What Are Terpenes?
What are Terpenes?
If you’ve ever gotten a good whiff of that skunky, pungent smell of cannabis, you have terpenes to thank. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that are responsible for determining the scent of many flowers and herbs, including cannabis.
There are actually more than 150 types of terpenes in cannabis — although most of them are present only in trace amounts. The more dominant terpenes work together to give cannabis strains their signature scents.
Beyond providing marijuana with its unique scent, terpenes hold a variety of other functions in the plant and also produce an array of therapeutic and mood-altering effects. Keep reading to learn more.
Terpenes Affect on the Body
Humans have actually harnessed the vibrant scenes of terpenes for generations to formulate essential oils for aromatherapy and other practices. If you’ve ever used lavender oil to help you relax, you’ve experienced the mood-altering magic of terpenes. In a similar vein, the cannabis strain Bubba Kush, rich in stress-relieving myrcene, caryophyllene, and limonene, helps lower anxiety.
But, terpenes’ effects stretch well beyond their feel-good benefits as they’ve even been referred to as the new frontier in cannabis medicine.
Medicinal benefits of terpenes include:
- Antiviral — Many terpenes, including alpha- and beta-pinene, caryophyllene, camphor, and carvone, show strong abilities to kill viruses.
- Anti-cancer —Some terpenes, including the ones found in cannabis, exhibit anti-cancer activity as they help inhibit cancer cells’ activity or growth.
- Antidepressant — Given their mood-altering properties, it’s no surprise that terpenes also offer antidepressant activity. In fact, 25% of antidepressant pharmaceutical drugs are formulated using herbal extracts that contain terpenes.
Top Terpenes Found in Cannabis
As we mentioned earlier, there are more than 150 different terpenes in cannabis, but most occur in tiny concentrations. The ones with the strongest presence include:
This terpene is also predominant in hops and lemongrass and delivers scent notes that are spicy, earthy, musky, and herbaceous. This terpene is also found in mangoes and gives cannabis a middle sweet flavor. Myrcene can also have anti-inflammatory effects; a 2015 study found that myrcene may effectively reduce inflammation from osteoarthritis.
Also known as beta-caryophyllene or β-caryophyllene, caryophyllene lends a spicy, peppery taste to certain strains of cannabis. Caryophyllene can also be found in other plants like cloves, oregano, rosemary, and black pepper. So, if you catch any of those scents when smelling cannabis, it likely contains caryophyllene.
Caryophyllene helps induce feelings of relaxation and reduce anxiety. Research into caryophyllene’s therapeutic actions has found that it has potential in easing symptoms in a variety of conditions, including:
- Cerebral ischemia
- Liver fibrosis
- Alzheimer-like diseases.
With its clean, fresh, citrus scents, limonene is found in the rinds of ginger and citrus fruits. Similar to many of the other terpenes that are found in cannabis, limonene helps ease anxiety and stress, while its uplifting notes help boost focus and elevate mood. What’s more, it also appears to alter the way certain immune cells behave in the body, protecting the body from a broad spectrum of disorders. Researchers have even floated the idea that limonene’s unique therapeutic profile could be useful to treat Covid-19!