beneficial and can be found in many living species such as hops and peppermint.
Terpenes are non-psychoactive and they are not cannabinoids; however, they are secreted from trichomes - the same resinous glands responsible for producing CBD and psychoactive cannabinoids. Terpenes are primarily noted for their pungent, recognizable aromas. They are most evident in unfertilized female cannabis flowers, which support a hefty array of trichomes.
Like the cannabinoid CBD, terpenes are frequently dismissed in the presence of psychoactive cannabinoids. More scientists are realizing just how important terpenes are by themselves, as well as with other compounds. Terpenes have been scientifically proven to produce positive, synergistic effects in conjunction with cannabinoids. “The Entourage Effect” explains how cannabinoids are not as effective when isolated as they are with the help of other essential compounds.
In fact, terpenes have shown promise as inhibitors, tempering the psychotropic intoxication of psychoactive cannabinoids. Terpenes bind to the same CB2 receptors of the human endocannabinoid system and have been proven to directly interact and heighten the therapeutic effects of CBD and psychoactive cannabinoids alike.
Given the benefits of terpenes on humans, it’s not surprising that they also are necessary in protecting cannabis plants themselves. Terpenes act as a natural defense systems that draw in pollinators, but keep out pests and bacteria, while protecting against environmental stressors. As such, some terpenes are harvested to be used as part of all-natural insecticides and other pest control methods.
Although similar, terpenes and terpenoids maintain important distinctions. Whereas terpenes are simple hydrocarbons, terpenoids are more complex and result from chemical modification and oxidation. Both terpenes and terpenoids are different still from flavonoids - similarly aromatic compounds found in fewer variations in cannabis plants.
The spectrum of terpenes found in cannabis is vast. Each appears in diverse concentrations and frequencies and can be highly volatile. Overall, terpenes are directly linked to the efficacy of hemp supplements and treatments, making them ever more important to research further. With so many to choose from, we have compiled three common varieties that are widely used.
Limonene is one of the most distinct smelling terpenes with its citrusy, pleasant aroma. The terpene is widely noted to have strong antifungal benefits that are used throughout natural supplements. Limonene is popularly employed alongside other terpenes to help facilitate their absorption.
Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpenoid comprised partly of the monocyclic limonene terpene. As the name suggests, it emits a fragrance of pine and can be found in fir trees. Pinene has been harvested and used for its anti-inflammatory properties, an arena which several terpenes have also shown promise in.
Myrcene is the most abundant terpene found in Cannabis sativa and maintains an earthy scent with notes of musk and cloves. Myrcene has anti-inflammatory benefits and can be used as an analgesic. It has additionally been used in trials to treat and reduce the size of ulcers.