Have you ever noticed what gives cannabis that unique odor? When you take a smell at a bunch of cannabis plants, for example, what you are smelling are the terpenes.
Terpenes are aromatic oils that make cannabis have distinctive flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine. For example, some strains smell lemony (limonene) or spicy (caryophyllene) or floral (linalool) or piney (alpha-pinene). Terpenes are secreted in the same glands that produce THC and CBD and the content is very different from strains to strains. There are many factors leading to different content, including climate, weather, age and maturation, fertilizers, soil type, and even the time of day.
Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and every strain tends toward a unique characteristic and composition. It is believed that the most fascinating characteristic of terpenes is their ability to interact synergistically with other compounds like THC and CBD. Some research claims that terpenes play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains.
Terpenes not only provide the smell, but they also have essential therapeutic benefits, as well. Each individual terpene is associated with unique effects. Some promote relaxation and stress-relief, while others promote focus and acuity. Here are five of the most prevalent terpenes and their potential medicinal value:
Alpha-pinene (aroma: pine) is a bronchodilator potentially helpful for asthmatics. Pinene also promotes alertness and memory retention by inhibiting the metabolic breakdown of acetylcholinesterase, a neurotransmitter in the brain that stimulates these cognitive effects.
Myrcene (aroma: cloves, musky, earthy) is a sedative, a muscle relaxant, a hypnotic, a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory compound. This musky terpene contributes mightily to the infamous “couch-lock” experience.
Limonene (aroma: citrus) has been used clinically to dissolve gallstones, improve mood and relieve heartburn and gastrointestinal reflux. Limonene, as an anticonvulsant, has been shown to destroy breast cancer cells in lab experiments, and its powerful antimicrobial action can kill pathogenic bacteria.
Linalool (aroma: floral) is an anxiolytic compound that counters anxiety and mediates stress. In addition, linalool is a strong anticonvulsant. Applied topically, linalool can heal acne and skin burns without scarring.
Beta-caryophyllene (aroma: pepper, spicy, woody) is gastro-protective, good for treating certain ulcers and shows great promise as a therapeutic compound for inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders.