Terpenes

Terpenes – Not Just a Fragrance

TerpenesTerpenes are what give cannabis that distinctive smell. They are aromatic compounds that emanate from the resin glands within the flowers of cannabis.

In cannabis plants, terpenes are a primary component of resin, and that resin together with its terpenes provide a defensive shield to ward off insects, herbivores and other natural predators.

Some of these terpenes are very distinctive in their smell, with some of the more general classifications being earthy, piney, cheesy, sweet, spicy, sour and citrusy.

Terpenes were not understood in medical terms until more recently. A number of significant studies have now shown strong evidence that terpenes play a significant role in magnifying the effect of other cannabinoids, for example, THC and CBD.

Lastly, researchers are making great strides in terpene research, with many studies pointing to treatment potential for inflammation, chronic pain, fungus, bacteria, depression, seizures, insomnia and even tumors.

Terpenes And The Entourage Effect

Terpenes And The Entourage EffectIn fact, two landmark studies by Dr. Ben-Shabat[1] and Dr. Ethan Russo[2] noted that when cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are all present (as opposed to being dosed in isolation), they magnify each other’s effect in what is now referred to as The Entourage Effect.

In the study by Dr. Ben-Shabat, the main finding was that when all cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids were present, their effects were far greater than when administered separately. In effect, the whole plant was far more therapeutically beneficial than the sum of its parts.

In the study by Dr. Ethan Russo, the main finding was that cannabinoids (like CBD) were far less effective in isolation compared to being administered with terpenes. In effect, terpenes magnified the effects of the various cannabinoids.

These studies point to why we need to make a very big distinction between full spectrum hemp oil and CBD oil. For example, although some studies indicate that CBD may be the optimal cannabinoid for pain treatment, these studies also confirmed that having all cannabinoids present are more beneficial than just treating with CBD alone.

This puts an exclamation mark on the importance of products such as full spectrum hemp oil, or any compound that offers multiple cannabinoids in the same treatment.

For example, myrcene, which is the most abundant terpene, increases the absorption rate of other cannabinoids. If a person wished to treat chronic pain with CBD, it would be strongly suggested to combine the CBD with myrcene and other terpenes to increase the absorption and overall effectiveness of the CBD.

Terpenes vs. Terpenoids

You may hear the term ‘terpenoid’ as opposed to terpene, and they are almost the exact same thing. But there is a difference.

At their core, terpenes are hydrocarbons and aromatics. When cannabis is dried and cured, the terpenes slightly rearrange their atoms during the oxidation process, typically adding oxygen functionality.

Many associate terpenes with ‘fresh’ cannabis, and terpenoids with ‘cured’ cannabis. For discussion purposes, we will stick terpenes unless a medical distinction needs to be made.

Terpenes and Dabbing

E-nails and TerpenesWith the advent of cannabis concentrates, e-nails used for dabbing and other vaporization rigs have become the tool of choice to inhale these products.

In many cannabis concentrates, especially full spectrum sauces and THC cannabis concentrates, terpenes are in abundance. What many dabbers don’t realize is that those wonderful terpenes may turn into carcinogens at high heat.

In a 2017 Portland State University study[3], researchers found that “the nail temperature put users at risk of exposing themselves to not only methacrolein but also benzene”.

This study also found that many users may be using a torch to heat their enail, and that process causes such excessive heat that it may be the most carcinogenic method of all.

The evidence indicates that it would be much healthier to dab using as low a temperature as possible. Although there may be a little waste product at lower temperatures, it appears this would be far healthier choice than burning everything in the bowl.

Terpenes – Indica or Sativa

Terpenes - How they affect the body and brainIn clinical studies, some of the terpenes have demonstrated strong therapeutic properties:

Indica – Terpenes that have demonstrated sedative effects are present in indica strains of cannabis. Indica strains of cannabis cause deep physical relaxation. One way to remember the differences in effects between indica and sativa is to associate indica with the phrase “in da couch’.

Sativa – Terpenes that cause a heightened sense of awareness and elevation of mood are referred to as sativa strains. Sativa strains of cannabis can provide uplifting energy and clarity, with more of the high being felt in the head as opposed to the body.

Consumers need to ask themselves which terpene profile has the most therapeutic value for their own body. The last thing a person that suffers from anxiety needs is a terpene that kicks up their metabolism like a mega-caffeinated energy drink.

If a person suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, studies indicate that therapy would likely involve specific terpenes that have a calming effect.

Now if this is translated into cannabis strains, that same person would be seeking relief from an indica strain that contained some of the more potent, sedative terpenes like Myrcene or Linalool.

Terpenes not only affect how well the other cannabinoids work, but can also affect how you feel. In addition to all of this, please note below the numerous therapeutic benefits found in medical studies.

Terpenes Have Health Benefits

There are over 200 terpenes in cannabis plants, but only a small percentage make up the majority of terpenes found in these plants.

