As the world keeps on growing and evolving, so has its view on cannabis. From what used to be taboo, marijuana has now become ever more popular in the best of ways thanks to the many benefits this wonder plant has on the human body both in the recreational and the medicinal sense. Now, more and more people are educated about cannabis and how its many forms, strains, and chemicals help us.
When we talk about marijuana in the chemical sense, we often associate it with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. We always talk about how a certain strain of marijuana is affected by its THC and CBD concentrations. But the thing is that there is more to cannabis than just those chemicals. In fact, one other organic compound has the same impact as THC and CBD. We are talking about terpenes.
What are terpenes?
If you have ever tried or come across numerous strains of marijuana, you may have noticed that all of them have a certain distinct aroma or fragrance that sets one type of marijuana from another.
These fragrances all have their own characteristics. Some have that fruity berry kind of scent while others have a tropical citrus touch in their fragrance. There are those that are pungent in nature and have a cheese-like aroma or even a strong fuel-like scent. In some cases, strains can carry an earthy scent that is akin to coffee or maybe pine. Whatever the scent is, you would know that each cannabis strain has its own identity depending on its fragrance.
By now, you may have already come to the idea that there are a lot of strains named after their aroma. That is why you have Sour Diesel with its funky and pungent fuel-like odor. Then there is Bubblegum, which carries a sweet and fruit-like scent. And you also have Pineapple, a strain that smells like the tropical freshness of real pineapples.
What causes these fragrances are the natural oils called terpenes. It might sound strange and uncommon to you but terpenes are actually common in all cannabis plants. These aromatic oils are secreted by the trichomes in cannabis in the same way as the more popular THC and CBD are. In fact, terpenes are actually so common that you can also find these aromatic chemicals in fruits and herbs as well.
What determines the cannabis’ terpene profile?
Since you already know that different cannabis strains have different terpene profiles in the sense that varying strains carry their own unique aromas and fragrances, you may be asking yourself why such a difference exists and how these plants have their own terpenes.
For starters, cannabis plants were able to develop terpenes through adaption. These oils are actually secreted to ward off predators because of how their scents can be too strong or pungent for some animals. Also, terpenes exist as a way of improving pollination as insects that carry cannabis pollen tend to get attracted to certain fragrances that these natural oils produce.
In nature, a strain’s terpenes profile is affected not only by the available predators and pollinators but also by different environmental conditions and factors. This can include the climate, type of soil, weather, availability of sunlight, and natural fertilizers and nutrients found all around the cannabis plant’s habitat.
But because we are now in a modern setting where more people are given a free hand to grow their own cannabis plants, breeders can now control the conditions for bringing about different terpene profiles. Though the basic aroma of a strain still depends on its genetic background, breeders can increase terpene levels through different means that include:
- Breeding with high-quality strains
- Improving soil quality
- Increasing exposure to light
- Flushing their nutrients
How do terpenes affect us?
At this point, you may think that terpenes are merely there to add a flavorful punch and aroma to your favorite cannabis strain. In some way, they actually are better known for making your cannabis experience better especially since you will also be basking in the fragrance the smoke provides. However, terpenes are more than just natural air-fresheners as they also have their own effects.
Terpenes can actually interact with the other chemical compounds found in cannabis to play a larger role in determining the effects that a certain cannabis strain can have on your body. While THC itself is largely responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis, terpenes can work in synergy with it to give more diversity to what that certain strain can do in comparison to other strains.
The effects that terpenes can have on the body depend on their types. They actually have aromatherapy effects depending on the terpene. Some of the more common types of terpenes are as follows:
- Limonene – Tends to have a sweet scent and has anti-bacterial properties that can improve your health. It can also be used to cope up with depression and anxiety.
- Myrcene – Has an earthy scent and is known to deliver a relaxing type of effect.
- Terpineol – May seem somewhat sweet and flowery to the tongue. It is associated with improved physical energy and can aid in the increase in mobility.
- Linalool – Has a flowery scent and flavor that is akin to spring. It tends to be a strong sedative and can decrease physical activity drastically as shown in studies.
- Caryophyllene – Comes with a spicy flavor and scent. Aids in relieving pain because of its anti-inflammatory effects. It also helps in activating cannabinoid 2 receptors.
- Pinene – Tends to have a piney type of fragrance. It is often associated with mental alertness and increase in physical energy. Can also be used for anti-inflammatory purposes.
Benefits of marijuana terpenes
As you might have already suspected from the most common types of terpenes and their effects, you can already come to the conclusion that they indeed have a lot of health benefits, which depend on the type of terpenes. That is why different types of cannabis strains with different terpene profiles have their own unique medicinal and health values. In that regard, here are some of the other health benefits that terpenes have:
- Helps in alleviating pain and inflammation
There is a Swiss study that suggests that about half of the terpene content found in most cannabis strains are myrcene. This type of terpene is responsible for giving certain strains the kind of peppery and spicy taste and flavor you notice when smoking a bud.
