Why Are Cannabis Terpenes a Big Deal?
Some health studies have shown that people who consume plants (particularly leafy plants) are healthier and happier. We are all taught about vitamins and minerals that we get from natural food sources. But more is needed to understand cannabis terpenes and why they are so important to human health.
Learning about different cannabinoids is important because it can help you choose a strain of medical cannabis that can provide the most benefit. And patients who have been using medicinal cannabis for years usually have a good understanding of what works best for them.
But how much do you know about terpenes? They are the superpower ingredient in virtually every plant on our planet. And if you suffer from debilitating symptoms of anxiety, there are natural terpenes that could help.
When you are researching different types of medical cannabis to help you manage your symptoms, terpenes should be part of the assessment. Because when combined with different cannabinoids, some terpenes can have powerful medicinal benefits.
Understanding the Content of Different Cannabis Strains
Have you ever wondered why some strains of cannabis at your medical dispensary are more expensive than others? Naturally, cannabis with higher THC content will cost a little more; a little goes a long way when it comes to potent strains. You may need to use less and find it works better (depending on your wellness needs).
Some strains are also rich in other types of cannabinoids, which can be helpful for symptom management. For example, if you have chronic pain such as diabetic neuropathy, or other conditions caused by inflammation, cannabidiol may help. Cannabidiol (CBD) adds to the natural anti-inflammatory potential when you use medical marijuana for your symptoms.
The other common cannabinoids you can find in medical marijuana strains include:
- THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin)
- CBDV (Cannabidivarin)
- CBG (Cannabigerol)
- CBC (Cannabichromene)
- CBN (Cannabinol)
- THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid)
When you visit a medical cannabis dispensary, you will see the content for each strain indicated with a ratio. That is a percentage by volume that indicates how much of each cannabinoid is present in the strain. And your budtender can help you find a broad-spectrum strain that has other beneficial cannabinoids that may help your unique symptoms.
However, not everyone knows about the value of terpene content. Did you know that cultivators specifically breed strains of cannabis that have terpenes that can also help with symptom management? Because for patients, terpene content can help. Especially for patients with clinical anxiety.
Try to do a little online research about specific strains and terpenes that may help you address your symptoms. And be aware that strains of medical cannabis available can vary regionally. So choose several strains you are interested in before you visit your dispensary.
What Are Cannabis Terpenes?
Every plant on the planet produces terpenes. Terpenoids are a class of chemical compounds that exist in every living organism. But green plants and those that produce flowers have a very high number of terpenoids compared to any other living thing, including the flowers (or buds) of cannabis plants.
How many terpene varieties are there? Some scientific publications have estimated that there may be thousands of terpenoid compounds found in plants. And while natural terpenes have been part of traditional herbal medicine for more than two thousand years, there are still new things to learn about them. And how they benefit health.
In plants, terpenes play an important role by regulating:
- Electron transfer systems
- Protein modification
- Antioxidant functions
- Pathogen resistance (anti-microbial)
- Building and strengthening of cellular membranes
Over millions of years, plants have evolved to survive. And one of the ways that plants continue to thrive on the planet is because of natural terpenes. They help make plants more resilient and healthy. And for human beings, some of those benefits can also help with symptom management.
Researching terpenes specific to your symptoms can help you choose the right strains of medical cannabis. And get better results to help you manage chronic pain, insomnia, reduced appetite, depression, and anxiety.
Cannabis Terpenes That Can Help With Symptom Management
Cannabis plants produce more than 100 different terpenes. Many of the terpenes are present to help cannabis plants grow and be resilient against mold, fungus, and even certain types of insects. But some of the terpenes have been found to provide wellness benefits.
Cannabis terpenes create a number of responses in the body. Inhaling terpenes (aromatherapy) can create feelings of calmness or even stimulate energy and alertness. Some can even help you relax and sleep better.
When consumed, cannabis terpenes can have a number of therapeutic benefits. Not surprisingly, the cannabis strains you see at your local medical dispensary have terpene content that can help with different symptoms. The most popular strains that patients prefer usually contain one or more of the following terpenes.
Have you ever smelled fresh cannabis and got the distinct scent of lemons? That citrus scent and flavor are from limonene. And you can also find this terpene in natural food sources such as citrus fruit rinds, peppermint, rosemary, and other herbs.
Cannabis strains with Limonene include:
- Banana OG
- Berry White
- Fire OG
- Quantum Kush
- Wedding Cake
Limonene is an interesting terpene because its effect varies depending on the other terpenes present in the cannabis strain. For example, if the cannabis plant has Limonene and Terpinolene, it can be relaxing and sleep-inducing. But paired with Pinene and THCV, Limonene can make you feel energetic.
Overall, Limonene is a relaxing terpene. And many popular strains that patients use to relieve stress have higher Limonene content.
2. Alpha and Beta Pinene
Ah! The fresh smell of pine is always uplifting. As the name suggests, both Alpha and Beta Pinene smell like a walk in the forest. Pinene occurs naturally in pine trees but also in herbs like rosemary, basil, and dill.
The psychoactive effects of Pinene can help you feel more alert and improve your focus and memory. Certain strains of cannabis that have Pinene content are popular with people who do not want to feel emotionally sedated. Pinene can help reduce the sedative effects of some types of cannabis.
Some strains of cannabis that have Alpha and Beta Pinene include:
- Blue Dream
- Critical Cheese
- Grape Ape
- Vanilla Kush
- White Fire OG
In addition to the mood and mental liftoff that Pinene can provide, it also has powerful antibacterial properties. Cannabis tinctures with Pinene can also help people with respiratory issues like asthma because the terpene also has bronchodilator effects. Or it can help “open the lungs” to make breathing easier.
