Revised May 2022
If you know anything about cannabis, you’re probably already familiar with the term “cannabinoid.” The two most well-known and well-studied of these compounds, CBD and THC, have had plenty of attention recently — especially after the legalization of industrial hemp in 2018. What you may be less familiar with is the approximately 200 distinct terpenes that are also present in the cannabis plant. So, what are terpenes? And why are they important? Let’s get to it.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are organic compounds found in a variety of plants — including cannabis. They influence a plant’s flavors and colors, work to deter predators, attract pollinators, and defend against harmful microorganisms. And — most unmistakably — they’re responsible for a plant’s aromatic properties. If you’ve ever hiked through a dense forest of pine, peeled a fresh orange, or strolled past blooming lavender, you’ve interacted with terpenes.
What Do Terpenes Do?
Terpenes don’t just smell nice. In addition to the 200+ terpenes present in cannabis, scientists have identified tens of thousands of other terpenes in the natural world. And while there’s still a lot we don’t know about many of them, certain terpenes have been shown to provide health benefits when they interact with the human body. Case in point: essential oils used in aromatherapy consist primarily of terpenes.
In cannabis, a few of these compounds are more prominent than others, including limonene, pinene, linalool, and myrcene. So, what do terpenes do for the body? Let’s take a closer look at these more common cannabis terpenes and the health benefits they’re known for:
Limonene: Limonene is responsible for the citrus scent in the rinds of fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes (as you may have guessed from the name). It’s been widely studied and found to have the following therapeutic properties (in addition to others):
Pinene: Pinene is abundant in nature. It’s responsible for the fresh aromas associated with rosemary, basil, pine trees (surprise!), and more. Pinene has the following therapeutic properties:
- Anticancer (breast cancer and leukemia)
Linalool: Present in many plants, but abundant in lavender and coriander, linalool is know for the following therapeutic properties, among others:
Myrcene: The most abundant terpene present in cannabis, Myrcene is also found in hops, thyme, and lemongrass. This terpene is known to have the following therapeutic benefits:
What to Know About Cannabis Terpenes
Cannabis terpenes are what allow for the vast range of flavors and aromas associated with different hemp or marijuana cultivars. When consumed, terpenes contribute to the specific experience associated with any given strain.
CBD isolates (pure CBD) — while beneficial in their own right — are lacking the additional cannabinoids and terpenes naturally present in cannabis. Conversely, full spectrum CBD extract provides a wide variety of cannabinoids and terpenes that work synergistically to maximize the product’s therapeutic potential in what’s known as the “entourage effect.”
It’s important to note that while much is known about certain cannabinoids and terpenes, there are other less abundant compounds in cannabis that are still shrouded in mystery. Moreover, the subtle interactions between the hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes present in cannabis are vastly under-researched. This is due in large part to the difficulty of connecting specific effects to a single molecule, when really we’re “swimming” in a sea of interconnected and interdependent molecules.
As the market for cannabis products continues to grow, barriers to cannabis research will continue to be broken down, and more revelations will come to light regarding the interplay between cannabinoids and terpenes.
Want to Experience the Health Benefits of Cannabis Terpenes?
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