Written by Ronan Beadnall
What is that beautiful fruity or musky smell from your hemp flowers? That my friend, is terpenes. Terpenes are the sugar, spice and everything nice that are produced in the plant. Each dominant terpene in a strain gives it its unique smell and flavor. There are more than 20,000 terpenes in existence, produced in a huge variety of plants. There are multiple terpenes in every strain of cannabis and these terpenes affect how the different cannabinoids work with the body. You’ve probably heard of Indica and Sativa strains, Indica giving you a relaxed calming feeling, and Sativa giving you a more uplifted and energetic feeling. This is due to the terpenes that are present in the buds.
Terpenes are essential oils just like all the other essential oils you have heard of. For example, lavender has been used as a calming oil for centuries and the compound that produces this feeling is the terpene linalool.
Linalool is also naturally produced in the cannabis plant and strains that produce this terpene are found to have calming properties much like lavender.
Terpenes are formed in glandular trichomes and secreted out through them, production increasing with light exposure. Cannabis has the largest number of terpenes per plant than any other plant on the planet. What makes them so special however is their intricate relationship with cannabinoids. You have probably not heard of something called the ‘Entourage Effect’. Tests on cannabis are indicating more and more that all the compounds in the flower act better together than separate. Isolation of one singular terpene can be useful for clinical practices, but when using personally it is always better to have the full spectrum of compounds in the cannabis flower working together.
The next step for the hemp and medical marijuana industry is to document the specific effects of each terpene and then modulating that with the different cannabinoids in each plant. By doing this one can tailor breed a very specific harvest for a very specific ailment. This would go a huge way to having medical marijuana legalized in more countries as one could regulate exactly what is in the flower and how it will interact with your body depending on your specific needs.
But there are even more creative ways to use cannabis and terpenes together. The field of cannabis cooking is growing larger and larger every year as more people have access to the flower.
Because terpenes are produced in thousands of plants, different herbs and plants can complement the terpenes in cannabis and one can use specific flowers to create flavors.
For example, basil contains terpenes a-pinene and limonene. If one were to use a cannabis flower that had these terpenes in it you could not only medicate the food, but also create a stronger flavor profile and increase the amount of essential oils in the dish.
Cannabinoids stimulate Cannabinoid 1 receptors in our very own built in endocannabinoid system.
These are mostly located in the brain and central nervous system, hence why they can be used for treatment of pain. Terpenes however stimulate Cannabinoid 2 receptors which are located all over the body such as in the gut, spleen, heart, kidneys, bones and lymph cells. Terpenes are serotonin uptake inhibitors (similar to anti-depressants). By consuming both terpenes and cannabinoids at the right levels together one can stimulate a whole host of natural chemical reactions all over the body that can ease pain, anxiety and inflammation.
The study of terpenes and their interaction with cannabinoids and the body is a huge step into breaking the stigma of cannabis products and one step closer to legislation of a plant that can provide un-addictive relief to all who need it.