Terpenes: know them, understand them, identify them, love them. What are they? How are they related to cannabis? What are the top 10 terpenes in marijuana? Continue reading, and you might just find out.
Terpenes are the different compounds found within plants – including cannabis – that are responsible for the plant’s smells and flavors. They are found in essential oils that are secreted by the plant's flower. The glands that secrete these oils also produce other cannabis compounds, such as THC and CBD. These oils can be extracted through a process of vaporization.
There are around 200 different variations of terpenes that have been found in cannabis plants.
The Benefits of Terpenes
Each terpene brings something unique to the table. Whether that's a specific aroma (think of the therapeutic lavender smell that erupts from your bubble bath) or a medicinal quality (that same lavender oil doubles as an all-natural sleep aid), terpenes have a wealth of gifts to give.
Terpenes also help their plant of origin. Part of their purpose is being a defense mechanism, helping their flowery host to fend off insects, bacteria, and other invaders.
These oils are extracted and then spread out throughout the real world and are used in everyday products. Terpenes come from all plants, in addition to cannabis, and can be found nearly everywhere, from perfumes to cleaning supplies to Eastern medicines. Knowing the associated traits of each terpene can be beneficial, as that information can help users best navigate and discover the terpenes best suited to their needs, if not just for the sake of better understanding the flavors and aromas they consume.
Top 10 Cannabis Terpenes
Humulene is hoppy. H for humulene, H for hoppy. Armed with its beer-like smell, humulene is usually found in sativa strains, hops (no surprise there), and spices like Vietnamese coriander. It's a popular addition to traditional Chinese medicines because it offers very helpful properties for maintaining excellent health; bacteria, tumors, and inflammation better watch out – humulene is anti-bacterial, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory. As an extra bonus, humulene can be used as a tool for weight loss: it's a natural appetite suppressor (maybe it's the pungent hoppy smell) that helps users stay away from snacks.
Alpha-pinene (?-pinene) is a godsend, especially in any pine-loving household. This terpene is responsible for fresh pine and fir scents. It combines the best that nature has to offer – both conifer and non-coniferous plants, such as citrus fruits, balsamic resin, and pine woods are common producers of alpha-pinene. Look for an extra dose of pinene in orange peels, rosemary, basil, parsley, dill, and rosemary. The major benefits of this terpene are plentiful; besides smelling fresh, it's also anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, helps to improve airflow to the lungs, promotes alertness, has cancer-fighting agents, and helps to counter short-term memory loss. Next time you find yourself in the middle of nature, take a long, deep breath.
After alpha comes beta. The beta-pinene has many similar properties to its alpha relative. For example, it still offers that refreshing woody and green pine-like smell and is just as commonly secreted by forested plants and trees. It's commonly used as a flavoring and fragrance agent, used in recipes for cooking and essential oils for its medicinal benefits. Those healthy perks, which can also be accessed through strains of sativa and indica cannabis, include anti-depressant and antibacterial properties. This terpene is known to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression and is a common additive to folk medicine. It's also a great antibacterial aid, reducing and fighting off harmful bacteria in the body.
If you've ever been forced to moisturize your chest with a whopping dollop of Vick's VapoRub, then you’ve experienced the power of camphor. This terpene is the main ingredient in the vapor rub, plus several others. Armed with a pronounced aroma, camphor is known for its extensive list of medicinal properties. It's typically added to products that are used topically, to relieve pain, clear the system of phlegm, reduce itching, treat minor burns, clear earwax, and fight infections. Fungal invaders, including osteoarthritis, cold sores, warts, hemorrhoids, and toenail fungus, can all be taken down with camphor.
What do basils, peppers, lavender, cinnamon leaves, and cloves all have in common? Besides being described as a little peppery, each of these spices contains beta-caryophyllene. This long-named terpene is the only terpenoid known to directly interact with the human body's CB2 receptors within the endocannabinoid system. It has been recognized as a non-psychoactive agent with the incredible potential to aid in cancer treatment. For now, until further research is available, beta-caryophyllene is a common ingredient in chewing gum.
Best known for its floral and lavender odors, linalool is a pleasant-smelling terpene produced in a wide collection of fragrant plants, like citrus, coriander, rosewood, and birch, and can be found in many common, everyday products. Thanks to its fresh lavender scent, linalool is a fragrant addition to cleaning supplies plus bath and beauty products. Linalool has been a staple in the natural health world for hundreds of years, used as a cure for sleepless nights. A little linalool, a lotta rest. In addition, linalool is a tool often used to cope with mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychosis. If that weren't enough, this terpene also has properties that give the body an extra immune boost
Camphene is a boss in the terpene world. This oil emits a very pungent smell and vaporizes at room temperature. In addition to its cannabis roots, camphene can also be found as the main ingredient in several different oils, including ginger oil, camphor oil, citronella oil, neroli oil, valerian oil, and cypress oil. This is because it's often used commercially as a food and perfume additive, plus it's also used to make insecticides. It's a renaissance terpene, to be sure.
