Cannabis Terpenes: What Are They And What Do They Do?
The fragrant oils of the cannabis plant are made up of aromatic compounds called terpenes. These flavor molecules are also present in the oils of fruits and herbs, which have outstanding medicinal benefits for the human body. The awakening flavor of fresh orange juice in the morning stimulates the senses in a way that feels healthy and invigorating. A similar sensation can be felt after a hit of Super Lemon Haze. This popular sativa strain contains cannabis terpenes, including Limonene, which adds a zesty citrus flavor that can inspire energy and happiness. Not only is the flavor enjoyable to most cannabis consumers, Limonene is a powerful antidepressant and highly effective immune stimulant.
Cannabis contains over 200 known terpenes or “terpenoids”, which are located in the trichomes of the sticky resin on the buds of the female plant. The combination of cannabinoids and the variation of terpenes is what creates the specific medicinal effects of each cannabis strain.
The Entourage Effect
Cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids bind to brain receptors creating what some call “The Entourage Effect”. The theory explains why cannabis consumers are able to feel a balanced high instead of an intoxicating experience that can occur with high levels of THC consumption. The most well known therapeutic cannabinoid, CBD, is responsible for “modulating”, or regulating the effects of THC. The CBD molecules protect your mind from anxiety and help calm the nerves so you can enjoy the flavorful experience produced by the pot you're smoking. If you were to just smoke 99% THC by itself, the “high” you would experience could cause anxiety or confusion. When you consume a product that is balanced with cannabinoids and terpenes, the unique flavor will help direct the high so it is therapeutic for the body and mind.
Cannabis Indica v. Cannabis Sativa
Understanding the “terpene profile” of each marijuana strain allows us to know what kind of experience we may have before we even try the bud. Most dispensaries are putting each strain into three categories; indica, sativa or hybrid. The most simple way to explain the difference is that indica gives you a body high, sativa gives you an energetic cerebral high and a hybrid is a mixture of the two. This could be a good foundational rule when choosing the right bud for you, but it doesn't paint the full picture.
Technically, there are two main “species” of the cannabis plant. Cannabis Sativa is known to grow tall with skinny leaves. Farmers who grow hemp use a version of Cannabis Sativa that has been hybridized to produce strong fibers with no psychoactive effects. Farmers can pack hundreds of plants into a small area because the Sativa species likes to grow tall instead of wide. Cannabis Indica is known to produce a short plant with thicker leaves. With the right amount of space, this cannabis species is known to produce dense bushy plants with big buds. The Cannabis Indica species may have been brought to America from Afghanistan, which is famous for inspiring the popular indica strain enthusiasts refer to as Afghani. This indica dominant strain is known to sedate its users and produce a euphoric body high.
Types of terpenes and what they do
These days, cannaseurs don’t seem to care if weed is indica or sativa anymore, instead, they are looking for a specific flavor to cater to a specialized experience. Some of the most healing cannabis terpenes that have been isolated from the cannabis plant include Myrcene, Linalool, and Caryophyllene.
Myrcene, a sedative component in hops, is also present in many cannabis strains that are known to have narcotic effects. With hints of fruit and an earthy musky flavor, this terpene creates that couch-lock feeling you get from consuming indica dominant weed. Myrcene is healing people by minimizing inflammation and is known to induce muscle relaxation. Healing herbs and spices like wild thyme, cardamom, and parsley also contain the Myrcene flavonoids.
Linalool is a healing terpene that is found in the fragrant lavender flower and is known for being soothing and therapeutic. Imagine walking through a field of lavender; the aroma would probably be intoxicating! Medicinal herbs and spices like cinnamon and mint also contain Linalool and these are known to help regulate blood sugar levels while also soothing digestion. Linalool is a powerful anticonvulsant that can help control seizures in children and adults. Amnesia Haze has been said to be a cannabis strain that contains high amounts of Linalool and consumers say that smoking this bud produces an uplifted energy that induces happy thoughts.
Caryophyllene is known to be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. Train Wreck is a strain that has higher amounts of caryophyllene making this sativa strain perfect for anyone who experiences deep sadness. Clove oil also contains this terpene which is one of the reasons it is such a powerful medicine.
Most experts recommend vaporizing concentrated hash oils in order to save the cannabis terpenes from being degraded by high heat. The term “full spectrum” usually refers to cannabis products that are 100% pure cannabis, with a balanced amount of cannabinoids and natural cannabis-derived flavor. Concentrate companies are now creating products like Live Resin that can have up to 36% terpene content! The average medical dispensary flower contains about 5% terpenes so with levels getting to over 40% it’s no wonder your nose tingles after a big dab of “terp sauce”.
Are “Fruit Terps” good for you?
Cannabis extraction companies are using FDA approved terpenes that are derived from fruits and other natural sources. Most cannabis enthusiasts shy away from pot products that have “added flavors” and prefer to experience the natural weed taste they have been used to for decades. There have been no official studies on the long-term effects of smoking isolated fruit terpenes but there are plenty of people smoking E-Cigarettes and vaporizers that contain high amounts of “natural flavors.” Because we are so accustomed to eating food products with added flavor, smoking high amounts of fruit-derived terpenes shouldn't cause any harmful effects.
This is just the beginning!
Cannabis scientists are in the beginning stages of studying the magic of the marijuana plant. The combination of cannabis terpenes, CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids make the cannabis plant one of the most powerful healing forces this world has ever smelled.
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