Terpenes are aromatic compounds contained in the cannabis plant and are responsible for the particular smell and flavor of each variety . The characteristics of cannabis are therefore not given only by the variety and the more or less massive presence of TCH and CBD , but are closely linked to the presence of terpenes.
It is thanks to terpenes that some varieties of marijuana have hints of citrus, musk or eucalyptus and it is always thanks to terpenes if the effect of a given variety is more or less invasive for the body. In this article we will see together:
- What are terpenes?
- Why do plants produce terpenes?
- How are terpenes distinguished?
- What are the main terpenes in marijuana?
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are a group of molecules present naturally in many plant species and in some insect species, and their main characteristic is to give each plant its characteristic aroma .
In the case of the numerous varieties of marijuana plants present in nature, the smell and typical fragrance of each of them are determined by the range of terpenes produced by the plant itself.
Terpenes are produced inside trichomes , the glands that also produce THC, and their presence and composition varies based on environmental factors, the chemical composition of the soil and climatic conditions.
These chemical aggregates perform important functions within the plant, because they connote the construction of other more complex elements such as: hormones, vitamins, pigments, steroids, resins and cannabinoids .
Terpenes produce a strong and acute odor because they carry out a protective action against insects, fungi and animal herbivores , a natural defense to complete the biological cycle of the plant.
In the inflorescences for example , light cannabis contains monoterpenes such as limonene and α-pinene , which have the characteristic of warding off parasitic attacks by fungi and insects.
In the leaves, however, there is a large concentration of sesquiterpenes : which have a strong bitter taste and can keep some types of herbivorous animals away.
Why do plants produce terpenes?
Nature follows a perfect design and every element of living organisms has a precise function.
As often happens in the plant world, terpenes are produced by plants to defend themselves from predators ; Thanks to their pungent aroma, marijuana plants are able to repel harmful insects and attract other benefits to promote pollination.
The amount and type of terpenes that a cannabis plant produces depends on various factors: the same strain does not necessarily produce the same aromatic compounds, due to factors such as climate, soil and fertilizers used, the age of the plant, and other elements.
The most interesting thing about terpenes, however, is that they work synergistically with cannabinoids . A confirmation of this is that some strains may have the exact same levels of THC and CBD, but their effects can be very different from each other.
THC binds to receptors in our brain causing the psychoactive effects of cannabis; a terpene can actively influence those brain receptors and how they work .
The medical cannabis industry, in particular, is interested in the effects of terpenes and their synergy with cannabinoids . By identifying the terpenes present in a given strain and studying their concentration and interaction with THC, it is possible to shape the herb to meet medical needs.
For example, by adding limonene, a stimulating effect can be achieved; adding linalool gives a relaxing and sedative effect; adding beta-caryophyllene amplifies the analgesic effects of cannabis.
How are terpenes distinguished?
Based on their molecular structure, seven types of terpenes are distinguished in genetics: hemiterpenes, monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, sesterpenes, triterpenes and polyterpenes.
The presence of terpenes is in no way linked to the concentration of THC , therefore they are found both in "classic" marijuana inflorescences and in those of light marijuana.
They have no psychoactive effect, except when combined with THC. The terpenes most frequently found in marijuana plants belong to the monoterpene and sesquiterpene families.
The role of terpenes is not only linked to the production of perfumes and fragrances typical of each variety of marijuana, but they are very important because they also have the power to interact and modify the psychoactive effects of THC .
Laboratory studies are moving in this direction, in search of a correlation between the terpenes contained in plants and the effects they induce.
The countless therapeutic properties attributable to terpenes, and the fact that each of them promotes different therapeutic effects, suggests that terpenes produce different effects when combined with each other.
What are the main terpenes in marijuana?
To date, approximately 100 terpenes present in marijuana have been discovered and analyzed. Below is a list of the main terpenes of the marijuana plant.
Myrcene is the most common terpene in marijuana, and gives rise to most aromatic cannabis oils.
Myrcene is not only present in cannabis, but can also be found in other plants, for example in hops. It is known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and pain-relieving properties .
