What are terpenes? – By now, most cannabis consumers have heard of cannabinoids, and some are even well versed in them as well.
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD have been in the mainstream spotlight for quite some time now, however, the rising popularity of vaporizing weed and dabbing cannabis concentrates has led to a boom in a different type of compound in cannabis.
What we are referring to are terpenes, the foundation for many essential oils, and the main ingredients to the unique scent and flavor of your favorite bud. All you’ll need to do is take a sniff and you’ll be able to see for yourself.
What is Terpene?
You are probably already familiar with terpenes because they are expressed so commonly throughout nature and everyday life.
Ever wondered what gives a lemon or orange its fragrant, citrusy vibe? Well, you have terpenes to thank for that. They are the building blocks to many essentials oils, found in many plants, giving pine trees their distinctive “piney” scent, lavender its relaxing aura, and black pepper its sharp and herbal kick.
However, these chemicals aren’t just valued for their scent, there is a bit more than meets the eye.
While it is true that cannabinoids like THC are responsible for the psychoactive and therapeutic effects we all love from cannabis, not all of the healing and medicinal power comes from the cannabinoids alone.
Not only do terpenes help craft the unique character and flavor of each strain, but they also act upon our endocannabinoid system by assisting cannabinoids in entering our bloodstream.
This synergistic coordination is known as the entourage or ensemble effect, which is driven by both cannabinoids and terpenes.
Simply put, the entourage effect presents us with the possibility of the main cannabinoids like THC and CBD working together with the hundreds of other compounds in the cannabis plant.
Working all together they create a better high, ranging from better anti-inflammatory effects, stronger pain relief, to the more efficient management of anxiety.
As it is commonly known in the cannabis world, it is the magic of the whole plant working together that is more beneficial than just the single compound.
That said, the different terpenes in each strain are able to downplay or promote certain effects of each cannabinoid depending on the specific type of cocktail of compounds at play.
What that means is that the right mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes can be used to create an experience that fits the needs of different individuals. This is why you see so many options out on the market today. Breeders have limitless options of creating different cannabis cultivars, each catered towards different consumer needs.
Consuming Cannabis Terpenes
Just like cannabinoids, exposure to extreme temperatures is known to damage and destroy terpenes. Because of this, it is important to use the correct tools if you are looking to consume your cannabinoids and terpenes in the healthiest way possible.
Tools like dab rigs, vaporizers, and e-cigs all have temperature controls that allow you to customize the heat settings in which you choose to vaporize your cannabis.
As a general rule of thumb, it is usually much better to vaporize your cannabis at lower temperatures for the preservation of the terpenes and cannabinoids, and in order to get a better smoking experience.
How Terpenes Shape Your High
Much like cannabinoids, many terpenes in cannabis bind to the receptors in our brains to produce a variety of effects. When picking a cannabis strain it is important to be mindful of the terpene content as well, as to predict the effects to expect.
For example, a common terpene such a Beta-caryophyllene is known to be great at relieving symptoms for those who suffer from muscle spasms, while a terpene like Limonene is better equipped at fighting anxiety and depression.
As always, lab-tested cannabis products will give you the most accurate representation of the cannabinoid and terpene content in a strain.
That said, each strain will have their unique terpene profile based on plant genetics, so it is important to refer to a terpenes chart to find out and pinpoint the effects you want the most.
The Most Common Terpene Found in Cannabis
Along with Beta-caryophyllene, Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis and is widely regarded for its therapeutic calming effects.
Interestingly, Myrcene is also commonly found in hops, mangoes, lemongrass, and sometimes in IPA beers. Myrcene is the compound that gives rise to the characteristics such as the spicy herbal fragrance of the plants and beer it has been found in.
In addition to being commonly found in a variety of plants, most cannabis strains hold an average of a 20 percent concentration of Myrcene in their terpene profile.
That said, of all the terpenes found in cannabis, Myrcene has the highest chance of being the most dominant one in the flower, usually holding the highest level of concentration.
It is thought that around 40 percent of all cannabis strains on the market are Myrcene dominant.
The Effects of Myrcene
Myrcene is known for a wide range of different therapeutic properties. Most commonly, Myrcene rich products such as lemongrass tea and hops were used as sleep aids as Myrcene is known to have sedative and muscle relaxing properties.
A study in rodents did find that Myrcene did have effectiveness in relaxing their muscles and aiding them sleeping for longer periods of time, though the evidence is still fairly limited.
Aside from its efficacy as a sleep aid and muscle relaxant, Myrcene is also supposedly effective anxiety and pain relief treatment. A study by scientists in Brazil claimed that Myrcene may be able to increase an individual’s pain threshold by increasing opioid chemicals in both the brain and spine.
While it may be true that Myrcene is an effective sedative and muscle relaxing agent, it is important to note that animal studies may not always translate directly to humans with the same results. More research must be conducted to accurately solidify these findings.
Terpenes play a vital role in nature, giving plants and herbs their unique aromas and flavors as well as adding therapeutic effects into the mix.
Remember, when consuming your cannabis it is usually a good practice to vaporize or heat your weed with a lower vaporization temperature to preserve the cannabinoids and terpenes.
Hopefully, this article gave you some insight into the inner mechanisms of marijuana and helped shed some light on such an obscure topic in the cannabis world.
Although more research is required to fully understand the efficacy of these compounds, it is always helpful to be in the know!