There’s a lot of focus on cannabinoids when you’re learning about the compounds in cannabis. However, although compounds are helpful, they’re not the only ones you should learn about. For example, terpenes are another naturally occurring compound that has a huge influence on your experience.
In this article, we’ll discuss terpenes, what they do, and why they benefit you:
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are a type of organic compound. If you’ve ever smelt lavender essential oil, an orange, or the scent of a cannabis strain—you’ve interacted with a terpene before. Most of the strong smell you experience in the plant world is a terpene.
But why do plants produce a strong terpene?
They simply want to push away hungry animals, natural predators, and infectious germs. As a result, they produce a terpene that forces them away.
In some plants, terpenes can attract pollinators and help maintain a healthy temperature for the plant’s growth. For example, cannabis plants, conifer trees, and hops all have high terpenes. However, other fruits and flowers produce them.
However, terpenes may also provide health benefits for the human body. As cannabis regulation decreases worldwide, scientists are increasing their research to understand the benefits more.
The Different Types of Terpenes
Terpene compounds have numerous functions in the natural world. Therefore, not all terpenes have the same effect. There are over 20,000 terpenes in existence, and scientists aren’t even sure what these compounds do yet.
One of the first things you consider when looking at terpene types is their scent profile. Most terpenes smell sour, spicy, sweet, or bitter. In addition, sweet terpene types are fruity, tropical, and flowery. Sour terpenes, however, smell sharp or herbaceous.
Here are some of the main terpenes in cannabis plants:
- Linalool – The linalool terpene gives cannabis strains their floral and signature spicy smell. Linalool is one of the most influential compounds in aromatherapy; it’s responsible for the relaxing effect many people get from essential oil and lavender.
- Myrcene – You’ll find myrcene in cannabis flowers, lemongrass, hops, and thyme. Myrcene is one of the most powerful antioxidants. One study found that myrcene could protect the brain from oxidative damage.
- Beta-caryophyllene – Caryophyllene is a unique terpene because it connects to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain. It also offers an anti-inflammatory effect on the body that can reduce pain levels.
- Humulene – The humulene offers earthy and woody scents. You’ll find it in cannabis, black pepper, and sage. One study found that humulene may help to prevent allergic reactions and asthma.
- Eucalyptol – The eucalyptol terpene slows down fungal and bacterial growth. You’ll mostly find it in eucalyptus trees, but it’s also present in some cannabis strains.
- Limonene – The linalool terpene has a citrusy smell like lemons. It offers anti-bacterial and stress relief properties. In addition, limonene has antiviral, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Can Terpenes Impact Your Cannabis Experience?
Due to the vast nature of terpenes in cannabis, you’re likely wondering whether terpenes can impact your cannabis experience.
Here’s the reality: terpene compounds don’t change your mood or perceptions when you consume cannabis. Research also shows that most terpenes don’t connect with cannabinoid receptors in the brain to change brain chemistry.
You might feel weird from the lack of oxygen if you breathe in concentrated amounts of a straight terpene—but that’s about as far as it goes. However, that doesn’t mean a terpene will have zero influence on your experience. Terpene compounds help contribute to the so-called entourage effect.
The entourage effect is a phenomenon whereby different compounds work together to achieve a result that would be impossible on their own. Scientists believe that THC and CBD react differently when terpenes are hanging around. Although they haven’t researched this in-depth, they’ve noticed that some terpene types enhance specific reactions.
How Are Terpenes Different From Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds in cannabis. Cannabinoids—such as THC—trigger receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system. That’s what gives you the feeling of being high when you use cannabis. CBD is another cannabinoid that’s becoming more prevalent for its medicinal properties.
However, terpenes are responsible for the smell of most plant and animal compounds. Although terpenes act on the endocannabinoid system similarly to cannabinoids, the primary difference is how the body absorbs these compounds differently.
Frequently Asked Questions
Terpenes are responsible for the way most plants smell. You can find them in cannabis, fruits, and herbs. They also play a major role in the health of the plants they exist in. Researchers must continue to study terpenes to understand their full benefits for cannabis users.
That said, terpenes play a crucial role in a cannabis strain and you must understand them.