Cannabis has a unique smell. Some people find it unpleasant and overwhelming, while most enthusiasts who love this plant find the cannabis smell soothing and pleasant. Like any other plant, cannabis contains components that are responsible for its unique aroma and taste. Everyone nowadays is intrigued in learning about what are Terpenes and the hype is quite justified. These components are terpenes – aromatic molecules secreted inside the tiny resinous glands of hemp flowers.
Terpenes give a citrus aroma to some varieties, fruity and sweet notes to others, and while some may smell and taste like lavender, others may be more earthy and spicy. Some strains even smell like cheese. But it’s not just about the smell.
Terpenes also have a wide range of medical effects, and there are at least 80-100 terpenes unique to cannabis – a combination of terpenes, cannabinoids, and the optimal dosage is responsible for the success of medical cannabis.
What are terpenes and terpenoids?
Terpenes are the organic chemical components of essential oils produced by most plants and even some animals such as swallowtail butterflies and termites. Terpenes are volatile aromatic molecules – molecules that evaporate easily.
Terpenoids are derivatives of terpenes that have additional atoms due to oxidation, which happens when the hemp flower is dried and dried. The two terms are often used interchangeably and are very similar in many ways.
Terpenes play two very important roles in the life of each plant: they are the main component of resin and protect flowers from predators.
In many industries, terpenes are used to produce essential oils, beauty, and health products – they are even used to make perfumes. Synthetic terpenes are used for flavoring and as food additives.
Here are some more fun facts about terpenes: natural rubber is made from them, like many steroids. Maple syrup contains about 300 different terpenes, so it is so delicious.
How do terpenes enhance the medical effects of hemp?
What we usually consume from hemp are flowers. And, like all other flowers, hemp flowers have their own recognizable scent. As I mentioned earlier, cannabis contains about 120 terpenes. They are synthesized in the tiny resinous glands of hemp flowers along with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
Some of the common cannabis terpenes can be found in other plants, while others are exceptional for cannabis.
But it’s not just about the smell, because terpenes also have many therapeutic properties: they interact with the endocannabinoid system and help cannabinoids enter the bloodstream through a process called the environmental effect.
For example, myrcene increases the permeability of cells and allows cannabinoids to be absorbed faster than if they entered the body in isolation.
Limonene is responsible for increasing serotonin levels – the neurotransmitter responsible for our mood. This explains why different strains can affect our mood in different ways. The whole experience of cannabis use suddenly starts to make sense, right?
Terpenes and the “entourage effect”
“Entourage effect” is a term coined by S. Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam back in 1998 to refer to the biological synergies of cannabinoids and other compounds such as flavonoids and terpenes.
Simply put, when we swallow terpenes with cannabinoids (a likely scenario when consuming a product from a whole plant), they form a synergistic relationship, playing out each other’s strengths. The symbiosis between cannabinoids and terpenes is what gives cannabis its special properties, as it improves the absorption of cannabinoids, overcomes the protective mechanisms of bacteria, and minimizes side effects.
What are the proven health benefits of terpenes?
In recent years, terpene cannabis has become an important subject of scientific research. It was Jürg Gerch who first noticed the ability of beta-caryophyllene to bind to CB2 receptors, calling it “a dietary cannabinoid.”
He also concluded that all green vegetables containing this terpene are extremely beneficial to humans.
Shortly afterward, Dr. Ethan Russo published an article in 2011 in the British Journal of Pharmacology and pointed out the therapeutic properties of terpenes in cannabis use, especially those that are not found in cannabis products that contain only one molecule (CBD oil as a prime example).
Dr. Russo also described the interaction of cannabinoid-terpenes as “synergies for the treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.” So, if you have got a sprained ankle it could very effective for you.
Further studies have shown that terpenes, terpenoids, and cannabinoids are capable of killing respiratory pathogens, such as the MRSA virus.