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What Are Terpenes And Tips To Use Terpenes For Their Benefits

Terpenes is a term most often associated with the cannabis plant, though they are naturally occurring aromatic compounds that can be found in many types of plants. The reason they are associated most commonly with the cannabis plant is that cannabis contains a high amount of terpenes. Being aromatic compounds, terpenes are responsible for creating the trademark scent that many plants have, including lavender, pine, and cannabis. Even the smell of a fresh orange peel is because of terpenes. While in nature, terpenes protect plants from infectious bacteria or viruses and animal grazing, in humans, also they offer numerous health benefits. Read on to find out what are terpenes and how they can help you.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic chemicals that lend a characteristic smell to many herbs and plants, including rosemary, lavender, and even cannabis. Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds, and they can even be found in some animals. When it comes to cannabis, terpenes are responsible for making certain strains taste or smell different from others. From the flavors, aromas, to even the colors, all can vary depending on the terpenes. Terpenes can also be used to make other products like pesticides, dyes, and cleaning liquids. Some terpenes are also known to have therapeutic properties.(123)

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But what exactly do terpenes do? Terpenes help protect plants from predators and inclement weather. However, researchers have said that terpenes in cannabis can be used to classify various cannabis products and also predict the different effects. It is believed that the terpene profile of a cannabis strain works along with the cannabinoid content of the strain, which is the amount of cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and other cannabinoids, to have certain effects on people. This is why people often associate different effects with the various strains of cannabis. For example, the terpene profile of two strains of cannabis that have the same amount of THC is capable of producing different experiences in people.(45)

Do Terpenes in Cannabis Get You High?

This is a common misconception. Terpenes do not make you feel high, though some are still considered to be psychoactive since these compounds can affect the brain. Even though terpenes by themselves cannot get you high, they may have an impact on the psychoactive effects of THC, which is the cannabinoid responsible for making you high when you take cannabis.

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Many regular users of cannabis and budtenders are found to be of the opinion that consumers should not place too much importance on the THC content when they are selecting a cannabis strain. Instead of the THC content, they should focus more on what terpene profile a certain strain as if they want to get specific effects. For example, some early studies have shown that certain terpenes can have benefits for some mental health conditions, especially depression, anxiety, and even bipolar disorder.(6)

How Do Terpenes Compare to CBD and THC?

CBD and THC are two out of over 100 cannabinoids that are found in cannabis. However, CBD and THC are two of the most studied and most abundantly available cannabinoids. Both terpenes and cannabinoids provide you with clues about what you can expect from buying a particular cannabis product. However, both of these are different compounds, and they interact with each other to produce the ‘entourage effect.(7)

The entourage effect is a hypothesis that says that the entire range of cannabis, which includes all the terpenes, cannabinoids, and any other compounds found in cannabis, work in a synergistic manner to produce the effects and sensations associated with cannabis. This means that a little bit of everything may be more helpful than taking a lot of one thing. For example, a study done in 2010 found that a combination of THC and CBD was far more effective in managing pain rather than using THC alone.(8) Another study from 2018 analyzed the effects of cannabis extract on breast cancer tumors in a Petri dish. The study found that the cancer tumors responded better to the cannabis extract instead of just using THC alone. However, the synergistic properties are usually attributed to the other cannabinoids and not terpenes.(9)

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It is essential to keep this in mind if you are thinking about using CBD for any therapeutic purposes. If you use a product that only contains CBD but finds that it does not have the beneficial effect that you expected, it might be a good idea to try out a full-spectrum CBD product instead. A full-spectrum CBD product, known as a CBD isolate, also contains terpenes along with other cannabinoids, including some amounts of THC.

Commonly Found Terpenes in Cannabis and Their Effects

There are over 400 known terpenes present in cannabis, though researchers only know the specific effects of just a handful of these terpenes. Here are some of the commonly known terpenes and their effects:

  1. Beta-caryophyllene: This is one of the main ingredients found in rosemary, hops, and cloves. This terpene is known for being useful in the management of anxiety and depression symptoms.(7)
  2. Humulene: Humulene is a terpene commonly found in ginseng. This terpene is known to lend ginseng its energizing effects.(10)
  3. Beta-pinene: This is the terpene you identify with the smell of a coniferous forest. Beta-pinene is known to have potent anti-cancer and anti-depressant properties.(11)
  4. Limonene: This is one of the most commonly found terpenes. Limonene lends a distinct citrus smell and is known to have potent anti-cancer properties. In studies conducted on mice, limonene was found to have anti-anxiety properties.(12)
  5. Myrcene: Myrcene is the terpene commonly found in mangoes. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties and is also believed to have sedating properties.
  6. Linalool: Linalool is the terpene associated with lavender. Linalool is known to help relieve stress.(13)

Tips to Use Terpenes For Their Benefits

If you want to explore terpenes to reap their benefits, here are some tips to keep in mind before you start using them:

