What Are Terpenes and How Do They Work?

Photo: Image via @marcalcock

As one in more than a hundred chemical components in the hemp plant, CBD is having its well-deserved spotlight moment within the discussion of cannabis and wellness due to it anti-inflammatory, pain relieving, and calming effects. However, there’s more information known about another element of the plant besides cannabinoids — terpenes. Today, we cover the basics of terpenes, how they interact with the body, and their applications in plant-based wellness routines.

Terpenes are organic compounds that play an important role in the aromas, flavors, and natural defenses of many plants. Over 20,000 are known to exist, and cannabis has been determined to have over 100. They are the reason fruits and flowers have distinctive, unique smells, and evolved to attract pollinators and provide plants a means of defense. More than simply flavor and aroma, cannabis-derived terpenes can also affect the intensity and duration of certain effects of cannabinoids.

Cultivating terpenes in cannabis depends on light, humidity, temperature, and even the methods of processing plants. Strains can be adjusted to produce more or less of certain terpenes in order to tweak the effect terpenes have on the body’s endocannabinoid system, contributing to feelings of alertness, relaxation, or a specific symptom relief.

Terpenes interact with the human body’s robust endocannabinoid system and work together with cannabinoids to potentially enhance their therapeutic benefits. They can have distinct, varying characteristics, like being particularly energizing or sedating, so understanding their role is crucial in identifying appropriate products for your lifestyle.

Specific terpenes can be controlled and adjusted for in products containing CBD, to highlight various effects or enhance flavor profiles, and their ongoing study is crucial to the understanding of their application in wellness. Many in the CBD space are looking to terpene research as one of the key directions the industry is heading.

Some commonly found terpenes:

Myrcene: Also found in mangoes and basil, myrcene is often used for sleep, but it also lowers the “blood-to-brain barrier,” meaning faster onset of active ingredients. It can be very abundant naturally, or controlled for in cultivation. It’s also commonly used for pain relief.

Linalool: This terpene is also found in lavender and has shown incredible anti-inflammatory and calming properties, as well as having a promising anti-epileptic effect.

Pinene: Pinene is one of the most common terpenes and can be found in cannabis, pine needles, rosemary, and parsley, and its potential effects include memory retention, anxiety treatment, and inflammation.

Limonene: With a distinct citrusy fragrance, limonene is a natural mood elevator and stress reliever, with antifungal properties. It is particularly effective in topicals because it enhances cannabinoid absorption through the skin.

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