What Exactly Are Terpenes?

 

Simply put, terpenes are natural compounds found in medical cannabis (and other plants) that give such a unique scent.  Terpenes create a plant immune and defense system against bacteria, fungi, insects, birds, and herbivores.  Pollinators are lured to the plant by their smell.  Florida Medical Marijuana Doctors often recommend medical marijuana products that contain these compounds to either enhance or balance the effects of CBD or THC.   

 

SOME FACTS:

 

  • We have terpenes to thank for the distinguishing aromas we find in many plants. Scents such as, menthol, citrus, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and eucalyptus are all derived from terpene compounds.

 

  • To date, there are over 120-200 terpenes and terpene compounds (called terpenoids) present in medical cannabis. [1]

 

  • Terpenes are produced in glands (called glandular trichomes) in the plant.  With medical cannabis,THC and CBD is also produced in these glands.  Under the microscope, you can see thousands of resin-filled glands (like hairs) on the plant leaves, buds and stems.  On the female cannabis plant, they are obvious on the flower buds.[2]

 

  • Increased light exposure to the plant will result in more terpene production.  [1]

 

  • Terpenes evaporate easily.   [1]

 

  • The amount of any one terpene in one plant can differ from another plant, in the same field.  Micro-environment variability such as the differences in sunlight and other factors may be involved. [1]

 

  • Terpenes are an important ingredient in essential oils.

 

 

  • Terpenes play a traditional role in herbal medicine.   

 

 

What is the difference between terpenes vs. terpenoids?

Terpenes and terpenoids are terms that sometimes are used interchangeably. The difference between terpenes and terpenoids is that terpenes are composed of hydrogen and carbon (called hydrocarbons). Terpenoids have additional compounds (called functional groups). These groups contain oxygen.  The terpene oxidizes when medical cannabis is cured and dried. You can think of terpenes as “wet”, while terpenoids are “dried out”. [1]

 

Why do plants (including medical cannabis) produce terpenes?  Why are they needed?

 

  • Terpenes give the plant natural protection from bacteria, fungi, insects, and other environmental stresses.  Because plants don’t have limbs to move about or defend with, they use chemicals to ward off their enemies.  A number of them act as insect or microbial repellents. The EPA has approved one terpene called Linalool, as a pesticide. [3]
  • The strong odor of terpenes in plants can deter insects and animals, such as deer, from eating it. Once a herbivore (plant eating animal) starts eating a plant, the plant produces different terpenes.  These different terpenes attract predators of the herbivores, which may then scare the herbivores away! [2]

 

  • Terpenes are involved in luring insects to the plant for pollination.

 

  • Terpenes are required building blocks of complex plant hormones, pigments and cannabinoids.   

 

Why do we often keep the terpenes in the medical cannabis products?  

  • One of the reasons that your Florida Medical Marijuana Doctor might use full spectrum medical cannabis oil is that the terpenes in it can change how the medical cannabis affects you.  Terpenes give medical cannabis unique properties.  When you combine different terpenes with different cannabinoids, you get what is called the entourage effect.”  This effect means that combined, the effect is larger than the sum of both parts. [2] [4]

 

  • Terpenes interact with each other in medical cannabis.  Sometimes they will block the formation of other compounds.  Other times, they will act as a binding agent.

 

  • “Some terpenes engage the cannabinoid receptor that’s found predominantly in the immune system…called beta-caryophyllene (βCP).  βCP is a major component in cannabis …”[5] “In vivo studies show that βCP binds to the CB2 receptor and that it causes a response. The terpene compounds in the medical cannabis strains containing βCP mimics the effects of natural cannabis.  They have both anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects.”[5]

 

  • Beta caryophyllene is not the only useful terpene compound in medical cannabis. Either individual terpenes or terpenes combined in medical cannabis may have multiple therapeutic effects.  

 

Some benefits of terpenes.  

Various benefits of terpenes in medical marijuana are: anti-inflammation; muscle relaxation; sleep; liver function; anti-bacterial; pain reliever; cough suppressant; anti-oxidant; anti-viral; relaxation; moderating anxiety or depression; antifungal. Know that there are many other benefits.  For example, the terpene myrcene is known to make cells more permeable, which increases the absorption of cannabinoids by the body.

However, please note that more specific research is needed for improved accuracy in describing and predicting how terpenes in cannabis can be used medicinally to help treat specific ailments / health conditions.  This is why you need the assistance of a physician who has knowledge and experience with medical marijuana.  Depending on your medical marijuana qualifying condition(s), your Florida MMJ Doctor can help you with all of your medical marijuana needs.

What your nose knows about terpenes!

 

Every medical cannabis strain has a unique terpene and terpenoid profile. This profile will help determine the smell and attributes of medical marijuana.  For example, Myrcene  has a clove, musky or earthy aroma to it. Myrcene is one of the most abundant terpenes produced by the plant. Sometimes myrcene can be as high as 50% of the medical marijuana plant’s total terpene volume. Myrcene is known to be responsible for the stereotypical smell. This terpene is commonly found in other plants, including hops, eucalyptus, thyme, lemongrass and mango. [1]

Below are some of the common terpenes in medical cannabis with their recognizable scents:  

 

Terpene Type Recognizable Scent
Alpha and Beta Pinene Sharp, sweet, pine
Myrcene Musky, earthy, herbal, cloves
Linalool Floral
Alpha Bisadolol Floral
Delta 3 Carene Piney, earthy
Eucalyptol Mint, spice
Terpineol Piney, clove
Cineole Herbal
Caryophyllene Pepper, wood, cloves, oregano, basil
Humulene Woody, earthy
Limonene Citrus, lemon, orange

 

References

  1. https://terpenesandtesting.com/category/science/cultivar-v-chemovar-debating-the-debasement- of-cannabis-vernacular/
  2. https://www.maribisllc.com/cannabis-101/trichomes/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4362742/
  4. https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1476-5381.1974.tb08576.x
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2449371/  Beta-Caryophyllene is a Dietary Cannabinoid,  Jürg Gertsch, Marco Leonti, Stefan Raduner, Ildiko Racz, Jian-Zhong Chen, Xiang-Qun Xie, Karl-Heinz Altmann, Meliha Karsak, and Andreas Zimmer entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology,163(7), 1344-1364. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x