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  • Make Sure To Read The Label: There are certain laboratory-tested cannabis products that include data on their terpene profiles, at least the top three terpenes that are prevalent, along with the concentrations of the amount of cannabinoid or terpenes in the product. Usually, this is around two percent.
  • Look For The Freshness Of The Product: The terpene concentration can sometimes reduce over a period of time, so it is recommended to search for products that have a recent packaging date. If you are choosing to get a flower, you can take a sniff before getting as you should ideally get something that is still fragrant and not stale. If the flower is fragrant, it indicates that there is still a high terpene content in flower.(14)
  • Avoid the Heat: There is some proof to show that the process of dabbing, a process that involves high levels of heat, can actually degrade synthetic terpenes. This can cause harmful byproducts from the terpenes. So until it becomes clear about how heat affects terpenes, it is a good idea to stick to either consuming edibles or vaporizing flowers at low temperatures.(15)
  • Be Careful While Using Cannabis Oil: You should also use caution while using any type of oil-based vaping product, as they usually have added synthetic terpenes. It is still unclear if synthetic terpenes are actually less beneficial than using natural ones, but they are often used for producing solvents and other similar household chemicals. It is, therefore, good to be cautious.
  • Keep Track Of What You Are Taking: It is always good to maintain a journal or note down your ingestion method and how you felt after using the different terpenes. This can help you understand which is the best terpene profile and what offers the best benefits.

Conclusion

Terpenes have a role to play in lending flavor and aroma to different cannabis strains while working in synergy with cannabinoids and other compounds in the cannabis plant to produce the psychoactive effects that cannabis is known for. Research into the exact role and benefits of terpenes is still in the nascent stages, considering that there are over 400 terpenes present in the cannabis plant. This is why it is difficult to make any claims about terpenes with great certainty.

References:

  1. Gershenzon, J. and Dudareva, N., 2007. The function of terpene natural products in the natural world. Nature chemical biology, 3(7), pp.408-414.
  2. Tholl, D., 2006. Terpene synthases and the regulation, diversity and biological roles of terpene metabolism. Current opinion in plant biology, 9(3), pp.297-304.
  3. Zhou, F. and Pichersky, E., 2020. More is better: the diversity of terpene metabolism in plants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 55, pp.1-10.
  4. Booth, J.K. and Bohlmann, J., 2019. Terpenes in Cannabis sativa–From plant genome to humans. Plant Science, 284, pp.67-72.
  5. Sommano, S.R., Chittasupho, C., Ruksiriwanich, W. and Jantrawut, P., 2020. The cannabis terpenes. Molecules, 25(24), p.5792.
  6. Ferber, S.G., Namdar, D., Hen-Shoval, D., Eger, G., Koltai, H., Shoval, G., Shbiro, L. and Weller, A., 2020. The “entourage effect”: terpenes coupled with cannabinoids for the treatment of mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Current neuropharmacology, 18(2), pp.87-96.
  7. Ferber, S.G., Namdar, D., Hen-Shoval, D., Eger, G., Koltai, H., Shoval, G., Shbiro, L. and Weller, A., 2020. The “entourage effect”: terpenes coupled with cannabinoids for the treatment of mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Current neuropharmacology, 18(2), pp.87-96.
  8. Johnson, J.R., Burnell-Nugent, M., Lossignol, D., Ganae-Motan, E.D., Potts, R. and Fallon, M.T., 2010. Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of THC: CBD extract and THC extract in patients with intractable cancer-related pain. Journal of pain and symptom management, 39(2), pp.167-179.
  9. Blasco-Benito, S., Seijo-Vila, M., Caro-Villalobos, M., Tundidor, I., Andradas, C., García-Taboada, E., Wade, J., Smith, S., Guzmán, M., Pérez-Gómez, E. and Gordon, M., 2018. Appraising the “entourage effect”: Antitumor action of a pure cannabinoid versus a botanical drug preparation in preclinical models of breast cancer. Biochemical pharmacology, 157, pp.285-293.
  10. Krieg, T., Sydow, A., Faust, S., Huth, I. and Holtmann, D., 2018. CO2 to terpenes: autotrophic and electroautotrophic α‐humulene production with Cupriavidus necator. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 57(7), pp.1879-1882.
  11. Cox-Georgian, D., Ramadoss, N., Dona, C. and Basu, C., 2019. Therapeutic and medicinal uses of terpenes. In Medicinal Plants (pp. 333-359). Springer, Cham.
  12. Park, H.M., Lee, J.H., Yaoyao, J., Jun, H.J. and Lee, S.J., 2011. Limonene, a natural cyclic terpene, is an agonistic ligand for adenosine A2A receptors. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 404(1), pp.345-348.
  13. Guzmán-Gutiérrez, S.L., Bonilla-Jaime, H., Gómez-Cansino, R. and Reyes-Chilpa, R., 2015. Linalool and β-pinene exert their antidepressant-like activity through the monoaminergic pathway. Life sciences, 128, pp.24-29.
  14. Breitmaier, E., 2006. Terpenes: flavors, fragrances, pharmaca, pheromones. John Wiley & Sons.
  15. Meehan-Atrash, J., Luo, W. and Strongin, R.M., 2017. Toxicant formation in dabbing: the terpene story. ACS omega, 2(9), pp.6112-6117.
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