What are terpenes and what do they do?
Terpene — defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “any of a large group of volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants, especially conifers and citrus trees.”
If you, like us, said huh after reading that, this blog is for you. We’re talking about what terpenes are — in normal human talk, not scientific jargon — what terpenes do, and how terpenes might already be a part of your day-to-day life (or, how they could be!).
What Are Terpenes?
The aroma of cannabis is often unmistakable; many of us have our noses turned skyward in search before we’re even aware of the source of cannabis’ pungent, skunky aroma. The source of that overpowering smell: terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that create the aroma, flavor, and even color of cannabis, as well as many other plants including lavender, rosemary, and pine trees.
Nearly all plants contain terpenes, but generally, you can expect plants whose aromas might linger on your fingers after touching them to be high in various terpenes. Cannabis has over 150 known terpenes, though science is still working to uncover the details of each.
What Do Terpenes Do?
So, terpenes make plants smell good. Further than that, though, terpenes do some work for the plant while it’s growing. For instance, the terpene geraniol found in plants such as citronella and lemongrass repels insects and animals that might otherwise want to make a meal of the plant. Other terpenes, like linalool — found in citrus plants and lavender, attract insects to help pollinate the plant. Other terpenes still help with roles such as regulating a plant’s immune system or recovering from damage.
Terpene Effects in the Body
Though science hasn’t pinned down every terpene they’ve found in cannabis, research has been done to pinpoint the effects of many of them. Below are details of three of the most common cannabis terpenes.
- Limonene — this terpene is found in many cannabis strains, as well as in citrus and ginger. Its name says a lot about its flavor and aroma profile, with its fresh, citrusy clean scent. Some studies have found that limonene affects the body’s immune cells, possibly increasing antibody production in the spleen and bone marrow, which helps the immune system to fight off infection and disease.
- Myrcene — is a very common terpene found in high concentrations in a range of cannabis cultivars. This terpene gives cannabis its earthy, musky aroma. Further than scents, though, science has proven myrcene to be quite beneficial at reducing anxiety and helping people to fall asleep soundly. Further studies show myrcene to reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.
- Caryophyllene — This terpene is special because of its ability to bind to the CB2 receptors in humans’ endocannabinoid systems (ECS). Research on this binding suggests that caryophyllene could be used to help treat conditions with inflammatory symptoms. Other research points to this terpenes’ use for conditions such as colitis, anxiety and depression, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more.
The Entourage Effect
While studies have been identifying the characteristics of specific terpenes, there is also a whole body of study about how these compounds work together. After all, when smoking or consuming most any cannabis product, you’re getting a broad range of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals. These compounds aren’t working solo in your body, rather, they work synergistically.
That’s where the entourage effect comes into play. The entourage effect, a term coined in 1988 by Raphael Mechoulam, describes that cannabis products perform more favorably when they have the entire profile of naturally occurring cannabinoids and phytochemicals.
So, many manufacturers are focusing on creating cannabis products that retain the plant’s exact chemical makeup — to get the whole-plant benefit of cannabis’ unique cannabinoid and terpene profile.
What Are Terpenes and What Do They Do? — A Final Word
Terpenes give your cannabis and cannabis products their unique aromas and flavors. But beyond that, terpenes go to work in your body to regulate things like inflammation, anxiety, the immune system, and more. While terpenes have effects on their own, the entourage effect claims that cannabis works most beneficially with the whole scope of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes from the whole plant.
If you’ve got questions we didn’t answer about what are terpenes and what do they do, or when you’re ready to explore our wide array of products — come on into any one of our 7 Mr. Nice Guys locations throughout Corpus Christi and talk to our knowledgeable staff. And as always, have a nice daze!