There are several remedial properties linked to camphene. First, it's anti-fungal. Nobody likes fungal infections, dysentery, dermatitis, or athlete's foot, which is where camphene comes in and saves the day. Second, camphene is antibiotic. This terpene is helpful in fighting many different types of infections that affect the respiratory system, like viral, bacterial, and fungal. If you've got a bad case of congestion, even to the point of bronchitis, a handy dose of camphene will help clear it right up. A migraine? A cough? A cold? Camphene can help with those headaches too.
It can also be used as a topical solution, usually as a paste or ointment, that can help heal diseases, bug bites, burns, and other problems associated with irritated skin. Last, camphene is an antioxidant. When mixed with vitamin C, camphene can help repair damage done to the body by stress, fixing up nerves, reducing blood pressure, and calming inflammation.
Myrcene is earthy, herbal, and musky. This terpene is one of the most common of the oils secreted by cannabis and is closely associated with the smells and flavors of marijuana. Many of myrcene's properties are tied in with the stereotypes most commonly associated with weed: high doses of myrcene can lead to extreme lethargy, causing laziness and sleepiness. Variations of the indica cannabis plant can contain up to 60% of this terpene, which is very telling of the side effects (which tend to help with issues like insomnia).
Other perks include myrcene's anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, which are great for pain relief. It also helps speed up the psychoactive properties in THC, making for a fast and efficient high.
If "limonene" sounds like "lemon," you've got the right idea. This terpene is an introduction to the world of citrus and can be found throughout oranges, lemons, and limes. Limonene is a happy-go-lucky oil, credited for uplifting moods and attitudes – a side effect of a pleasant smell and flavor. It's quick-acting and usually starts affecting the body as soon as it's inhaled. The associated bonuses of limonene are weight loss and antifungal/cancer-fighting properties, in addition to its ability to produce a "good vibes only" outlook.
Citral, as its name suggests, is super citrusy. This terpene has a pretty strong lemon flavor, it’s used in the production of vitamin A, and it’s a strong ingredient in lemongrass. Lemongrass is a known agent of weight loss and dieting, aiding with a healthy metabolism. Other effects of citral are sedative, antiviral, and antibacterial.
Alpha-bisabolol is known for its medicinal use in chamomile. It's not just your average cup of tea- this terpene-infused medicine has many uses tied in with skin. It's often found in body products like makeup, cleansers, lipsticks, lotions, moisturizers, anti-aging creams, and sunscreens. Alpha-bisabolol acts as an anti-irritant, stimulates and promotes healing processes within the skin, reduces sunburn, slows down the signs of aging, soothes irritation by relaxing the skin, is a natural moisturizer, and helps to fight bad bacteria, even including some forms of cancer cells. The aromas of alpha-bisabolol are floral and soothing.
Used as a topical on the skin and gums, eucalyptol is a terpene with a reputation for fighting bacteria and lowering inflammation. It's an antioxidant that has been used to treat Alzheimers, battle cancer, and flush out the sinuses and digestive system. Eucalyptol has a spicy, cool, and mint flavor profile similar to camphor, and is a genuine warrior to all the major ailments that threaten the human body.
Beat insomnia with terpinolene, a terpene found in both cannabis and many other plants. Terpinolene is aromatic dynamite, which is why it's a common addition to bath and body products, especially in the soap and perfume departments. It's a little piney, with subtle floral accents that are both pleasant for the nose and medicinally beneficial to the body. This terpene is known to depress the central nervous system, making for an excellent sleep inducer and remedy to anxiety.
Delta 3 Carene
The best characteristic of delta 3 carene is its anti-inflammatory propriety. Because of this, it's used to treat arthritis, bursitis, and fibromyalgia. In addition to cannabis, this terpene is also produced by rosemary, pine, basil, bell pepper, and cedar, carrying a sweet cedary aroma with hints of citrus. As an added bonus, delta 3 carene is also a helpful solution to treat runny noses and tears. It is, however, also known as the reason that cannabis causes cottonmouth and red-eye, since it has the ability to reduce bodily fluids drastically.