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Whether you’re new to the world of cannabis or you’ve been enjoying the therapeutic effects of this miraculous green herb for quite a while, then you may have already heard about something called terpenes, a substance in cannabis that’s an integral component of how it affects the human body.
But what is terpenes really, and does it even have to do anything with that relaxing, euphoric experience that you get from consuming cannabis or cannabis oil? We’ll do our best in this article to answer that and more, so you can fully appreciate just what’s going on with every dose you take of marijuana, as well as make more informed decisions with every strain you’re buying.
Terpenes, or terpenoids, are aromatic metabolites that can be found in all plants, not just in marijuana. To put it simply, it’s what makes aromatic flowers, fruits, herbs and other plant life have their own unique and distinct aroma. When you catch a whiff of a flower’s attractive scent or if a particularly ripe mango smells sweet and delicious, what you’re actually smelling is the terpenes.
Currently, there are more than 20,000 terpenes naturally occurring in nature, and at least 100 of those are produced by the cannabis plant. Plants produce terpenoids not just to sell good to humans, but as an evolutionary measure to attract pollinators (bees, birds, and other animals) as well as to defend itself from predators. The latter is usually done by the plant smelling pungent or unappetizing, thus preventing them from eating the plant or any of its leaves and fruits.
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As we mentioned, terpenes is the reason why flowers, fruits, and aromatic plants smell like they do. As our sense of smell is ostensibly linked to our sense of taste, terpenes also have the ability to affect how something tastes, whether it’s a ripe fruit or an edible flower. The same can be said when it comes to marijuana, in that its smell, smoke, and taste largely depends on what kind of terpenes it produces.
That’s not all there is to be said about terpenes, however. Studies have shown that certain types of terpenes have specific therapeutic effects on humans. Pinene, for example, is the most common terpene in the world and can be found in orange peels, basil, parsley and pine. It’s known to improve airflow in your lungs, promote alertness and give you a shot of wakefulness if you’re feeling sleepy of lethargic. Limonene, another common terpene that is found in citrus fruits, are also found to elevate mood, relieve stress, and even get rid of chemicals. Basically, terpenes is the reason why aromatherapy is very affective.
How does this figure into the consumption of cannabis? Well, depending on what terpene is prominent on the strain of medical cannabis that you’re about to consume, you’ll experience their effect alongside the usual euphoric and relaxing sensations that come from the cannabis itself. So if you’ve chosen a particular batch of medical marijuana that’s got a more citrusy smell to it, then you’re going to have a more relaxed and mood-lifting high once you take in that dose. If you get a strain that smells more of pine, then you’re going to be more alert with your dose.
This brings us neatly to the specific terpene that actually affects the intensity and the duration of the therapeutic effect you get from cannabis. This terpene is called myrcene.
Of all the terpenes found in cannabis, myrcene is the one that has been observed to directly enhance the effectiveness of marijuana. Apparently, myrcene helps cannabinoids in marijuana (i.e. THC and CBD) to pass through the bloodstream easier, effectively bypassing the natural resistance of the blood-brain barrier.
This ensures that the desired effect of the marijuana is felt by the consumer or patient more quickly and much more intensely. Besides this, it also increases the effects of the other terpenes found in the dose, allowing them to play off each other. This is called the entourage effect.
So in essence, while terpenes is not exactly responsible for making you feel the therapeutic effects of marijuana—the credit for that belongs to THC—it is responsible in how you feel those effects, as well as what else you may feel, taste, or smell during the experience. Armed with this information, you can now have more control over the sensations that you feel with every marijuana dose you take, as you can simply pick out the strains that feature the terpenes you want to feel the effects of.
These are some of the main cannabis terpenes that you should look for when selecting your desired strain of cannabis.
Myrcene. As stated earlier, myrcene takes the dominant role in making the effect of cannabis feel a lot more enjoyable and intense. Besides this, it is also known for having a muscle relaxant and pain relieving effect. It can also make you feel sleepy upon taking your dose. Overall, it’s something you definitely want to be featured mainly in your strain, especially if you want the effect to last.
Linalool. Linalool evokes the scent of lavender, giving it a stress- and depression-relieving effect. It also aids sleep and induces relaxation in all who catches a whiff of it. As a bonus, it helps the body naturally produce Vitamin E, an essential element in having healthy and glowing skin.
Limonene. Limomene is found in citrus fruits, specifically in the peels and rinds. This energetic and zesty terpene has been shown to have anti-cancer effects, as well as treating respiratory ailments and aiding weight loss. Limonene is also thought to help with depression and gastric reflux.
Pinene. Like stated above, pinene is the most common terpene found in the plant kingdom. Pinene is known to have a memory-boosting effect, as well as the ability to make you feel alert in times of sleepiness of lethargy.
Caryophyllene. Ever put your nose near a pepper shaker and found yourself moments away from sneezing? Then you’ve just gotten a nose full of this particular terpene. While caryophyllene doesn’t have any physical effects, it does have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, alongside an ability to relieve muscle spasms and pain.
Humulene. Humulene whiffs like wood and earth after a rainy day—a very pleasant smell to be sure. It can suppress the appetite and relieve inflammation while also having antibacterial and pain-relieving properties.
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While it’s true that THC and CBD in cannabis are the main stars in any medical marijuana strain, the terpenes found inside them play just as important of a role and thus shouldn’t be underestimated. Savvy marijuana consumers and patients should definitely look more into the types of terpenes that their favorite strains come with, to better appreciate and handle the effects that come with their doses.
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In this eBook, we will be going through everything you need to know about culinary cannabis and how to enjoy this versatile herb responsibly.