It has a sedative, calming and relaxing effect, increases the psychoactive effects of THC and is characterized by an aroma similar to that of cloves.
Limonene is the second most common terpene in marijuana. As the name suggests, it has a strong citrus odor and is a natural insect repellent, one of the aromatic terpenes that plants use as a natural defense against predators.
It is known for its antifungal and anti-bacterial properties .
It passes easily through the blood-brain barrier, and is known to help increase mental focus and attention , as well as promoting overall well-being. Some products on the market today use limonene to treat depression and anxiety.
Linalool is a terpene characterized by a strong floral odor , dampened by slightly spicy notes. Linalool is the terpene partly responsible for the calming and sedative effects of some cannabis strains .
It induces a sedative and calming effect and is used to treat nervousness and anxiety. It is thought to have analgesic and anti-epileptic properties .
Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene present in many plants, characterized by a spicy flavor typical of spices such as black pepper. It is known to be a strong anti-inflammatory and local analgesic .
Cloves, known as a natural remedy for toothache, contain good quantities of this terpene. Beta-caryophyllene is also said to have antifungal properties .
Pinene is a very fragrant terpene, whose aroma is reminiscent of pine and fir trees . It is contained in large quantities in rosemary and sage.
Like many others, pinene is also known for its local anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties , and is also used as an expectorant , due to its widening effect on the bronchi. Research has shown that pinene can positively affect memory, energy and concentration .
Terpineol(-alpha) is one of the terpenes with a sedative and relaxing effect , often present in combination with pinene.
It has the scent of lime blossom , often covered by the aroma of pinene. It is often used to make perfumes and cosmetics.
Nerolidol has a woody aroma , reminiscent of bark. It is found in ginger and lemongrass and is often used as a flavoring agent in produce manufacturing.
In terms of therapeutic benefits, nerolidol is thought to be antifungal and is effective for treating malaria. Nerolidol has a sedative and relaxing effect .
Borneol has a fresh aroma of mint and camphor . This terpene has a long history in Chinese medicine, where it is used to treat stress and fatigue .
It is a local anesthetic with sedative and antispasmodic properties . It is also a natural insect repellent.
Eucalyptol is the terpene found in eucalyptus essential oil. It has a fresh minty smell . It is thought to have pain-relieving properties as well as the ability to improve concentration. For this reason, it is often found in plants used for meditation.
Properties of terpenes
Hemp terpenes are able to reduce the anxiolytic effects caused by THC while terpenoids, a subgroup of terpenes have great healthy properties for humans such as: increasing blood flow, improving cortical activity, eliminating respiratory pathogens, effects positive in the treatment of pain, inflammation and bacterial infections.
Among all the Terpenes present in Cannabis, the most significant, with their own specific characteristics, are:
Myrcene : antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal.
Caryophyllene : antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-pain.
Pinene : bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory.
Limonene : anxiolytic, anti-depressant, anti-fungal, gastric reflux.
Linalool : pain reliever, anti-depressant, insomnia, seizures.
Humelene : anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-pain.
Myrcene is the terpene most present in the Cannabis plant and is well known for its therapeutic properties in the treatment of pain in general and inflammation, it has analgesic effects and can be used to reduce fatigue, both psychological and muscular.
Limonene, another terpene present within Cannabis, with its unmistakable lemon smell, is antidepressant, anxiolytic, immunostimulant, and antibacterial.
Another terpene present in good quantities within legal cannabis is pinene , famous for being present in large quantities in trees such as pine and also for its properties: expectorant, bronchodilator, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
When all the cannabinoids present in Cannabis act in synergy with each other, and in turn with the endocannabinoid system present in the human body, the famous " Entourage Effect" is given rise to , a phenomenon which is still being examined by science, and which has not yet been totally unraveled but which represents a good starting point to have landing coordinates.
There are many studies that investigate this aspect in depth, also because the cannabis plant contains at least 400 compounds and over 110 officially recognized cannabinoids which, "working" in synergy with each other, can transform themselves into agents with strong therapeutic value.
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