When you examine the profile of your favorite cannabis strain what do you look for? Many of us draw our attention directly to THC and CBD content. And many strains have been bred to maximize THC or a certain THC/CBD ratio.
What we are discovering is that a plant’s terpene profile matters just as much as THC or CBD. In this article we will learn what a terpene is and how it fits in to the overall personality of your favorite cannabis strain.
What is a Terpene?
Terpenes are organic compounds that give off odor and flavor and are produced by a large population of plants.
In the cannabis plant these terpenes are pungent oils excreted by the cannabis plant that give cannabis its distinct aroma, flavor, and color.
Terpenes have biological purpose in the plant world. In the first instance, terpenes in certain plants serve to repel natural enemies of the plant, whether animals or insects.
The second role terpenes play is to attract predators of the plant’s enemies. One example is the maize plant.
Caterpillars that attack the maize plant cause the plant the emit volatile terpenes that attract parasitic wasps, which are natural enemies of the caterpillars.
Another example using the maize plant involves a larvae beetle that likes to feed on the maize roots. When the larvae begin feeding on the roots it causes the plant to release terpenes that attract entomopathogenic nematodes that in turn attack the larvae.
Plants, and nature in general, are an amazing part of this world we live in and terpenes are a perfect example of the delicate dance nature plays out day to day.
One tiny compound that excretes an aroma or a taste can determine whether a plant survives and thrives or is destroyed by predators.
Terpenes in Cannabis
Analysis shows that cannabis strains with higher terpene content tend to win greater favor of judges at Cannabis Cup competitions.
Many people naturally look to THC content when determining which strain they want to enjoy because THC is a measured quantity. As labs begin measuring terpene profiles the world of cannabis will becomes a much more robust experience.
Terpenes in cannabis are what you smell, whether just smelling the plant or burning the plant. When heat is applied and the cannabis smoke inhaled, terpenes provide the distinct flavors you experience like pine, citrus, fruit, and mint.
Researchers have identified more than 100 different terpenes in the cannabis plant. Each cannabis strain has its own unique terpene profile. As a result, the strain will have its own distinct smell, flavor, and reaction with the body.
Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
An often unknown or overlooked characteristic of terpenes is their effect on the body and brain. Some terpenes bind to the same cannabinoid receptors in the brain that THC binds to, impacting the experience of the strain containing those terpenes.
The implications are that cannabis can be bred to virtually unlimited combinations depending on the desired effect, making it a truly customized treatment. This is unlike the capabilities of any pharmaceutical medicine currently produced.
Terpenes interact with other compounds in the cannabis plant in a synergistic manner often referred to as the Entourage Effect.
A plant with a CBD content of 11.3% and a CBD content of 3.8% can be expected to impact the body and brain a certain way. But the effects of the plant depend very heavily on the terpene profile of the plant.
Terpenes can affect how THC is processed in the brain and how THC passes the blood-brain barrier. Terpenes also impact how neurotransmitters are produced and degraded in the brain.
Terpenes are the key to unlocking the full capabilities of an already magical plant.
Common Terpenes and Their Effects
Here are some of the more common terpenes found in cannabis. Not only are terpenes found in cannabis but they are found in other plants and are commonly used in a number of consumer products in the health and beauty sector.
Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis plants. It has a musky aroma with hints of fruit, similar to cloves. Medical effects include analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic. It blocks the actions of a number of carcinogens. It also has a sedative effect, providing a calming and relaxing feeling. When working synergistically with THC, myrcene increases its psychoactive impact.
Limonene has a citrus fruity aroma and is commonly used in ointments and skin creams. It has been shown to promote weight loss and prevent and treat cancer. It also is used to treat bronchitis.
Caryophyllene has a hoppy aroma and has been shown to treat anxiety and depression. Hops and cannabis are plant cousins.
Alpha-Pinene and Beta-Pinene have a pine aroma. Pine trees get their odor from pinene. Pinene has shown to have anti-inflammatory qualities.
Terpineol has a pine or clove aroma. It has antioxidant properties.
Borneol has an earthy camphor aroma. Medicinal uses include analgesic, anti-septic and can be used as a bronchodilator and to help insomnia.
Linalool has a floral aroma with hint of spice. Linalool is found in cannabis but is common in a number of flowers and fungi, including mint and cinnamon. Linalool has anti-inflammatory properties, is anti-cancerous, and can help modulate motor movements.
Eucalyptol has a spicy aroma. It is used in fragrances and as a cooking spice. It is also commonly used in cough suppressants and mouthwash.
Impact of Terpenes on Cannabis Industry
With over 100 terpene compounds identified in cannabis we have barely touched the surface of what is possible with plant breeding configurations.
Imagine you desire a strain with the following characteristics: smells like lemon, helps you sleep, fights cancer, and is anti-inflammatory. With enough time those specific plant characteristics can be bred into a cannabis strain that is essentially custom designed for you.
The implications of terpene manipulation through breeding for custom medicinal treatment alone are astounding.
It is no secret that cannabis is fun as a recreational plant. To have something available that is not only enjoyable for leisure and recreation but can also be maximized for improved health and beauty is an advancement in human civilization that cannot be overstated.