Do you talk about terpenes with your customers?
Terpenes are natural compounds found in a multitude of plants that are often responsible for our favorite natural flavors. These tiny but powerful molecules give oranges, lavender, pines, and cannabis their signature scents. On the cannabis plant, terpenes are concentrated in trichomes, which are tiny hair-like appendages that make the cannabis flower appear crystal clear. The synergistic interactions that occur between terpenes, THC, CBD, and other active compounds are thought to give different strains of cannabis their psychoactive effects and medicinal benefits.
Terpenes are essential to both plants and modern society. Many of these aromatic compounds produced by plants act as a repellent to potential predators and pets while enticing friendly pollinators such as bees. Countless terpenes are extracted from plants for the production of foods, cosmetics, perfumes and pharmaceuticals. Terpenes are also the subject of promising medical research and may play a vital role in modern cancer drugs or other conventional Western medicines.
Each terpene has a unique profile that elicits different responses from chemical receptors in the human body. When extracted and separated from other compounds, terpenes are called isolates. Cannabis-derived isolates are not only valuable for medicinal research and application, they also provide a carefully calculated consumer experience. Those who enjoy and enjoy cannabis now have the ability to customize their cannabis consumption with the right mix of terpenes and cannabinoids. For a significantly higher price, consumers can choose specific forms and exact doses of THC, CBD, CBG and terpene isolates.
The 6 Most Important Cannabis Terpenes
There are hundreds of terpenes produced naturally in cannabis plants, but some are particularly abundant. The six most dominant or common terpenes found in retail cannabis products are described and characterized below.
One of the only terpenes known to directly interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system is beta-caryophyllene. This terpene is also abundant in black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. It acts as a spicy and herbal flavoring agent in consumable products. Beta-caryophyllene is known to produce anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and emerging evidence suggests it is effective in relieving localized and neurological pain. Some of the industry-favorite cannabis strains are dominant in beta-caryophyllene terpenes, like Girl Scout Cookies, Sherbert, and Cheese.
Limonene, a terpene also found in lemon and citrus essential oils, is the second most common terpene found in nature. When consumed, limonene typically creates uplifting and energizing feelings. Cannabis researchers believe that these effects may be caused by the agonist effects of limonene on our body’s serotonin receptors. Developing research suggests promise for the application of the naturally occurring compound in symptom relief for people with gastrointestinal issues. You can find some Limonene-dominant strains at the dispensary, such as Wedding Cake, MAC, and Do-Si-Dos.
Myrcene is the most commonly found terpene in cannabis. It is also produced naturally in hops, thyme, mango and lemongrass. Most strains found in dispensaries contain myrcene as the dominant terpene. This terpene is often described as earthy and grassy. Strains like Cherry Pie, OG Kush, Green Crack, and Blue Dream often contain myrcene as the most dominant and abundant terpene. When consumed, myrcene interacts with the body’s chemical receptors and the opiate system to produce pain-relieving effects.
Dominant cannabis strains in ocimene terpenes are rather rare, but ocimene is found in different capacities in a wide variety of plants. Ocimene is found in hops, kumquats, basil, lavender, orchid, and pepper. Due to its characteristic sweet, floral and woody flavor profile, this terpene is frequently used in the perfume industry. Ocimene is one of the terpenes produced by plants to ward off destructive insects and other predators. A growing body of evidence suggests that ocimene may have anti-inflammatory properties when given to humans. Varieties rich in ocimene terpenes, such as Pink Lemonade and Golden Pineapple, are often touted for their medicinal benefits for people with mental health issues.
Pinene, also found in dill, basil, rosemary, parsley and pine, is a dominant terpene in cannabis strains such as Taffy, Sour Carmello, Amaretto Sour, Snoop’s Dream and Royal Pineapple. This terpene is believed to have positive effects on memory by inhibiting the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is essential for memory and may help mitigate the effects of THC on short-term memory. Scientists are investigating the terpene’s neuroprotective properties and its potential to fight degenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, amnesia, and more.
Terpinolene is a common terpene in many strains, but it’s usually only present in trace amounts. There are very few terpinolene-dominant cannabis strains. In fact, only 1 in 13 strains list terpinolene as the majority terpene. Jack Herer, Pink Runts, and Afternoon Delight are terpinolene-dominant strains. Terpinolene is also naturally present in lilacs, tea trees, apples, cumin and nutmeg. Its aroma and flavor are often described as woody and herbaceous with hints of flora. Studies have shown that this terpene can induce sedation, in addition to its anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties. Current research projects are exploring the medicinal potential of terpinolene combined with other antioxidants. Scientists predict it could be effective in preventing coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
The lesser known cannabis terpenes
There are hundreds of different terpenes in cannabis, but many of them are not as abundant as those mentioned above. The effect of these terpenes on the body’s reaction to THC is less prominent, but still frequently recognizable. You may encounter these lesser terpenes, such as 3-Carene, Camphene, Humulene, and Linalool during cannabis testing processes. Understanding and identifying the different terpenes in different strains of cannabis is essential for growers and industry professionals, especially those creating new strains and exploring the potential medical applications of cannabis derivatives.
What is the entourage effect?
Raphael Mechoulam, perhaps the world’s most renowned cannabis researcher in history, calls cannabis a “neglected pharmacological treasure”. When a person consumes cannabis, their body absorbs a plethora of botanical compounds, each with their own distinctive set of effects and health benefits. Different organic compounds also interact to catalyze, inhibit and transform effects on the body’s chemical response system.
Mechoulam is credited with discovering this interaction, colloquially known as the “entourage effect”. The brilliant Israeli organic chemist and professor of medicinal chemistry was the first to discover and isolate THC from cannabis plants. In 2019, Mechoulam explained at a conference: “We discovered this originally and subsequently it was confirmed by many people that some of the effects of THC and cannabinoids – in a number of cannabinoids – are potentiated by compounds that by themselves had no activity, yet they potentiate the activity of THC Mecholuam has conducted numerous studies that show the effects of different combinations of terpenes in medical marijuana patients.
The “entourage effect” can be illustrated by the simultaneous consumption of CBD and THC. A study published in 2020 found evidence that THC, when co-administered with CBD, has the potential to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety better than consumption of either compound independently. However, there are still very few studies exploring the synergies of terpenes in humans due to the plant’s status as a Schedule 1 drug.
Why Terpenes Matter Most
Many seasoned cannabis users prefer flowers over extracts due to the wide array of cannabinoids and terpenes naturally found in cannabis flowers. However, some cannabis extracts offer a rich diversity of cannabinoids and terpenes. These are called full-spectrum cannabis extracts, and they can deliver THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, myrcene, limonene, and more in one convenient, measured dose. Cannabis manufacturers are able to dictate the exact amount and type of cannabinoids, terpenes, and terpenoids they distribute in different products. These cannabis products can be found at dispensaries in the form of dabs, vape oils, capsules, and tinctures.
Some people prefer neither flower extracts nor full-spectrum extracts. Instead, they opt for “isolates,” which are single compound extracts. Isolate extracts allow consumers to experience the effects of a single compound. Full-spectrum isolates and extracts are popular because of the control people can exercise over their consumption, but they are time-consuming and somewhat difficult to produce. These products, which reflect our evolving knowledge of the intricacies of the terpene profile, command a significantly higher price than traditional flowers.
The role that terpenes play in the medical exploration of cannabis-based medical care is also important and exciting. As we continue to learn more about the interactions and individual benefits of terpenes on the human body, the cannabis industry continues to dig deeper into its role in pharmaceutical treatments.