Intro To Terpenes

Intro To Terpenes

There’s something about the aroma of cannabis that soothes the mind and body. Whether it’s the sweet fruity taste of Pineapple Trainwreck or that skunky smell that bursts from a cracked bud of Sour Diesel, we know there’s something going on under their complex and flavorful bouquets.

Terpenes are what you smell, and knowing what they are will deepen your appreciation of cannabis whether you’re a medical patient or recreational consumer.

Secreted in the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD, terpenes are the pungent oils that color cannabis varieties with distinctive flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine.

Not unlike other strong-smelling plants and flowers, the development of terpenes in cannabis began for adaptive purposes: to repel predators and lure pollinators. There are many factors that influence a plant’s development of terpenes, including climate, weather, age and maturation, fertilizers, soil type, and even the time of day.

Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and every strain tends toward a unique terpene type and composition. In other words, a strain like Cheese and its descendants will likely have a discernible cheese-like smell, and Blueberry offspring often inherit the smell of berries.

The diverse palate of cannabis flavors is impressive enough, but arguably the most fascinating characteristic of terpenes is their ability to interact synergistically with other compounds in the plant, like cannabinoids. In the past few decades, most cannabis varieties have been bred to contain high levels of THC, and as a result, other cannabinoids like CBD have fallen to just trace amounts. This has led many to believe that terpenes may play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains.

THC binds to cannabinoid receptors concentrated heavily in the brain where psychoactive effects are produced. Some terpenes also bind to these receptor sites and affect their chemical output. Others can modify how much THC passes through the blood-brain barrier. Their hand of influence even reaches to neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin by altering their rate of production and destruction, their movement, and availability of receptors.Cannabinoid Profile: A Crash Course in THCa, Source: Source: http://wellsuitedforlife.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/halent-2011-cannabinoid-and-terpenoid-chart.jpg

The effects these mechanisms produce vary from terpene to terpene; some are especially successful in relieving stress, while others promote focus and acuity. Myrcene, for example, induces sleep whereas limonene elevates mood. There are also effects that are imperceptible, like the gastroprotective properties of caryophyllene.

Their differences can be subtle, but terpenes can add great depth to the horticultural art and connoisseurship of cannabis. Most importantly, terpenes may offer additional medical value as they mediate our body’s interaction with therapeutic cannabinoids. Many cannabis analysis labs now test terpene content, so any consumer can have a better idea of what effects their strain might produce. With their unlimited combinations of synergistic effects, terpenes will likely open up new scientific and medical terrains for cannabis research.

Most Common Cannabis Terpenes

terpene_icon_pinene

Alpha-Pinene, Beta-Pinene

dewy pine

Aroma: Pine

Effects: Alertness, memory retention, counteracts some THC effects

Formula: C10H16
Molecular Mass: 136.23404 g/mol
Boiling Point: 155 °C (311 °F)
Vapor Pressure: Not Available
Medical Value: Asthma, antiseptic
Also Found In: Pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley, dill

 

LD50 (Lethal Dose): 3700mg/kg for mice (Compare to Nicotine: for rats – 50 mg/kg,  for humans – 0.5-1 mg/kg)

Pinene is the main terpene in pine trees which gives them their characteristic scent. It’s a major constituent of turpentine and is also found in high amounts in rosemary and cannabis. Although pinene has two main isomers, alpha– and beta-pinene, alpha-pinene is the dominant one found in cannabis and what I will be referring to when I mention pinene within this article. Pinene is the most commonly found terpene in the world and is commonly found in higher concentrations in sativa strains like Jack Herer, Chemdawg, Bubba Kush, Trainwreck, and Super Silver Haze. Pinene is also crucial to our bodies because it forms the biosynthetic base for CB2 ligands in the endocannabinoid system.

Evidence shows that pinene can be a bronchodilator, increasing airflow to the lungs and helping with conditions such as asthma. Like many terpenes and cannabinoids, pinene is both an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, making it useful for a sufferer of chronic pain. Pinene helps fight cancer by encouraging apoptosis and being an anti-proliferative. Pinene is an antioxidant and even appears to aid in memory retention.

 

Therapeutic Uses

Analgesic – Relieves pain.

Antibacterial – Slows bacterial growth.

Anti-inflammatory – Reduces inflammation systemically.

Anti-Proliferative – Inhibits cancer cell growth.

Antioxidant – Prevents oxidation damage to other molecules in the body.

 

Currently Being Studied For

Anti-Inflammatory: A 2012 study examined pinene’s role in modulating inflammation in regards to Acute Pancreatitis, which is a complex inflammation disorder with an unknown cause. The researchers found that pinene does indeed have anti-inflammatory effects on controlled AP. A 2011 study by Ethan Russo, a cannabis researcher who works with GW Pharmaceuticals, strengthened our understanding of how pinene works as an anti-inflammatory. In 2014 pinene was re-examined to determine its anti-inflammatory abilities in humans and it was found to be a potential candidate to be a new anti-osteoarthritic drug. This means that cannabis rich in pinene can help with arthritis, but clearly this potential application needs further study.