Below we will focus on the major terpenes which dominate the terpene profiles in cannabis. More importantly, we will be detailing all of the medical evidence that supports exciting therapeutic potential at almost every turn.

The number of studies that suggest terpenes may possess significant medical benefit is staggering. Upon reading, if you reach a conclusion that terpenes may be as important as CBD, CBC, CBG and all of the other cannabinoids combined – then you are on the right track.

Myrcene

Terpenes - MyrceneMyrcene is the most abundant terpene found in cannabis. In fact, myrcene can make up to 2/3 of the typical cannabis terpene profile. Myrcene is associated with sedative effects.

Myrcene has an earthy, clovey, musky smell, and can be found in mango, thyme, lemongrass, guava and hops, as well as a plethora of other plants. Myrcene is often attributed as the signature smell of cannabis.

As mentioned earlier, studies have shown that Myrcene increases the absorption rate of other cannabinoids, and even can help our skin better absorb essential oils and other compounds[4].

In studies, Myrcene has demonstrated potential for treatment with arthritis and inflammation[5], and also shows great promise in the treatment of cancer[6,7,8]. One study also shows strong effects in mitigating pain as an analgesic[9].

Caryophyllene

Terpenes - CaryophylleneCaryophyllene (also known as Beta-Caryophyllene) is one of the more abundant terpenes found in cannabis. Caryophyllene does not appear to have a strong indica or sativa effect, but it does have fascinating medical potential.

Caryophyllene is known for its spicy and peppery scent, and can be found in black pepper, basil, oregano, rosemary, cloves and cinnamon.

Caryophyllene is one of the most studied terpenes in cannabis, and studies are showing very strong treatment potential for inflammation[10,11,12,13,14], cancer[15,16,17], antioxidant therapy[18,19] and neuroprotection[20,21,22,23].

Lastly, caryophyllene is the only cannabinoid that directly binds to the CB2 receptor, which is the pathway to the immune system. This has important implications for anti-inflammatory creams and topicals which typically contain caryophyllene for exactly that purpose.

Limonene

Terpenes - LimoneneLimonene is the second most abundant of the terpenes found in cannabis. Limonene appears the most in sativa strains, and is known to increase alertness and elevate the mood.

As you would expect, limonene has a citrusy scent, and can be found in abundance in lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges and mandarin. Limonene is used extensively in cleaning products, cosmetics, and fragrances.

Limonene has been studied extensively with a lot more studies coming. So far, limonene has shown strong potential for anti-inflammation[24,25,26,27], antioxidation[28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36], and anti-cancer[37,38,39,40].

Linalool

Terpenes - LinaloolLinalool is yet another terpene found in abundance in cannabis. Known for its sedative effects, there’s a strong chance linalool is present if a person experiences ‘couchlock’ after consuming a strong indica.

Linalool is known for its spicy and pungent smell, and can be found in cinnamon, lavender, coriander and mint. Linalool and myrcene are often attributed for the pungent smell of cannabis.

In studies, linalool has shown strong anti-inflammation properties[41,42,43,44] and could be very helpful for those with arthritis. Linalool is also shown to provide relief for seizures[45], depression[46] and insomnia[47].

Pinene

Terpenes - PinenePinene (two variations, alpha- and beta-pinene) is another terpene commonly found in cannabis. Pinene has an uplifting effect and increases alertness, and would be found in many sativa strains of cannabis.

Pinene is actually quite abundant in nature, and is found in heavy concentrations in – you guessed it – pine trees. It is also found in basil, rosemary, parsley and lavender.

In studies, Pinene has shown strong therapeutic properties in treating inflammation[48,49,50,51] and cancer[52,53,54,55,56,57,58], as well as help as an anti-oxidant[59] and for neuroprotection[60].

Terpineol

Terpenes - TerpineolTerpineol is a fragrant terpene found in smaller quantities in cannabis. But don’t let that fool you as terpineol has strong sedative properties, and is thought to contribute to the couchlock effect in some indica strains.

Terpineol has a very pleasant scent that will remind you of lilacs. And its taste is pleasant as well hitting mint notes. Terpineol is commonly used in cosmetics, perfumes and even the food industry.

A recent study has shown that terpineol has very strong sedative properties[61], and is often used in aromatherapy to relax patients.

Geraniol

Terpenes - GeraniolGeraniol is one of the more prominent terpenes in cannabis, but usually found in smaller amounts. Known for having a sedative effect, one would typically find geraniol in indica strains of cannabis.

Geraniol has a very light sweet scent of a rose, and for that reason, is used extensively in creams and in many fragrances such as perfumes. Because of its sedative effects and pleasant scent, it is often used in aromatherapy.

In studies, geraniol has been found to have therapeutic properties as an anti-oxidant[62] and anti-inflammatory[63], and has been shown to help with candida[64].

