What Are Terpenes?
By Alice Grace
You might have heard the word terpene thrown around in cannabis-related conversation and wondered what all the hype was about. Terpenes are organic compounds present in the essential oils in plants (and some insects) that give them their unique scent and flavor profile. They are in everything from coffee to citrus trees to herbs and they are quite noticeably present in cannabis as well. There are biochemicals that are secreted in the trichomes of cannabis. Some you may have heard of are the cannabinoids THC and CBD among others, and terpenes are present in the fragrant essential oils of these plants. But terpenes play another very important role in the beneficial experience of cannabis and that is that when they are combined in various concoctions and strains they produce altering effects on the brain.
How terpenes work:
Have you ever had an aromatherapy massage? Have you ever tasted that first sip of hot coffee in the morning and reveled in that luxurious sensory experience. Well, those are chemical reactions in the brain that are ignited by terpenes. In this way terpenes act in much the same way as cannabinoids like THC and CBD – meaning they activate the brain – but they contain no psychoactive components so they don’t produce a psychoactive effect on the brain. But, when these terpenes interact with cannabinoids and the other components found in cannabis they can add to or stimulate a multitude of distinct experiences. In much the same way practitioners of aromatherapy can prompt a wide array of experiences in certain combinations terpenes can do the same. From a relaxed, sedate experience to one of alertness, or suppression of appetite, stress relief, elevated mood or even memory retention the possibilities are numerous. This is obviously an important attribute that scientists continue to study. The benefits for sufferers of particular diseases could and have benefited greatly from terpenes and their combinations. And recreational users are impacted in equally satisfying ways.
So all those wonderful strains of cannabis derive their fragrant notes from terpenes and you’ve probably noticed their names often reflect that. Some common terpenes often extracted and utilized are limonene, myrcene, linalool, alpha bisabolol, eucalyptol and camphene. Terpenes in cannabis can produce a varied array of scents like pine, berry, woody, floral, mint and citrus and these terpenes can be extracted from the plant and used in other products. Strains such as Banana Cookies, Cherry Diesel or Tangie denote a fruity or citrus fruit flavor from their terpenes.
Extracting terpenes from particular strains are enabling developers to create new and exciting products with familiar, fresh flavors that provide a cumulative effect. As mentioned above, when terpenes interact with cannabinoids in a plant it can produce a multitude of effects. By extracting and blending THC or CBD with specific terpenes developers can tailor desired outcomes in their products. There is much more to be learned and explored by experimenting with new and varied combinations of terpenes. And arguably, cannabis never smelled so sweet or tasted so good!