What are terpenes?

What are terpenes?

November 16, 2018

The term terpenes refers to any of a large group of aromatic organic compounds, specifically isomeric hydrocarbons, identifiable by the formula C10H16, responsible for the scent given off by plants.

Fragrances given off by peppermint and lemongrass, for example, can be traced back to the terpenes limonene and myrcene. Linalool, a terpene found in lavender, tends to have a calming effect.

Because a terpene’s effect can be influenced by other compounds, a growing number of companies in the cannabis space are mixing and matching various terpenes to appeal to the interests and tastes of customers.

“We’re seeing a lot of our patients, or our clients, are demanding to be able to see terpene expression data for the flower that they purchase,” Philippe Henry, director of R&D genetics and analytics at Flowr, a Canadian cannabis producer, told Mashable. “It’s part of educating people that they can make better choices.”

More than 200 types of terpenes have been identified so far. A small number of them are believed to have useful therapeutic properties.

How do terpenes affect the human body and mind?

Dr.Tristan Watkins, chief science officer at Lucid Mood, a company that manipulates terpenes for desired effects, provided the following answer in a recent Westword interview: “When cannabinoids and terpenes are consumed together, they can produce heightened and unique effects that would not occur if each compound were consumed independently. This interaction is called the entourage effect, and it’s one of the most unique aspects of the cannabis plant. If you’ve ever wondered why one cannabis product makes you feel drowsy while another makes you a social butterfly, the answer likely involves terpenes. That’s because terpenes act in systems outside of the endocannabinoid system, effectively modifying your cannabis experience. For example, alpha pinene acts on acetylcholine receptors in the brain, which are important to memory and cognition. By adding alpha pinene to your cannabis consumption, you may find yourself more engaged with a task or enamored of a particular artist.”


Are terpenes only in cannabis?

No, they’re all around us.

In the same Westword interview, Dr. Watkins said: “Terpenes surround us. We eat them in our foods every day. We smell them in the flowers and herbs we grow in our gardens. They are a primary reason that your lotion smells the way it does, and they are the reason that candles fill a room with your favorite aromas. Peel a mango to experience myrcene. Crack open an IPA for an intense aroma of humulene. Citrus fruits contain limonene, citral, valencene and many more terps. It’s next to impossible to avoid terpenes, even if we don’t notice them in our busy schedules. Next time you have a moment to stop and smell the roses, consider that you are really stopping to smell a beautiful bouquet of terpenes.”

You experience the effects of terpenes on a daily basis, whether you’ve been aware of it or not. Of the 200 some terpenes that have been identified, only a small number have been properly studied. As more research is published, we’ll cover it here on MyCBD.

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