Borneol

Terpenes - BorneolBorneol is found in smaller quantities in the cannabis plant. If you ever wondered if any of the terpenes do a good job of repelling mosquitoes, then borneol would be one of your top choices.

Borneol has a minty smell with a splash of cinnamon, and can be found in mint, rosemary and camphor. It is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant, and it is toxic if swallowed.

In studies, borneol possessed therapeutic properties as an anti-inflammatory[65,66,67,68,69], especially for lung inflammation and neuropathic pain. Borneo also shows strong promise as an antioxidant[70,71,72,73,74,75,76,77,78,79,80] and for neuroprotection[81,82,83,84]. And as mentioned earlier, it is quite effective as a mosquito repellent[72,73,83,84].

Humulene

Terpenes - HumuleneHumulene is another of the primary terpenes in cannabis that is present in smaller amounts, and will provide a mild sedative effect. Humulene is a very prolific terpene, and will likely be found in most cannabis plants, whether sativa or indica.

Humulene is the main fragrance that sharply grabs your attention in hops, and can be found in sage, ginger, clove, ginseng and black pepper.

Humulene is showing great promise as an anti-inflammatory[85,86], and as an analgesic in mitigating pain[87]. Humulene is currently being studied for appetite suppression, so this terpene may be the biggest surprise of all.

Valencene

Terpenes - ValenceneValencene smells like oranges and unsurprisingly gets its name from Valencia oranges. Valencene is mildly uplifting, and would typically be found in sativa strains of cannabis.

Valencene is found in abundance in oranges, but is also found in grapefruits, tangerines and other citrus produce. Of all the terpenes, this will likely be one of the most delightful terpenes you ever smell.

Although there have not been a lot of studies on valencene, new studies are now underway as valencene is implicated in having anti-inflammatory benefits. However, one thing we know for sure is that valencene is highly effective at killing mosquitoes[88], even more so than DEET.

Eucalyptol

Terpenes - EucalyptolEucalyptol is the essence of the sweet delightful terpene that is the main scent in eucalytus trees. It is considered to be neutral with respect to indica or sativa effects.

Eucalyptol is primarily found in the eucalyptus tree, but it is found in trace amounts in cannabis. In fact, it makes up less that 1/10% of the total terpenes in cannabis.

In studies, eucalyptol has shown therapeutic value as an anti-microbial[89], for periodontal health[90], for pain relief[91] and the immune system[92]. However, eucalyptol can be toxic if taken orally or transdermally. Therefore we recommend letting the researchers, not consumers, find therapeutic applications.

Bisabolol

Terpenes - BisabololBisabolol has a sweet fragrance and is found primarily in chamomile. This terpene does not appear to have any indica or sativa effects.

Bisabolol is heavily used in the cosmetics industry due to its pleasant fragrance. You will find bisabolol in lipstick, lotions, moisturizers, eye creams, facial cleansers, sunscreens, anti-aging treatments and many more cosmetics.

In studies, bisabolol has shown promise in treating cancer[93], skin inflammation[94] and leg ulcers[95]. There have not been a lot of studies so far with bisabolol, but there appears to be quite a bit of potential for future studies.

Camphene

Terpenes - CampheneCamphene is manufactured as a clear crystal and has a light floral fragrance. If you ever sat by a citronella candle, then you already have experienced camphene as it is the main ingredient in fighting mosquitoes.

Camphene is fairly abundant in nature, and can be found in fir trees, nutmeg, ginger, citronella, valerian, sage, rosemary, lavender, camphor and many other plants.

In studies, camphene has shown therapeutic properties as an anti-fungal[96], in reducing cholesterol[97], and as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic for pain[98].

Terpenes In Conclusion

Terpene ResearchIf you made it this far, then you know that terpenes are turning out to be just as important as CBD and all of the other cannabinoids. Their effects are staggering, and the public is just starting to understand just how vital they are in treatment.

We mentioned The Entourage Effect and how researchers are finding that combining terpenes with cannabinoids amplifies the effects of the cannabinoids. Researchers are initiating large numbers of new studies on terpenes as they are finding that terpenes have powerful therapeutic effects on a stand-alone basis.

More studies are coming out that will better explain how to combine specific terpenes with specific cannabinoids to achieve a very precise effect. In the meantime, the big takeaway on terpenes is that they are highly beneficial, and you are much better off including them in treatments as opposed to treatments without them. This is just another feather in the cap for ‘full spectrum hemp oil’ which contains all cannabinoids and terpenes.

Perhaps this is the proper moment to thank Dr. Ben-Shabat[99] and his team for discovering the entourage effect – and that having all cannabinoids and terpenes together is far more therapeutic than CBD (or any other cannabinoid) alone.

Lastly, we wish to thank Dr. Ethan Russo[100] and his team for discovering that terpenes actually amplify the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids like CBD. This research laid the groundwork for countless studies and discoveries on the therapeutic benefits of terpenes.

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