The cannabis industry is in full swing. There are many kinds of products that contain cannabinoids, such as drinks with CBD, gummies, or even soaps and shampoos. However, we have recently seen a boom in the consumption and inclusion of terpenes in a wide variety of products. Perhaps you wonder what terpenes are. Well, basically, terpenes are the organic compounds present in a wide variety of plants, especially in conifers. Terpenes have a strong odor, and they are produced by plants to chase away herbivores. Terpenes are commonly found in conifer resins and are used as fragrances in perfumery. If we make a list of cannabis terpenes, then we can identify at least 100 of them that have been found in cannabis plants.
In the cannabis industry, terpenes have started to gain more notoriety for their potential therapeutic properties. Nonetheless, we still don’t know to what extent or how terpenes contribute to health improvements. However, we know that certain terpenes can induce states of calmness, euphoria, or improve our concentration.
For years, the use of scents and aromas was mainly used in aromatherapy, which is defined as a pseudo-science by the scientific community. This is mainly because we haven’t scientifically proved their effects. In aromatherapy, essential oils are used to improve psychological and physical well-being.
What are cannabis terpenes?
There are more than 20,000 different terpenes, and at least 100 terpenes have been identified in cannabis. Terpenes give cannabis its characteristic scent. However, not all cannabis strains smell the same way or have the same terpenes. That’s why the smell varies greatly from one strain to the next.
The terpenes present in cannabis aren’t found exclusively in cannabis. For instance, myrcene, which is one of the most common cannabis terpenes, is also found in fruits such as mangoes, bays or hops.
Some sources claim that cannabis terpenes can intensify or milden the effects of cannabis. For instance, some strains can cause profound sleep, while others boost euphoria or have energizing properties for the consumer.
Common Cannabis Terpenes
As previously mentioned, myrcene is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis. However, there are many other terpenes that are commonly found in cannabis. Below is a list of cannabis terpenes that are commonly found in most cannabis strains:
As its name indicates, pinene is found in pine trees and other conifers such as juniper. There are two types of pinene terpenes: α-pinene and β-pinene.
α-Pineneis found in coniferous trees and rosemary. Apparently, α-pinene has anti-inflammatory properties and it is believed to be anti-microbial as well. Furthermore, some sources claim it helps to minimize the common memory loss reported by many cannabis users.
β-pinene is the other pinene terpene commonly found in cannabis. It has a woody smell and it’s present in other plants such as cumin, hops, cluster pine and clausena anisata.
Caryophyllene is commonly found in black pepper, clove oil, oregano, or lavender. Some sources claim it provides digestive protection, pain relief, and antibacterial properties.
Many plant species produce linalool. For instance, mint, citrus fruits, cinnamon, laurel, and even birch trees produce linalool. It’s widely used in perfumes and soaps, and it has been used as a method for pest control; some sources claim it is efficient as a mosquito repellent.
Lavender also produces linalool, which might have potential relaxation and anti-anxiety properties.
Limonene is one of the most common terpenes present in cannabis. It is found in citrus fruits. According to webmd, “limonene may block cancer-forming chemicals and kill cancer cells.” Limonene gives cannabis a characteristic citrus smell.
Humulene, or α-caryophyllene is mainly found in hops. Other plants and trees that contain humulene are pine trees, orange orchards, sunflowers, and even tobacco. Humulene is being researched for its potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
Terpenes and Health Effects
We have previously mentioned that terpenes are mainly used in aromatherapy. Nonetheless, recent studies have found that terpenes have positive health effects on us. In particular, terpenes have been found to be useful for their anti-inflammatory properties. Terpenes have been found to reduce lung inflammation and also neuroinflammation.
In addition, terpenes have been researched for their potential antitumorigenic properties. For instance, limonene has been found to reduce the proliferation of human gastric cancer cells. Moreover, α-Pinene has been researched for its anti-metastatic properties in melanomas.
Myrcene, which is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis, has also been studied for its cancer-inhibition properties. Myrcene has a cytotoxic effect on many tumors, such as breast carcinoma, human cervical carcinoma, human lung carcinoma, human colon adenocarcinoma, and leukemia.
Terpenes and Vaping
It’s not well known how terpenes can interact to induce positive health effects on us. However, some sources claim that smoking (plant combustion) destroys many terpenes. Furthermore, terpenes have their own optimal temperature, which is why smoking might destroy many of the terpenes present in your cannabis. On the other hand, vaping preserves many of these terpenes, especially if we can control the temperature to vaporize the cannabis solution.
Extraction of an adequate amount of terpenes is critical to achieving the intended medicinal benefits. That is why it is critical to choose the appropriate extraction procedure. The first and most critical step is to pick the appropriate flower in full bloom, when all the oils are mature, and then harvest it using the best-known procedure to preserve the flower’s original profile. Then, for the optimum terpene profile, fresh flowers must be extracted since any drying would compromise the terpene profile’s completeness. Additionally, it is critical to use the appropriate solvent that will not react with any of the plant components or impart a hue to the oil during wet flower extraction. When selecting a delivery method, keep in mind that terpenes’ therapeutic properties might be substantially compromised if heated over their boiling point. For more information on terpenes and their boiling temperatures, see our article.
To what extent terpenes are highly reactive molecules, it’s still not known to what extent heating, smoking, or vaping affect them. In other words, we need more research about terpenes to fully address their properties.
This article gives a list of cannabis terpenes that are commonly found in most cannabis strains. Terpenes have been used for decades in aromatherapy and they are currently being researched for their anti-inflammatory and even anti-carcinogenic and anti-metastatic properties. Nonetheless, we still need more information to draw conclusions about their properties and positive health effects.
This post was originally published on May 22, 2020. It was most recently updated on January 24, 2022