What Are Terpenes?
The word “terpene” refers to the highly aromatic compounds that are found in plant materials of all kinds, this includes cannabis which has high concentrations of terpenes. Terpenes are what give orange peels, pine, lavender, other plants, and even animals their distinctive scents. This can be beneficial for the plants in several ways; attracting specific pollinators, protecting the plant from predators, keeping away harmful germs, and even helping the plant to heal from damage. Once plant material begins to dry and be processed, much like in cannabis production, terpenes are converted into terpenoids through oxidation. Terpenes can be found in a variety of products outside of cannabis, such as essential oils, where terpene oil blends are the base of a variety of alternative medicines.
Terpenes in Cannabis
Terpenes are present in cannabis, both hemp and marijuana, helping to produce the distinct skunky smell people either hate or love. Nowadays, cannabis manufacturers work with terpenes in all types of products, from cartridges infused with terpenes to terpene infused beverages. Each terpene produces a distinct scent, therefore growers and manufacturers have the ability to make a plethora of combinations. These terpenes are thought to be part of the building blocks of cannabinoids like CBD and THC and often a larger concentration of terpenes leads to high cannabinoid levels.
The Four Main Terpenes
But what terpenes are present in cannabis? There are thought to be over 100 terpenes present in cannabis but we will focus on four main terpenes.
Limonene is the terpene responsible for the ever present citrus scent found in cannabis and most often smells like oranges in its isolated form. This terpene is commonly found in perfume and food products that feature a strong citrus smell.
Myrcene is the most plentiful terpene found in cannabis and can make up to 60% of the overall oil found within the plant. It is also found in bay leaves, wild thyme, lemongrass, and most popularly gives beer its hoppy taste when added post fermentation.
Pinene is the terpene most commonly found in nature, found largely in pine and conifer trees as well as sage, eucalyptus, rosemary and bergamot. This terpene is also seen as a root inhibitor as it is known to prevent root growth of other plants around the tree it is present in, basically it acts as a natural herbicide for the plant.
Linalool is a special terpene that has two isomers producing two different molecules with two different scents! The left isomer produces S-linalool which is found in coriander and sweet orange while the right isomer produces R-linalool which is found in lavender, basil, and bay laurel. S linalool is a flowery soft scent while R linalool is commonly woodsy and astringent.
Sativa Versus Indica
Terpenes vary between each individual plant, even those within the same strain will have a different blend present in the plant. Indica heavy strains tend to be dominated by myrcene and have lower levels of terpenes like pinene and limonene. The heavy amount of myrcene is a contributing factor to the body sedation effect often associated with indica strains. Sativa heavy strains are often a more mixed bag and contain a large amount of myrcene and terpinolene which helps to produce the euphoric uplifted effect, though it is much less predictable than indica strains are.
But What Can Terpenes Do?
But other than providing the scent to a ton of our favorite products, what else can terpenes do? Limonene has been used in alternative medicine methods as a heartburn remedy and most prominently in cleaners that help to dissolve grease. Myrcene has been seen to produce anesthetic effects in studies on mice and pinene has been seen to have antifungal properties in similar mice studies. Linalool has been shown to produce a calming effect, which is why lavender is often included in sleep sachets, sprays, and bath products. These are just a few of the possible uses of terpenes and only covers the four most prevalent found within cannabis, the world of information about terpenes is endless. Check out our blog page for more articles about terpenes, their uses, and what Discover CBD does with terpenes.