What are Terpenes and How Do They Affect Us?
You may have heard the word “terpenes” or “terps” thrown around before when talking about cannabis, but do you really know what they are and how they affect us? Terpenes are one of the many compounds found in cannabis. Knowing what they do and how they affect your body can improve your experience with cannabis.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are naturally occurring aromatic compounds that produce flavors, smells, and colors in different plants and animals. Terpenes give cannabis its signature smell. They are also responsible for the variety of smells and tastes in different strains of cannabis.
Your favorite cleaning products or hand soaps may use terpenes to produce attractive smells. Some terpenes even have medicinal properties that can benefit your body.
Where do Terpenes Come From?
Terpenes are organic chemical compounds that can be found in most plants and animals, including the cannabis plant. They play an integral role in the survival of a species by giving plants a form of communicating with the world around them.
In the cannabis plant, terpenes grow on the cannabis flower and are vital to growth. Experts have identified almost 400 different terpenes in cannabis, though only a few have been proven to have specific effects. Certain cannabis terpenes give off an aroma that keeps predators away, while others produce a sun protectant color to shield the plant from possible damage caused by UV rays.
Do Terpenes Get You High?
Terpenes alone won’t make you feel high, at least not in the way that THC does. Still, some professionals consider them psychoactive because they have an effect on the brain. Others think that terpenes influence the way THC affects the brain, which gives consumers the traditional high feeling. In fact, many cannabis experts and budtenders encourage shoppers to focus more on terpenes when shopping for cannabis instead of THC content.
Common Cannabis Terpenes and Their Effects
Scientists have found hundreds of terpenes in the cannabis plant. Still, only a few have been found to actually affect the plant. Scientists have also shown how other cannabis terpenes affect the human body.
Myrcene is the most common type of terpene found in cannabis, specifically in Cannabis Indica strains. Myrcene is known to reduce stress, decrease anxiety, and produce an overall feeling of calmness. One 2022 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences also found that myrcene has anti-Inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
Limonene is another common terpene, often found in citrus fruits like limes and grapefruits. It’s responsible for the citrus aroma that these fruits and some cannabis strains emit. Limonene is more common in sativa strains, which are known for causing alertness. According to one 2021 study, Limonene has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and stomach-protecting characteristics.
As its name suggests, pinene is also found in pine needles. It’s also one of the most abundant terpenes in nature. Current research is investigating the different benefits of this terpene, including possible anti-anxiety and pain relief effects.
Caryophyllene is the only terpene in cannabis that also acts as a cannabinoid, directly affecting the brain’s functions. It has also been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Caryophyllene is also known to help relieve anxiety, reduce pain, lower cholesterol, and treat seizures.
Terpenes and Cannabis
The hundreds of terpenes found in cannabis are thought to have a synergistic effect on the way the plant affects our bodies. That is, the different terpenes work together in a plant to create distinctions in different strains of cannabis that affect how we experience each one.