Terpenes Terpenoids and Cannabis
Terpenes and terpenoids may be familiar words, sometimes tossed around at dispensaries or by your stoner friend raving about the terpene profile in his bud. But just what are these seemingly strange chemicals? Terpenes are a class of organic compounds that are found in many different types of plants but are found in abundance in conifers. Terpenes typically have a strong smell and often serve a function such as protecting plants from herbivores. In addition to deterring herbivores, they can also attract predators and/or parasites that prey on said herbivores. Terpenes are also one of the primary ingredients in various essential oils and are one of the main components of resin. When terpenes are modified chemically, the most common of these modifications being oxidation, terpenes are then referred to as terpenoids. Terpenoids are a class of compounds very similar to terpenes. The main difference being that terpenes are hydrocarbons and terpenoids have been denatured by oxidation. While many will often use terpene and terpenoid interchangeably, they are distinct classes of compounds.
To skip the mini science lesson, terpenes are what you smell. Produced in the same glands that produce the most commonly found cannabinoids, terpenes can give your cannabis almost any aroma, from a fruity citrus to a dank pine. The terpene profile of cannabis buds is often determined by a wide range of factors including climate, fertilizers, soil quality, weather, and genetics. There are over 120 different types of terpenes that have been identified in cannabis.
In this day and age of cannabis genetics bred almost purely for high THC content, other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol have in some cases fallen as low as 0%. Terpenes can interact with your brain in conjunction with other various cannabinoids. Due to this fact, some now believe that terpenes may be the leading reason why two different strains with the same THC content may affect you differently. Terpenes have been shown to bind to CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, they can then affect the receptors chemical output. Some terpenes have been shown to modify how THC passes the blood-brain barrier, and others still can affect the rate neurotransmitters such as dopamine are produced. Effects that terpenes produce essentially vary depending on the exact chemical, some are better at relieving stress, others help sleep or improve mood, the list just goes on.
While effects and differences between terpenes can be subtle, they do add something more to the standard THC vs. CBD percentage that most people seem to judge their cannabis based on. In addition to this, they may offer more therapeutic medical value than previously thought as they do interact with cannabinoid receptors as well as bodily functions. Some cannabis testing labs do test for terpene content. When this becomes common practice the consumer may be able to get a better idea of what effect their cannabis might produce based on the terpene profile.
Some of the most common terpenes:
- Alpha-Pinene – Smells like pine, can produce a feeling of alertness as well as improve memory retention.
- Myrcene – Smells earthy, almost like cloves, give a relaxing, sedating effect.
- Limonene – Smells like citrus, produces an elevated mood and can help relieve stress.
There are an extremely wide range of terpenes, lots of research to do!