Terpenes play a significant role in the way we experience cannabis. The distinct and unique cannabis aromas that we know and love, come from aromatic oils called terpenes, which are secreted in the trichomes. Terpenes are found in many kinds of plants beyond cannabis, and in a few types of insects. Terpenes have an important evolutionary function in plants. These aroma-heavy oils developed over time to ward off herbivores, attract predator insects that feed on a plant’s “enemies”, as well as attract pollinators.
Cannabis plants are known to produce well over 100 different terpenes, in varying concentrations and combinations, accounting for the variety of aromas our modern strains provide. The terpene content and
concentration of a cannabis plant will vary depending on the location on the plant where it’s synthesized. For example, an outdoor cannabis plant may emit a citrusy, insect repelling terpene from the trichomes in its upper leaves and branches, while simultaneously emitting a peppery, spicy terpene from its lower branches to deter larger animals from eating it.
Exposure to light, moisture, and changes in temperature, during growth, harvest, and processing, also affect terpene content and concentration. Terpenes dissipate into the air very easily and are the first molecules to vaporize when heat is applied to cannabis. When you observe a strong aroma upon opening a jar of flower, it’s the terpenes
rapidly escaping into the air. In order to preserve the terpenes in your flower and hash products, they must be kept tightly sealed, and away from outside air and light.
Terpenes, like cannabinoids, are currently being studied for their potential therapeutic effects. Similarly, to cannabinoids, terpenes are able to interact with different receptors and cellular pathways in the body and showing promise as valuable medicinal agents. Upon
consumption, terpenes are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through our fat cells. While hundreds of terpenes have been identified in cannabis, there are only a few that consistently appear on lab tests of our
flower. The predominant terpenes in Higher Grade flower are Pinene, Myrcene, Limonene, Caryophyllene, Linalool, Humulene, and Bisabolol. We have a small discussion of each terpene below, that includes scientific
research of isolated terpenes, and anecdotal cannabis cultural references. We are not offering any medical suggestions or claims about consuming our cannabis.
The terpene Pinene has the strong piney aroma characteristic of pine trees and their needles. Other than pine trees, Pinene is also found in dill, rosemary, parsley, and basil. It is a known bronchodilator and expectorant, meaning it opens or clears the airways. This fact may suggest that cannabis flower high in Pinene is potentially a better choice for those with lung issues. Pinene has an anti-inflammatory effect when absorbed through the prostaglandin pathways in the body, which are sites involved in inflammation, blood flow, formation of blood clots, and labor induction. Pinene is a known memory aid, and evidence suggests it could be useful in mitigating the effects of extreme levels of THC.
Myrcene is the predominant terpene found in most modern cannabis strains and provides the distinct “skunky”, earthy aroma that cannabis is associated with. High Myrcene concentrations are found in hops, a close cousin of the cannabis plant. Lemongrass, thyme, bay leaves, and basil all have significant levels of Myrcene, along with mangoes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that consuming mangoes before cannabis consumption can heighten the “high”. Strains with the highest concentrations of Myrcene tend to be Indica-dominant. The “couch- lock” feeling that is traditionally associated with Indica strains, has been connected to the presence of high levels of Myrcene. Myrcene, like Pinene, has anti-inflammatory value when absorbed through prostaglandin pathways. Myrcene has shown value as a muscle relaxant and anti-depressant in isolated studies.
Limonene is responsible for the citrus flavor that is characteristic of many strains, especially sativa varieties. Limonene is also found naturally in lemons, oranges, and grapefruit. It is a very potent terpene upon inhalation, instantly increasing serotonin and dopamine in the
regions of the brain associated with anxiety, depression, and OCD. Many of the essential oils that people diffuse into the air to life their spirits, or brighten their mood, have highly citrusaromas that contain Limonene. Studies have shown that Limonene provides physiological
effects via a combination of olfactory system (sense of smell) stimulation and direct cellular action. Tissue studies have shown that Limonene can cause auto-destruction of breast cancer cells. It has also been reported that Limonene can bring relief to people suffering from G.E.R.D and other GI disorders. Limonene is widely known for its anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant effects. Natural cleaning products commonly come in lemon and orange scents, and there is no doubt that the Limonene plays a role in their cleaning power.
Caryophyllene is naturally present in many herbs and spices like black pepper, basil, and oregano. In cannabis strains, it provides a spicy, funky, musky aroma reminiscent of cinnamon and cloves. Heavier concentrations of Caryophyllene are most often found in Indica strain varieties. It is the only known terpene that directly activates a cannabinoid receptor in the body. Caryophyllene is the main aromatic component of copaiba balsam, an essential oil that has been popular in South America for years as an oral and topical anti-inflammatory agent. Studies have confirmed that used topically, it’s a very potent pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. Studies of isolated caryophyllene have shown that it can provide relief from I.B.S. by protecting the stomach lining. Other research suggests that Caryophyllene has value in treating anxiety, and depression. In rodent studies, Caryophyllene was shown to reduce alcohol intake, hinting that it may have value in addiction recovery. Caryophyllene is known to reduce gene stress and is currently being studied for a possible role in increasing longevity.
Linalool is a very floral terpene that is found naturally in many flowers like lavender, rose and jasmine, and spices like coriander and basil. Extremely high concentrations of linalool are found in the lavender flower, which has been used for ages as a stress reliever, anti-inflammatory, and anti-depressant. In cannabis, Linalool can be found in both sativa and Indica hybrid varieties. Upon inhalation, Linalool influences neurotransmitters in the brain that have to with nervous activity, and the result is a reduction in anxiety and a relaxed, sedated feeling. Like Limonene, Linalool is the main component in essential oils that are diffused into the air to provide a sense of relief. Linalool also affects the neurotransmitters in the brain that deal with pain, slowing down neural activity and providing pain-relief. Current studies of Linalool are suggesting it may have promise as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, as it has shown to reverse the behavioral and cognitive impairments associated with the disease.
Humulene is a close relative of Caryophyllene, containing the same chemical formula but differing in molecular structure. Humulene is found in plants like hops, basil, sage, ginger, and cloves. Like Caryophyllene, it provides an earthy, spicy, mildly floral aroma reminiscent of a hoppy beer. It’s a common element in many therapeutic- grade essential oils, such as balsam fir oil. Humulene has shown promise as an appetite suppressant by affecting the satiety pathways in the brain, suggesting that consuming strains high in Humulene can aid in weight-loss. Humulene is being studied in tumor suppression as it can deprive cancer cells of the oxygen needed to grow and multiply. Humulene is anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal when applied topically. It has been shown to aid in allergy relief by reducing air-way inflammation upon inhalation. Humulene is a natural insecticide, and studies have shown it to be toxic to the eggs of several known Malaria carrying mosquitos.
Bisabolol is a floral forward terpene, with an aroma very much like chamomile, the plant it is most closely connected to. The scent is delicate and sweet, with hints of citrus and spice. Bisabolol has long been used in the cosmetic industry for its skin healing properties. It is very useful in topicals, as it helps other solutions penetrate the skin, making the topical product more effective. Applied topically, Bisabolol has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. Taken orally it shows value as an anti-parasitic, and as well as actively aiding in kidney function.