What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes consist of over 50,000 naturally occurring aromatic chemical compounds that are present in all living species, but here we are going to focus on are those that are prevalent in fruits and flowering plants.
There are believed to be a few hundred terpene variations that are common to all plants, but the majority of terpenes are restricted to a specific plant species. Terpenes are largely responsible for giving plants and flowers their signature aromas and flavors, as well as having many therapeutic benefits.
Chemically, all terpenes are comprised of hydrocarbon units–known as isoprene units–which form chain-like sequences of five carbon molecules. The most common plant-specific terpenes are monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, and triterpenes, which consist of two, three, four, and six isoprene units respectively.
The size and structure of a terpene determines how water-soluble it is, as well as its volatility; the smaller a terpene, the more unstable it is. Monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes are relatively unstable, and evaporate at room temperature, which is the reason why their scents are easily noticeable.
What Are The Benefits of Terpenes?
Terpenes have a number of distinctive scents, flavors, and health benefits, all of which are a result of their natural ecological functions. To protect themselves against disease and being fed upon by herbivores, many plants develop terpenes that are toxic to fungi, bacteria, and insects. Furthermore, terpenes serve to attract pollinators to flowers.
The smaller, more volatile terpenes are light enough to travel lengthy distances through the air, and they appeal to the olfactory receptors of many animals. Terpenes will even attract predators and alert nearby plants when a pesky herbivore breaks the skin of a leaf. So, all things considered, terpenes exert a vast influence on nature.
How Are Terpenes Used By Humans?
Throughout history, terpenes have been used for a wide variety of purposes, the most noteworthy being the role terpenes play in our consumption of food. The terpenes in herbs and spices are largely responsible for our perception of flavor.
Their pleasant scents also make them perfect for use in cosmetic products such as perfumes, oils, and lotions, and their natural toxicity allows them to be used for mouthwash, insect repellent, and disinfectants. In addition, terpenes have been used in medications designed to fight cancer and kill malarial parasites.
Even though the effects of terpenes are well-documented, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding the roles of specific terpenes in plant biology. Research is continuously learning more about terpenes and uncovering more potential applications for their use. As a more extreme example, researchers are currently trying to figure out how they can use terpenes as a fuel source!
Terpenes in Cannabis
Cannabis naturally has its own set of terpenes. In total, over 120 terpene variations are present in the cannabis plant. The different concentrations of terpenes will affect the aroma of a particular cannabis strain, but the role of terpenes doesn’t end with dictating scent. Terpenes can work synergistically with cannabinoids such as THC and CBD to target and enhance certain therapeutic effects.
Combining terpenes with cannabinoids has resulted in a promising range of potential applications for therapeutic use, from treating acne, to fighting cancer. Let’s examine the benefits and characteristics of the most common terpenes found in cannabis.
b-Caryophyllene is typically the most abundant terpene present in a cannabis product. It is also prominent in plants and spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, and rosemary, so it has a spicy, pepper-like scent.
Since it selectively binds to CB2 receptors in the body, it is most potent as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent, but it has a variety of additional uses. For example, studies have shown that b-Caryophyllene is effective in treating drug and alcohol addiction when used synergistically with CBD. When combined with THC, it can provide relief for depression and anxiety disorders. b-Caryophyllene has even been shown to relieve the itchiness caused by contact dermatitis.
Pinene is the most commonly encountered terpene in nature, and has a vast amount of medicinal applications. As suggested by its name, pinene has an aroma reminiscent of pine needles, conifers, and sage. It is known to be anti-inflammatory, can serve as an insect repellent, and can even be used to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. In addition, pinene has been shown to be effective in treating antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Another interesting benefit is that low doses of pinene can make breathing easier, so it can be soothing for people with conditions such as asthma. Pinene has also been shown to help counteract the short-term memory loss experienced with THC intoxication.
Linalool is a terpene that’s well-known for having powerful sedative properties, which were first observed during the use of lavender in traditional aromatherapy. The soothing effects of linalool can be useful in treating stress, anxiety, and depression. In particular, linalool has been used in conjunction with CBD to treat psychosis and social anxiety disorder. Furthermore, when paired with THC, it can be used as a local anaesthetic that’s comparable to procaine or menthol. Linalool naturally occurs in plants and spices such as lavender, coriander, and birch trees.
Limonene is the second most commonly occurring terpene in nature, and is present in the rinds of all citrus fruits. Studies have demonstrated that limonene increases dopamine and serotonin levels in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, making it a powerful antidepressant, anxiety reliever, and mood elevator.
Limonene has also been shown to be effective in treating a number of cancers, including breast cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, and other tumorous growths. Furthermore, limonene has proved to be very anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, so it is commonly paired with CBD to use in acne treatments.
Myrcene is common in highly aromatic plants such as sweet basil, bay leaves, lemongrass, hops, wild thyme, as well as tropical fruits. It can be used to alleviate chronic pain, anxiety, and inflammation. Furthermore, myrcene is often utilized for its soothing properties. It is commonly used to prevent muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients, and can also be a potent sleeping aid. Myrcene has even been used to treat sleep disorders by adding it to CBD/THC extracts. Studies have shown that myrcene could also intensify the effects of THC.
Terpenes and the “Entourage Effect”
Terpenes play a key part in the synergistic relationship between the naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis. CBD and THC as well as 100+ other cannabinoids have their many benefits, but when combined with terpenes, they amplify one another and provide overall therapeutic benefits that are greater than their individual parts. Consuming full spectrum or broad spectrum hemp extract will lead to a much greater therapeutic effect, over consuming an isolated CBD product, or an isolated terpene product alone.
All Tessera Naturals products are made with broad spectrum Hemp extract. This means that besides CBD, our products contain the full spectrum of beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes and amino acids in hemp (except THC).
- Terpenes have a significant role in governing nature, and are also a major factor of human life.
- Terpenes are present in all plants life, and their properties help the plant adapt to its ecological niche.
- Terpenes are responsible for a plant’s aroma, flavor, and they have various therapeutic effects.
- The most common terpenes in cannabis include; b-Caryophyllene, Pinene, Linalool, Limonene and Myrcene.
- Not only are terpenes responsible for the scent of cannabis, but they can also be used synergistically with other terpenes and cannabinoids to produce a desired “entourage effect”.