What are terpenes?

As the world of cannabis evolves, we continue to learn more about the different compounds contained within. By now, you are familiar with cannabinoids like CBD, CBG and CBN and their anecdotal healing potential but what do you know about terpenes? Terpenes are aromatic compounds that create the characteristic scent of many plants, such as pine, lavender, and of course, cannabis. While we unpack all things terpenes, we’ll learn some pretty interesting facts about this magical little compounds.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are actually a combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms that occur naturally in many different plants, not just in cannabis. In the plant world, there are more than 50,000 identifiable terpene profiles. Cannabis has about 140 individual terpenes that all play a unique function to the effects and fragrance properties of each strain.

Why are they important for plants?

These little aromatic compounds play an essential part in the general survival of plants. They are often responsible for attracting pollinators or In some cases, playing a protective role repelling predators such as insects or foraging animals.

Why should you care about them?

Many terpenes are considered bio-active, which in lay terms means, they have the ability to affect the body. They do this by interacting with our endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids act on this system as well but the difference is in the way the body absorbs and uses the different compounds. This combined effect of on the endocannabinoid system is called the Entourage Effect. It implies that cannabinoids and terpenes function better in combination than in isolation. Therefore, it is assumed that terpenes also play a role in the overall benefits of these cannabis.

Do terpenes make you high?

The truth is, terpenes do not have the intrinsic ability to get you high in the same why that THC does. That being said, they can play a vital role mood elevation. Since terpenes produce aroma, they are the foundation of many essential oils and are often used in alternative treatments such as aromatherapy. While you may not feel stoned per say, inhaling some scents can affect your mood and stress levels. Which is kinda like getting high… on life.

If you’re looking for more from your terpenes than a great buzz, check out some of the other cool things some of the more common ones are responsible for.

Limonene- responsible for the citrusy smell of lemons and oranges

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antidiabetic
  • antioxidant
  • antiviral
  • Anticancer

Pinene- a prominent terpene in pine needles, basil and rosemary

  • anti-inflammatory
  • Bronchodilator
  • fights against some infectious germs when inhaled

Linalool- abundant in lavender giving the flower its characteristic scent

  • anti-inflammatory
  • antidepressant
  • Anticancer
  • neuroprotective
  • antimicrobial
  • anti-anxiety

Myrcene- found in plants such as hops, lemongrass, and thyme

  • Responsible for the skunky smell
  • anti-inflammatory

Beta-caryophyllene- found in cloves, black pepper and many other herbs and vegetables

  • anti-inflammatory
  • treatment of long-term chronic pain- no sign of developing a tolerance

Humulene- predominant in hops, sage and ginseng

  • reduces allergic inflammation

Final Thoughts

While terpenes can’t get you high on their own, research continues to insinuate that they play a vital role in the effect of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Not to mention, they may also have some potential therapeutic uses of their own. The moral of this story is that even though they are not responsible for your high, they might be more important to predicting your high than we once thought.

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