Every strain and phenotype of cannabis has a different and unique aroma. This versatile plant has a wide variety of smells that range from cheesy oranges to piney gasoline. Now, the science is finally explaining what marijuana enthusiasts have known for decades. The same compounds that create these familiar odors in plants and oils are the catalyst for the essences of cannabis.
Terpenes are the aromatic elements of any herb – usually found in the essential oils. Terpenes and Terpenoids are used interchangeably but have two different meanings. Terpenes are hydrocarbons while Terpenoids have been oxidized (dried and cured buds). This medical term has been used to describe and study the essences of plants (usually conifers and citrus trees) long before it was applied to cannabis. As medical marijuana becomes accepted by academics there are more and more studies being published. Most of the past research has focused on THC and the healing properties of cannabinoids. These compounds are extremely important and are largely responsible for the therapeutic qualities of cannabis. However, more botanists are beginning to investigate the medical and recreational effects that Terpenes have.
Just like each strain has a unique combination of aromatic compounds, each terpene (and combination) has unique effects. Smell and taste can have profound influence on humans. The essences themselves can alter our moods and brain chemistry. This realization has lead to a field of medicine known as Aromatherapy. This practice is defined as using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots, or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. The inhaled aroma from these essential oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. Some businesses and individuals are beginning to use cannabis-derived Terpenes in aromatherapy practices.
This proves that regardless of the medical benefits – Terpenes (taste and smell) can change the way a user experiences cannabis. A patient that enjoys the taste of their medicine may find that it can help calm their stomach or gastrointestinal issues. Similarly, the simple smell of a strain may induce energetic feelings of euphoria.
Terpenes are extracted in a clear liquid and are usually sold in small glass vials. They can be consumed orally and are sometimes combined with cannabinoid tinctures. The aromatic liquid can also be added to smoke-able extracts like shatter and wax. Smoking Terpenes provides a controllable flavor profile with additional medicinal and recreational effects. Terpenes begin to vaporize at around the same temperature as THC (157 degrees Celsius) – so they can be consumed using vaporizers as well.
Each Terpene has unique medicinal benefits and qualities. Cannabis connoisseurs can make predictions about a strain’s mental and physical effects based on the smell profile. Terpenes act on receptors and neurotransmitters and can act as serotonin uptake inhibitors.
The best way to describe the medical benefits of Terpenes is by examining a popular example – Limonene. Limonene is a very popular Terpene that is highly abundant in famous strains such as Super Lemon Haze and Lemon Skunk. Limonene is found in citrus fruits and not only gives the fruits it’s distinctive flavor and smell, but also the ability of citrusy oils to act as natural disinfectants. Limonene is Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Fungal, and has Anti-Cancer properties. These benefits are transferred to the cannabis user when they orally ingest, smoke, or vaporize Terpenes.
With all of this information, it is logical to conclude that Terpenes may be the most medically valuable aspect of cannabis. As governments and scientists continue research on Terpenes, we will be able to reap the full benefits of these essential oils. Terpenes are starting to be used for natural cleaning and health products because they have no proven negative side effects. Breeders and growers are able to cultivate specific aromas in their strains and help medical patients target their symptoms with accuracy. Licensed Producers and cannabis companies will begin creating more products with Terpene infusions.
This is one step in changing the stigma and story around cannabis. Terpenes will allow consumers to have a more customized experience when ingesting the Powerplant. These essential oils have both medical and recreational value. Most importantly, we need scientists to continue studying Terpenes and all of their potential benefits.
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Terpene examples and explanations below: