What makes cannabis do all of the magical things we love? We know that there are compounds in hemp and marijuana that provide unique effects. Until now, maybe you’ve only heard about THC, CBD, and other popular cannabinoids. Yet, there’s so much more to it than that. Terpenes are one of the most critical compounds in cannabis, but they aren’t unique to only hemp and marijuana. Read on to learn more about where to find them, what they do, and how they’re used.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are the volatile compounds responsible for the scents found throughout the plant kingdom. Quite literally, terpenes are what give plants their smell. This means all plants, including trees, herbs, fruits, barks, resins, spices, and flowers. Terpenes offer more than the aroma, they also contribute to taste and sometimes even color. Think of terpenes as a quirky characteristic or extra flair that makes a plant more identifiable and unique.
On their own, terpenes have unique benefits that include anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, analgesic, and relief from pain, stiff muscles, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. It sounds a lot like cannabinoids, right? That’s because terpenes and cannabinoids work together synergistically to produce something called the entourage, or ensemble, effect.
This term signifies the action that occurs when many terpenes and many cannabinoids are consumed together. These ingredients are said to be more therapeutic than they are when consumed alone. The same can be said about consuming terpenes found naturally in the spices and foods we eat. When consumed alongside cannabis, expect an amplified high.
The Different Types of Terpenes
There are over 50,000 terpenes on the planet, and we interact with them on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not. Every time you peel an orange and inhale that fresh scent, those are terpenes. Walking through a forest and breathing in the fresh air? Yep, it’s full of terpenes.
Although we might not be able to identify all 50,000, here are five of the most common ones that you probably have in your home right now.
Lemon zest. Orange peels. Fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. They share the terpene limonene, and it’s unmistakable. Fresh and bright with an astringent quality, limonene is the dominant terpene in all citrus fruits. It is used in many everyday household items like soaps, detergents, and cleaning products because of its fresh scent. You can even find it in baked goods, fruit juice concentrates, and organic pesticides.
The best example of linalool is the scent of fresh lavender. It’s an unmistakable floral fragrance with a peppery bite to it. It is one of the oldest sedatives in human history, and if you’ve ever diffused lavender essential oil on your nightstand, we’re sure you can attest to this. It’s used abundantly in perfume, lotions, body and skincare products, and many cleaning products and room fresheners. You’ll find linalool in mint, laurel, rosewood, and neroli among others.
The best way to describe the aroma of myrcene is to imagine cutting open a perfectly ripe mango. It’s sweet and musky with an earthy fruitiness. Myrcene is found in lemongrass, guava, thyme, ylang-ylang, and hops. Like linalool, myrcene is a sleep aid, but with even more power to help lull you off to dreamland.
The scent of pinene is cozy and familiar. Walking through the woods and inhaling that depth of forest air, chances are you might catch a whiff of a pine tree. The pine needles are packed with the terpene pinene. Also found in nuts, basil, dill, and parsley, pinene is best described as having a woodsy aroma. It’s highly astringent, so it’s no surprise that pine oil is the main ingredient in a popular cleaning product, Pine-Sol.
Terpinolene is a lesser-known terpene, but once you know what it smells like you won’t forget it. It’s a fresh, herbal aroma with a hint of citrus over a piney, almost sweet scent. Terpinolene is a bit complex, but you’ll recognize it in apples, lilacs, cumin, pine, fir, and tea tree.
All of the above terpenes are also found in cannabis. In fact, they are the most prevalent ones that show up in reasonable concentrations. While they play a role when used on their own, terpenes are incredibly effective when paired with cannabinoids. Cannabis terpenes play an extraordinary role in the way our bodies interact with cannabis.
Do Terpenes Get You High?
Terpenes do not get you high because they are not intoxicating. However, they can accentuate a high by working alongside cannabinoids. Think of cannabinoids as the ingredient that determines how your body behaves. They work to relieve pain, promote sleep, reduce nausea, increase creativity, and have many other amazing benefits. Terpenes work more closely with your mood, or how you feel in addition to a host of therapeutic benefits. Any single cannabis strain may feature several dominant terpenes at one time, creating an olfactory feast for the senses.
Are Terpenes the Same as Flavonoids?
Terpenes and flavonoids control the scent and flavor of a particular cannabis strain. However, flavonoids may also affect the color of a plant. There are 20 flavonoids unique to cannabis, called cannaflavins. Flavonoids are rich in antioxidants and have therapeutic properties that perfectly complement terpenes and cannabinoids.
How Many Terpenes Are in Cannabis?
There are over 150 terpenes found in the cannabis plant across various strains. They are measured in different quantities and percentages, but the above five terpenes remain the most dominant. In addition to those are ocimene, humulene, beta-caryophyllene, alpha-bisabolol, eucalyptol, camphene, geraniol, borneol, and more.
What Are Terpenes Used For?
Until now, maybe you didn’t realize that you can buy terpenes in a variety of ways to suit your needs. They are powerful little compounds from the plant kingdom with plenty of uses for everyday life.
How Do You Use Terpenes?
One of the easiest ways to experience terpenes is by cooking with foods and spices that are noticeably terpene-rich. Grind a little cracked pepper and enjoy the mild anxiety relief from beta-caryophyllene. Or, diffuse some lavender oil with a drop or two of peppermint for a relaxing, yet refreshing aroma.
There are many excellent online recipes for homemade cleaning products or even guides on how to make your own essential oil-infused candles. Of course, you can always enjoy terpenes from cannabis and experience all of the wonderful ways cannabis adds to our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Is It Safe to Vape Terpenes?
Vaping pure terpenes is not safe and can damage your lungs. However, you can absolutely vape pure, food-grade terpenes when diluted into cannabis oil. It takes a very small amount to create an aromatic, flavorful blend. Keep in mind that you should leave it to the experts and shop from trusted suppliers of terpene-enriched vape pens.
By adding terpenes to cannabis oil, you can try out flavors that are creative and innovative, or blends mixed to amplify a strain flavor. The next time you find a strain that makes you feel especially stupendous, look into the terpenes profile and you can seek out similar strains to keep you feeling lifted.