What are Terpenes and why do they matter?
A terpene is a volatile, organic chemical compound that is found in many plants and some animals, for instance, termites or butterflies. Terpenes are aromatic compounds. They are aromatic alkaloids responsible for the characterising scent, aroma and flavour of many plants.
Terpenes may also have therapeutic properties.
As a part of the plant, its function is to deter predators or entice pollination. That is the main reason why lavender, pine trees, citrus fruits, eucalyptus, roses, sage, cannabis, and plenty of other species have the unique scent or taste they do and possess specific pharmacological qualities.
What Do Terpenes Do?
Terpenes act a lot like cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in cannabis flowers, such as THC and CBD. They have the ability to bind to our brain via receptors. Those receptors are an intricate part of our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Terpenes too are able to connect with the endocannabinoid system, the system involved in some major functions such as Memory, Appetite, Energy balance, Stress response, Immune system, Nervous system, Sleep, etc…
For example, one of the best potential terpenes benefits is that some are especially prone to binding with pain receptors and make us feel relaxed. The feeling of pain is a signal sent to our brain. It is there to tell us something is wrong. It is a very desirable trait in some instance, but it may also be overwhelming and over time degrade our quality of life. Improvements may easily be achieved by using a pinene terpene, among others, so people suffering from arthritis or other chronic pain may unwind and may find some well deserved relief.
Terpenes have the potential to serve as an excellent aid in reducing stress and anxiety, too. Moreover, they are reported to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and maybe even help fight cancer.
Below is a break down of some of the most commonly known herbal terpenes, along with their potential effects that may produce the different healing benefits you experience with consuming different herbs, fruits, and other plant medicines.
Scent: Earthy, musky notes.
Effects: May assist with pain, sedation, and relaxation. A study by Rao et al suggests this may be due to myrcene releasing the bodies own endogenous opioids. Reported to be useful in reducing inflammation and chronic pain. This is the most abundant terpene in cannabis. Myrcene’s boiling point is 167 degrees Celsius.
Scent: Fresh, citrusy aroma
Effects: May assist in treating depression and anxiety as well as increasing mood and motivation levels. It could also boost the immune system, alleviate heartburn symptoms, and even be used as a solvent to dissolve gallstones rich in cholesterol. It has a boiling point of 176 degrees Celsius.
Scent: Floral-like, reminiscent of apple blossoms and lilacs, hints of citrus
Effects: Heavy relaxant sedative for the whole body and mind. May also have antibiotic and antioxidant properties. It has a boiling point of 183-185 degrees Celsius. It’s commonly found in plants known for pleasant fragrances, such as rosemary, conifers, lilacs, and apples. Terpinolene might eventually be used to decrease cell proliferation associated with cancer.
Smell: Spicy and peppery notes
Effects: Beta-Caryophyllene has a CB2 receptor agonist action. Studies suggest it exhibits anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-relieving), antioxidant, and neuroprotective qualities. It has a boiling point of 130 degrees Celsius. Beta-caryophyllene is also found in hops, cloves or rosemary. It carries an herbal aroma synonymous with these plants.
Scent: Earthy, woody, and spicy notes
Effects: The first terpene predominant in hops. It’s also present in sage, clove, basil, black pepper, and ginseng, and carries a corresponding “hoppy” aroma. Humulene may be anti-proliferative, meaning it may prevent cancer cells from growing. It also proved to be effective in suppressing appetite, making it a potential weight-loss tool. May have anti-inflammatory properties, relieve pain, and fight bacterial infections. It has a boiling point of 106 degrees Celsius.
Scent: Spicy and floral notes, found in rosewood, bergamot, coriander, rose, jasmine, lavender and mint. It carries a very pleasant floral aroma, and is often used in soaps and perfumes.
Effects: Herbs high in linalool have long been used in traditional medicine traditions for their calming and sedative properties. Tests on mice have demonstrated reduced levels of anxiety and depression-like behaviours. In addition to potentially reducing inflammation and pain like several other terpenes, linalool has some unique potential health benefits. It’s been found to inhibit the growth of fungal infections outside the human body, particularly as they arise from the yeast infection candida. It also has anticonvulsant and sedative properties. It has a boiling point of 198 degrees Celsius.
Alpha pinene & Beta-pinene
Scent: Pine trees, rosemary-like
Effects: Found in high concentrations in coniferous plants and is believed to increase memory and focus due to its action as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Alpha Pinene is a bronchodilator with a 60% pulmonary uptake rate that may help improve airflow to the lungs. May assist in elevating mood due to its interaction with multiple receptors in the monoaminergic system, along with its retention and focus increasing properties. Pinene also has anti-inflammatory properties, and may help to protect from ulcers. It has a boiling point of 155 degrees Celsius.
The Entourage Effect
Terpenes do more than provide flavor and aroma. They may also support other cannabis molecules such as THC and CBD in producing the desired effects. This is called the entourage or ensemble effect. It is the reason Terpenes have become such a critical area of medicinal cannabis research.
When consuming cannabis for medical use, what is sought is the effect. The entourage effect the potential, with the right cocktail of cannabis compounds, to prove more potent and effective than an isolated compound.
Terpenes and cannabinoids may therefore either exaggerate or suppress one another’s effects, depending on which combination is present in a given variety and how an individual responds to it. More and more scientific evidence suggests that terpenes play a considerable role in not only tempering the intoxicating effects of THC, but also creating synergy with phytocannabinoids and even increasing their therapeutic value.
Please read our Disclaimer. Nothing contained in this site is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional’s advice. The information on this website is presented by The Herb Temple for the purpose of disseminating information free of charge for the benefit of the public.