The Science of Cannabis: Terpenes

As you are learning more and more about cannabis, you will find terms that are thrown out there repeatedly… terms like distillate, trichomes, and activated hash oil. One of the terms that you may often encounter is “terpenes.” So what are terpenes and why do they even matter anyway?

On a basic level terpenes are the smells or aroma that a plant produces and are not exclusive to just the cannabis plant. They are a large and diverse class of biological compounds produced by thousands of varieties of plants, citrus, and herbs. These essential oils are widely used as fragrances in perfume, in medicine, and alternative medicine like aromatherapy. These strongly scented essential oils are produced in the plant’s resin glands, the same ones that secrete CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids in cannabis plants. There are over 100 types of terpenes that have been identified thus far.

Aside from some beautiful fragrances and flavors, terpenes are a necessary component to overall plant health. Many terpenes deter insects, repel predators, or protect the plant from environmental stressors. But what do terpenes do for us?

Just like cannabinoids, terpenes (terpenoids) bind to receptors in the brain to produce various effects. Since cannabinoids and terpenes are related it is no surprise that terpenes would trigger the body’s endocannabinoid receptors just like cannabinoids do. These terpenes interact with cannabinoids to change the psychoactive experience in what’s called the “entourage effect.” (Yes, another buzzword.) This synergistic effect is triggering an area of interest for scientists studying the endocannabinoid system. By learning and exploring the benefits of different ratios of terpenes to cannabinoids they can help to better treat certain illnesses.

Terpenes also have different medicinal benefits. For instance, Myrcene (earthy smell with a hint of citrus) aids in the faster absorption of THC and other cannabinoids and induces relaxation and/or sleep while Limonene (citrus smell) can increase serotonin levels, making you feel happier or more elated.

So the next time you vape a specific strain, take note of some of the aromatic undertones. Those aromas may be helping you more than you think.

About Dominic Castellano

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