Myrcene is known to help in relaxing the body and is also linked to pain relief. In that regard, it has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce pain as it actually has the ability to reduce cell membrane permeability.
This type of terpene can also be found in other organic substances such as eucalyptus, thyme, lemongrass, and mango. And, if you have noticed, there are a lot of anti-inflammatory treatments that are linked to any of those organic substances. If you want to intensify the pain-relieving effects of your cannabis, it is suggested that you eat mango together or before smoking a bud. Doing so, however, can also intensify the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis.
- Has anti-bacterial properties
While there are other terpenes that have anti-bacterial properties, pinene is considered to be the best in that regard. This terpene is actually pretty common and can be found in a lot of other substances aside from cannabis. You can even say that is the most common terpene as it dominates not only cannabis but also other plants.
In fact, pinene is responsible for giving pine trees their fresh pine scent. It can also be found in rosemary and sage.
Pinene has anti-bacterial properties that help in fending off harmful bacteria and also viral infections. There are even studies that suggest that it is effective against staph infections and also bronchitis. That is why strains with high levels of pinene are often used for treating patients with bacterial and viral infections.
Another terpene called limonene also displays the same anti-bacterial properties that pinene has. It is your cannabis plant’s natural way of fending off insects and can even aid in making your body absorb more terpenes.
- Can improve mental awareness
Among other types of terpenes, pinene stands out in this regard again. You might have noticed that pine trees and their scent tend to improve mental clarity and heighten your thinking. That is because of the pinene found in them.
Studies show that pinene is effective at improving your mental alertness and also focus. That means that you can think better and also retain more information when you are under the effects of this terpene.
Other than pinene, limonene is also an effective terpene at improving your mental health. This terpene is common in mint, rosemary, pine, and juniper. Research suggests that limonene can actually improve alertness, attention, and also the mental focus.
- Aids in fending off stress
Cannabis is often associated with its stress-relieving properties. That is due in large part to how terpenes aid in improving your mood and fighting off stress and anxiety as well. Linalool is a terpene that stands out in that regard. It is the top option when it comes to aromatherapy because of its stress-fighting capabilities.
You probably already know that the scent of lavender is great at relieving you of your stress. That is because it has a good amount of linalool. That said, linalool has the ability to help you feel a bit more relaxed as it eases you of any stressful thoughts you might have. It is also great at sedating you so that your body can feel heavier in a relaxing way.
Limonene is also a good option for you if you want to combat stress. This terpene can enhance your mood quickly and can help fend off any stressful thoughts that are clouding your mind.
- Fights off cancer cells
One of the reasons why cannabis has reached the level of fame and acceptance it has today is that it can actually fend off the growth of cancer cells. That is why a lot of research facilities focus on developing medicinal cannabis strains that have the singular focus of fighting cancer.
The most effective terpene against cancer is humulene. This terpene is responsible for the woody kind of scent that some cannabis strains tend to exhibit. You can also find this terpene in common hops. That is why strains rich in humulene tend to have the same scent as hops.
Humulene can produce reactive oxygen species that are known to slow the growth of cancer cells. And when coupled with another terpene called caryophyllene, its effects are improved by about almost half of its original anti-cancer properties. That is why it is better to treat cancer patients with cannabis strains rich in both of those terpenes.
- Can potentially aid in weight-loss
While it is not its primary purpose, humulene can also suppress your appetite in a safer and more natural way. So if you are looking to trim down to a healthier weight if you are a bit on the heavy side, it might be a good idea to use cannabis strains rich in humulene.
- Aids in sleep
If you have not noticed, cannabis use is often associated with the “stoned” state, which is when a person feels heavily relaxed and will most likely fall asleep any time soon. There are even CBD drops specifically made to aid in sleeping because of how cannabis can induce a drowsy state effectively.
The reasons why cannabis is such an effective organic substance for inducing sleep are the terpenes found in it. There are plenty of terpenes that are associated with sleep. Among them are linalool, pinene, caryophyllene, and borneol.
As mentioned, linalool can also be found in lavender. That is why there are plenty of natural sleep remedies that are associated with lavender. The same can also be said of pinene and how the scent of pine can also make you feel relaxed and a bit drowsy.
But for those looking to fight intense episodes of insomnia, it is suggested that you use a cannabis strain rich in terpenes such as borneol, myrcene, and also nerolidol. In fact, most essential oils that aid in sleeping have myrcene and nerolidol in them.