Article by Gooey Rabinski, MassRoots
Of the many active ingredients in marijuana, cannabinoids — the miracle molecules that deliver most of the medical efficacy of marijuana — are not the whole picture. Some cannabis consumers may be aware of terpenes, the cannabinoid-like chemicals that give herb such a pungent aroma.
What most do not know is that terpenes also deliver therapeutic relief, just like their cannabinoid cousins.
Terpenes are produced in special secretory cells within the trichomes of the plant, the nearly microscopic resinous stalks that cover the flowers and sometimes leaves. This is also where all cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, are created. About 20,000 terpenes exist in nature; around 200 have been identified in cannabis (compared to 111 cannabinoids).
Like amino acids, terpenes are powerful building blocks within the plant’s physiology that aid in the production of vitamins, hormones, pigments, resins, and — yes, that most cherished part of the herb — cannabinoids. Cannabis plants release more terpenes when temperatures are higher.
Beyond odor, terpenes play several roles, including protecting the cannabis plant against predators like insects and animals. These special molecules constitute roughly 10 to 20 percent of the total pre-smoked resin in the trichome. It is estimated that 10 to 30 percent of smoke resin produced by marijuana comes from terpenes.
Beta-caryophyllene, also known as BCP, is a terpene that contributes to the spiciness of black pepper and is also present in oregano, cloves, hops, rosemary, and cannabis. It was first synthesized in 1964, but it wasn’t until 2008 that European scientists discovered that it has cannabinoid-like properties. Like many other cannabinoids and terpenes, BCP targets the body’s CB2 receptors, ignoring the CB1 receptors that are involved in delivering the euphoric high associated with cannabis and, more specifically, the THC cannabinoid.