If you’ve been following us on Facebook you’ve probably seen our “Terpene Tuesday” posts. Every Tuesday we highlight and talk about a specific terpene and provide a 10% discount on selected flower with that day’s featured terpene. But what exactly are these terpenes and why do they matter in cannabis?
Terpenes are aromatic organic hydrocarbons that are found in many plants. The development of terpenes began for adaptive purposes – to repel predators and attract pollinators. There are many factors that influence a plant’s development of terpenes, including climate, weather, maturation, fertilizers, soil type, and even the time of day. If you are familiar with “essential oils” you already have some experience with these compounds. Terpenes are found in high quantities in various essential oils, such as linalool in lavender and limonene in citrus oils. They are also found in high levels in cannabis.
Varying individual terpenes affect the smell and taste of cannabis and have the ability to enhance your “high”. More importantly however, these compounds hold a myriad of medicinal benefits. Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and every strain has a unique terpene composition. This can be most readily understood by the scent difference between one variety and another, although smell alone is not a reliable indicator to the levels of terpenes present in cannabis. The diversity of flower flavors is impressive as it is, but the most intriguing aspect of terpenes is their ability to synergistically interact with other cannabinoids in the plant.
The terpene profile in cannabis does more than help us distinguish strains by scent. It also helps explain why patients with certain medical conditions appear to benefit more from one variety of cannabis than another – even when strains have similar THC levels. In the past several decades, the majority of cannabis varieties have been bred and hybridized to contain higher and higher levels of THC. This has resulted in other cannabinoids, such as CBD, being reduced to trace amounts and has led many to believe that terpenes play an important role in distinguishing the effects of different cannabis strains.
The Entourage Effect of Terpenes
Most interesting, the effect profile of any individual terpene can change in the presence of other compounds, this is known as the entourage effect. In a 2006 study, Dr. Ethan Russo found that the effects of THC are antagonized by CBD. For example, the paranoia and memory loss sometimes experienced by cannabis users is reduced or eliminated when CBD levels are high. Further research found that the presence of other cannabinoids, when combined with THC, enhanced overall effects. After this research showed the entourage effect between cannabinoids, Dr. Russo further went on to study the synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes. His research concluded that terpene content gives “complimentary pharmacological activities that may strengthen and broaden clinical applications and improve the therapeutic index of cannabis extracts.” Although we have greater understanding of how terpenes and compounds work together, more research is needed to understand the intricacies of their functionality.
The most common terpenes found in cannabis are:
Each terpene is associated with unique effects. Linalool, for example, promotes relaxation and stress-relief, while limonene is shown to elevate positive mood. Myrcene is the most prevalent and dominant terpene in cannabis. Claims have been made that the level of myrcene in a strain will determine its effects. It’s said that strains with more than 0.5% myrcene will produce more “indica” effects (i.e. relaxing) and strains with less than 0.5% will produce a more “sativa” effect, that is uplifting and energizing.
More valuable for many people, however, is how many terpenes have been studied and found to have very promising medicinal benefits. Most terpenes have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, for example. Pinene is known as an expectorant and bronchodilator while ocimene and linalool have shown the ability to reduce convulsions and help people with epilepsy. Moreover, limonene has shown great promise as an anti-cancer and anti-tumor.
Though more research is needed to understand terpenes and their interactions, their value is firmly established. Most cannabis strains have varying levels of several different terpenes and testing is required to determine ratios. GreenLeaf Solutions test every flower that comes through our door and all test results are available to view for by all our patients at any time. Are you looking for a specific terpene? We can point you to the right flower containing the terpene you need and can answer any questions you might have concerning cannabis and its different modes of use.
GreenLeaf Solutions is Bartlesville’s only physician-owned and operated cannabis dispensary. We take pride in our meticulously selected and tested products and are here to answer any questions you might have about cannabis.