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Terpenes refer to chemical compounds found in plants and certain insects, which account for the plant or animal’s distinctive fragrances. In addition to giving a plant its unique flavors, terpenes also attract pollinators while offering protection against herbivores. Although most plants usually contain one specific aroma, a plant can have hundreds of different terpenes. For instance, cannabis contains more than 120 terpenes, mostly around the plant’s buds.
If you observe a cannabis plant closely, you’ll notice the crystalline hairs covering the plant’s buds. These hairs are known as trichomes and produce both terpenes and cannabinoids.
Many people often use the terms 'terpenes' and 'terpenoids' interchangeably. However, they don't precisely denote the same thing.
Terpenes are hydrocarbons (compounds that comprise carbon and hydrogen), whereas terpenoids are hydrocarbons that have been chemically modified by various methods, such as oxygenation. But since all terpenoids are technically terpenes, we will use the two terms interchangeably throughout the post.
As we’ve already indicated, the primary function of terpenes is giving a plant its distinctive flavors. When you consume cannabis, terpenoids are the compounds that determine how extracts from the plant smell and taste. In addition to their flavor-enhancing abilities, terpenes also deliver specific therapeutic effects. Terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids to provide compounded therapeutic benefits known as the entourage effect.
The entourage effect is a theory that suggests that cannabis users can achieve optimal benefits by consuming products containing a maximum number of compounds from the plant. You’ll mostly experience the entourage effect when you use full-spectrum cannabis products that contain a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids.
Now, choosing the best terpenes comes down to understanding the specific strains that abound in these compounds. The following are some of the common terpenes in cannabis, along with their distinct effects and strains where they occur.
1. Myrcene: it's the most common terpene in cannabis and is mainly present in Mango Kush, Granddaddy Kush, Cherry Pie, OG Kush, and Blue Dream strains. The terpene comes in diverse aroma, including cardamom, cloves, earthy, musky, and herbal.
It produces sedative effects, making it an excellent compound for people struggling with stress, anxiety, and insomnia. In addition to cannabis, you can also find myrcene in plants like basil, thyme, lemongrass, and mangoes.
2. Limonene: As the name suggests, Limonene is a lemon-scented cannabis terpene that’s renowned for its anxiolytic properties. Besides its antianxiety effects, limonene also packs anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
Some of the cannabis strains rich in limonene include Super Lemon Haze, Jack Herer, Wedding Cake, White Fire OG, and Sour Diesel. Besides cannabis, you can also find limonene in most citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruits.
3. Pinene: Pinene is the most common terpene that’s widely available in forest trees, especially conifer trees like pine, and basil, dill, rosemary, etc. It comes in two forms, namely alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Alpha-pinene carries the aroma similar to that of pine needles, whereas beta-pinene smells like dill.
Pinene is famous for its anti-inflammatory effects and can help with inflammatory conditions like asthma and arthritis. In cannabis, some of the strains that contain pinene include Chem Dawg, Strawberry Cough, Critical Mass, and Snoop’s Dream.
4. Linalool: You’ve likely used lavender-based products at some point. In addition to their floral aroma, these products are also known for their calming and relaxing abilities, and those effects are attributed to the terpene linalool. Thanks to its sedative properties, you can use linalool to relieve conditions like stress and insomnia.
Other therapeutic effects of linalool include strengthening the immune system, pain management, and reducing inflammation. When looking for this terpene in cannabis, you might want to look in the direction of strains like Kosher Kush, Amnesia Haze, and Do-Si-Dos. Besides cannabis and lavender, linalool is also relatively abundant in birch bark.
5. Caryophyllene: One of the best things about caryophyllene is that it comes in a cocktail of aromas, ranging from peppery to spicy, woody, and even cloves. Caryophyllene is also the only terpene that also doubles up as a cannabinoid. It plays a significant role in anxiety relief, pain management, alleviation of inflammation, etc.
Caryophyllene also packs powerful antioxidant properties and can be used as an immune-booster. The terpene is abundant in strains like Super Silver Haze, GSC, Purple Punch, and Original Glue. Other plants that contain caryophyllene include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and hops.
6. Terpinolene: Terpinolene is one of the most dominant terpenes, which is believed to be prevalent in one out of ten cannabis strains, including XJ-13, Chernobyl, Ghost Train Haze, and Jack Herer. Like caryophyllene, terpinolene comes in a range of aromas, from piney to floral and herbal.
In terms of its therapeutic effects, terpinolene carries antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties. It also has uplifting effects. Hence it is a perfect remedy against anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Tea tree, nutmeg, conifers, cumin, apples, and lilacs are other plants to get terpinolene.
When choosing the right terpene, the first thing to do is establish the kind of aroma it delivers. That’s because we all have different preferences in terms of what we find tasty. Generally, many cannabis products manufacturers will want to include common terpenes like myrcene into their products, as these terpenes are reasonably easier to obtain. So, keep your eyes out on such terpenoids, especially if you’re averse to their flavors.
Another best practice when shopping for terpenes is to go for variety. Remember that besides their delectable aromas, terpenes also contribute to the entourage effect,
In the end, what you should remember is that terpenes are just as beneficial as cannabinoids and flavonoids are. So, before buying cannabis products, ensure that you first establish the terpenes that make up the product.
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