Some studies have suggested that Pinene has powerful antiseptic properties. Which means patients that have developed a resistance to antibiotics may get a boost to their immune system from the terpene. Whether ingested with cannabis or from a natural food source.
Some of the most medicinal oils are tea tree, petitgrain, and pine oil. And they can be used as supplements, for aromatherapy, or topical applications (pain creams). Inside these popular oils is Terpineol, which smells like anise with floral and pine notes.
Terpineol is a more rare terpene, but you can find it in these cannabis strains:
- Jack Herer
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Fire OG
- Skywalker OG
- White Widow
Have you ever noticed how many household cleansers also have a pine oil scent? That’s no coincidence because Terpineol has powerful antibacterial properties. Inside the body, it can also reduce bad bacteria in the digestive tract. Also, when combined with other cannabinoids like CBD and CBDV, it can provide anticonvulsant benefits for patients with epilepsy.
Aromatherapy oils that are made out of lavender provide a relaxing sensation. That is because both lavender and jasmine have high levels of Linalool terpene. And it can be effective in helping with symptoms of anxiety and depression, and insomnia.
Linalool terps can be found in many strains, including:
- Do Si Dos
- Grandaddy Purple
- Kosher Kush
Some strains of cannabis that have cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) combined with myrcene and Linalool have been found to help with pain symptoms. It can also be an effective combination for patients who have sleep problems due to chronic pain.
Myrcene is naturally found in mango, hops, and herbs like thyme and lemongrass. The cannabis terpene is an antioxidant that can help your body fight cellular oxidation. Healthy cells are more resistant to infection and to oxidized mutations that can lead to many different chronic diseases, including cancer and diabetes.
Myrcene terpene is fairly common in cannabis strains you will find at your local dispensary. Some of the strains include:
- Bubba Kush
- Blue Cheese
- Critical Mass
- Mango Puff
- Purple Urkle
Myrcene also has cancer-fighting properties (anticarcinogenic). And for pain relief, the terpene targets specific receptors that can help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic pain and many other symptoms are related to inflammation.
The higher the Myrcene content in your medical cannabis, the more likely you are to experience a drowsy or sedative effect. And that sleepy sensation is increased if the cannabis strain you are taking has CBN content as well. That’s why some Sativa strains can provide a surprisingly Indica-like effect if they have Myrcene content.
One of the superpowered terpenes found in cannabis is Alpha-Bisabolol. And when you hear how it works, you will understand why. This terpene is naturally found in chamomile, and Brazilian candeia smells sweet, flowery and has citrus notes.
If you want to try Alpha-Bisabolol rich strains of cannabis at your local dispensary, look for:
- Ice Cream Cake
- Pink Kush
- Sour Candy
Clinical studies of Alpha-Bisabolol have suggested that the terpene can have the following benefits on human health:
- Analgesic (pain-reducing)
People who have health conditions related to skin irritation may also benefit from medical cannabis with Alpha-Bisabolol content. Some studies have also suggested it can be effective, when combined with THC, in reducing skin inflammation, including psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Naturally occurring in hops and certain types of trees (wood), Humulene is a common terpene found in cannabis plants. It has a distinct and natural herbal scent, and research into Humulene has discovered many ways that this terpene can promote wellness.
Popular strains of cannabis with Humulene terpene content include:
- Bubba Kush
- Sour Diesel
- Super Lemon Haze
- White Widow
Humulene has powerful anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. In fact, the terpene helps cannabis plants resist fungus. Humulene can also be found in natural herbs such as ginseng, sage, cilantro, clove, and basil. In some cannabis strains, Humulene has been measured as high as 40% content by volume.
A Safety Warning About Cannabis Terpenes and Concentrates
If a little of a good thing can provide health benefits, then more terpenes (or higher concentrated doses) may also help. Or provide faster relief, depending on your current health conditions and symptoms. You can find concentrated terpene extracts online and in many retail stores where CBD products are sold.
Since terpenes are natural extracts (similar to other nutritional supplements), you may be tempted to try them. However, new studies have shown that terpene concentrates can actually be harmful to your health.
When you purchase cannabis from a dispensary, the terpene content generally falls between 0.01% to 5%. Cannabis cultivators typically do not exceed a 5% terpene content in any strain for a good reason. Concentrated levels of terpenes can be toxic to human health.
In Europe, the ANEC provides a safety standard for terpenes provided in smokable or inhalable products. This recommendation suggests that terpenes should not exceed the maximum safe levels for consumption:
- Linalool (0.34%)
- Menthol (7.8%)
- Beta Pinene (0.70%)
- Alpha-Terpineol (1.1%)
However, in the United States, terpene concentrates are legal to sell. And many people do not realize that the concentrates can be contraindicated and conflict with many prescription medications. As well as the potential for toxicity if used excessively at concentrated doses.
Concentrated terpenes can cause the blood vessel walls to relax. This can cause hypotension (low blood pressure). Concentrated terps can also cause unpleasant side effects, including pain and increased inflammation. To safely use concentrated terpenes as a topical or consumable supplement, they must be diluted to 5% or less.
Schedule an appointment with DocMJ and talk to an experienced physician about medical cannabis. Find out if you qualify to become a registered patient in your state.
I am a Chief Marketing Officer at DocMJ, a leading provider of medical cannabis health services to qualified patients. I have over 20 years of experience in healthcare marketing and communications, with a proven track record of delivering impactful and compliant campaigns that educate, inform, and empower patients to make better choices for their health and wellness.