Anti-Microbial: Pinene’s anti-bacterial properties have been known about since the late 1980’s, but have only seen further study in the past decade. This 2007 study, which looked at pinene as a potential treatment for infectious endocarditis, found both alpha- and beta-pinene to be effective anti-microbial agents. A study published in the January 2011 issue of Molecules found both alpha- and beta-pinene to be effective treatments for infectious bronchitis virus; what makes this fascinating is that viruses are not bacteria and are normally much harder to treat. A 2012 study broadly examined pinene’s role as a treatment for bacterial infections and found it to be effective with the effectiveness varying depending on the bacteria at play.

Bronchodilator: Ethan Russo’s 2011 study, Taming THC, vindicated pinene’s centuries of use as a folk remedy for asthma by showing that pinene works as a bronchodilator. Despite this benefit to the upper respiratory tract, pinene has not been shown to be risk free: as this 2002 study shows, prolonged exposure can irritate the upper airway. Irritation seems relatively minor, however, compared to its benefits as a bronchodilator.

Cancer: This 2012 study on mice showed, for the first time, that pinene could slow the growth of tumors but could not identify the mechanism through which it worked. A 2013 study looking at its effects on neuroblastoma cells found that pinene decreased proliferation of cancerous cells. Most recently, we learned earlier this year that pinene was also helpful at mitigating the damages of hepatoma carcinoma and was viable as a potential anti-tumor drug.

Memory: It was known as early as 2005 that pinene can inhibit acetylcholinesterase activity in the brain which has been shown to increase memory retention. Taming THC also explored pinene’s ability to boost memory by acetylcholinesterase inhibition and found it to help with retention.

terpene_icon_myrcene

Myrcene

hops

Aroma: Musky, cloves, earthy, herbal with notes of citrus and tropical fruit

Effects: Sedating “couchlock” effect, relaxing

Medical Value: Antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic; good for muscle tension, sleeplessness, pain, inflammation, depression

Also Found In: Mango, lemongrass, thyme, hops

Myrcene is the most prevalent terpene and is found in most varieties of cannabis. Myrcene concentration dictates whether a strain will have an Indica or Sativa effect. Strains containing over 0.5% of myrcene produce a more sedative high, while strains containing less than 0.5% myrcene have an energizing effect. Myrcene is also present in thyme, hops, lemongrass, and citrus, and is used in aromatherapy.

*High Myrcene Cannabis Strains: Pure Kush, El Nino, Himalayan Gold, Skunk #1, White Widow

terpene_icon_limonene

Limonene

citrus fruits

Aroma: Citrus

Effects: Elevated mood, stress relief

Medical Value: Antifungal, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, dissolves gallstones, mood-enhancer; may treat gastrointestinal complications, heartburn, depression

Also Found In: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint

Limonene is a dominant terpene in strains with a pronounced Sativa effect. It is also found in the rinds of citrus fruits. Limonene aids in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and mucous membranes, and has been used to treat anxiety and depression.

*High Limonene Cannabis Strains: OG Kush, Super Lemon Haze, Jack the Ripper, Lemon Skunk

terpene_icon-caryophylline

β Caryophyllene

peppercorns

Aroma: Pepper, spicy, woody, cloves

Effects: No detectable physical effects

Medical Value: Gastroprotective, anti-inflammatory; good for arthritis, ulcers, autoimmune disorders, and other gastrointestinal complications

Also Found In: Black pepper, cloves, cotton

β Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (CB2). It produces anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.

*High Caryophyllene Cannabis Strains: Hash Plant

terpene_icon_linalool

Linalool

lavender field

Aroma: Floral, citrus, candy

Effects: Anxiety relief and sedation

Medical Value: Anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, anti-depressant, anti-acne

Also Found In: Lavender

Linalool has a floral scent reminiscent of spring flowers, but with spicy overtones. It possesses sedative properties and is an effective anxiety and stress reliever. It has also been used an analgesic and anti-epileptic.

*High Linalool Cannabis Strains: G-13, Amnesia Haze, Lavender, LA Confidential

*Note: Not every batch of any given strain will have high levels of these terpenes as they are subjected to variable growing conditions. The only way to be sure is through a lab’s terpene analysis.

Terpenes

Terpenes, or isoprenoids, provide cannabis with its unique bouquet. The molecules are quite small and consist of repeating units of a compound called isoprene. Although less well-known than the major cannabinoids, terpenes are instrumental to the physiological and psychoactive effects of cannabis. The relationship between terpenes and cannabinoids, known as the “entourage effect,” ultimately differentiates one strain of cannabis from another.

terpene_icon_ocimene

Ocimene

Ocimene is frequently used in perfumes for its pleasant odor. In nature, this terpene contributes to a plant’s defenses and possess antifungal properties.

terpene_icon_terpinoline

Terpinolene

Terpinolene has been shown to exhibit antioxidant and anticancer effects in rat brain cells. Studies with mice show that terpinolene has a sedative effect when inhaled. In addition, terpinolene is responsible for many of the floral notes found in Jack Herer varieties.

terpene_icon_terpineol

Terpineol

Terpineol is known for its pleasant smell and is often used in soaps and perfumes. It is known to have relaxing effects.

terpene_icon_valencene

Valencene

Valencene is present in Valencia oranges and contributes to cannabis’ citrus aroma.

terpene_icon_geraniol

Geraniol

Also present in geraniums, geraniol emits a rosey scent that makes it a popular perfume additive. It is an effective mosquito repellent and shows a potential protective effect against neuropathy.

terpene_icon_humulene

Humulene

α Humulene contributes to the “hoppy” aroma of cannabis. This terpene acts as an appetite suppressant and exhibits potent anti-inflammatory activity.

Secondary Terpenes Found in Cannabis:

Phellandrene
Phellandrene is commonly found in the essential oil of plants in the eucalyptus genus. Its smell is reminiscent of peppermint, with a slight citrus tone. Recent research shows that phellandrene possesses antidepressive effects.

Carene
Carene has a sweet, pungent odor and is a main constituent of pine and cedar resin. It is used to dry out excess body fluids, such as tears, mucus, and sweat.

Terpinene
Terpinene is used as a fragrant additive in both the cosmetic and food industries.It is also considered to be a well-tolerated additive in the pharmaceutical industry. It has very strong antioxidant properties.

Fenchol
Fenchol is found in basil and is used extensively in perfumery. It is known to exhibit antibacterial properties.

Borneol
Borneol has a menthol aroma and is used as a calming sedative. It is also beneficial for combating fatigue and recovering from stress or illness. Borneol exhibits both anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects.

Bisabolol
Bisabolol is the primary constituent of German chamomile essential oil and has recently been shown to induce apoptosis in models of leukemia.

Phytol
Found in green tea, phytol is a diterpene that results from the degradation of chlorophyll. Phytol inhibits the enzyme that degrades the neurotransmitter GABA, which may partially account for its relaxing effect.

Camphene
Camphene is found in essential oils extracted from certain trees. It has recently shown promise for pain relief and antioxidant effects.

Sabinene
Sabinene is known for its spicy, oak, and black pepper accents. It has been shown to benefit liver function and digestion, relieve arthritis, and can soothe skin conditions.

Camphor
Principally derived from the camphor tree, camphor is readily absorbed through the skin. When applied topically, it produces a cooling sensation similar to that of menthol. Camphor also acts as a slight local anesthetic and an antimicrobial substance.

Isoborneol
Isoborneol is found in mugwort that exhibits antiviral properties. It is a potent inhibitor of herpes simplex virus type 1.

Menthol
Menthol exhibits analgesic properties and is used topically to treat inflammatory pain.

Cedrene
Cedrene is present in the essential oil of cedar.

Nerolidol
Nerolidol is found in oranges. It acts as a sedative and exhibits potent antifungal and antimalarial activity.

Guaiol
Guaiol is an alcohol found in the oil of guaiacum and cypress pine. It possesses antimicrobial properties.

Isopulegol
Isopulegol is a chemical precursor to menthol, and has a variety of promising routes for therapeutic research. Studies have shown that isopulegol possess gastroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, and reduces the severity of seizures in animal models.

Geranyl Acetate
Geranyl Acetate is found in a variety of natural oils, derived from citronella, lemongrass, sassafras, roses, and many others. It has a strong floral aroma with a fruity twist, and exhibits strong antimicrobial effects.

Cymene
Commonly found in the essential oils of cumin and thyme, cymene has documented anti-inflammatory effects. Research also shows potential protective effects against acute lung injury.

Eucalyptol
Derived from eucalyptus oil, eucalyptol has a minty, earthy aroma. It has been shown to possess potent antifungal effects.

Pulegone
Pulegone has a pleasant peppermint aroma and is a strong insecticide.

Sources – Leafly – Sclabs – Medical Jane –

 

Sc Labs

About Sc Labs

Innovating The Science Of Cannabis From Day One. In 2010, Jeff, Josh, Alec, and Ian opened SC (Science of Cannabis) Labs in Capitola, California and developed the industry’s first testing standards. These guidelines are now widely adopted by the cannabis community, regulators, governments, and many organizations. As our industry transforms, we’ll continue to support standards — helping clients meet new challenges, advocating for common sense regulation — and always keeping a strong connection to our cannabis roots.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked