Terpenes are the fragrant oils that give cannabis its distinctive flavors and smells, ranging from citrus to pine, to berry, and mint. These organic compounds provide aroma and flavor not only in cannabis but also a variety of other organisms, including herbs, fruits, and plants. And they do more than simply provide scent.
Terpenes are secreted in the flower’s sticky resin glands, the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD. They are formed inside cannabis trichomes and increase in production with light exposure. Like those cannabinoids, terpenes can provide therapeutic benefits. In fact, terpenes and cannabinoids are believed to work together through a process known as the entourage affect. In this way, certain terpenes can moderate how much of the psychoactive THC is absorbed by the body, thereby controlling potency.
Over 100 terpenes have been identified so far, and every strain has a unique profile. The most common are Limonene, Humulene, Pinene, Linalool, Caryophyllene, and Myrcene. These different compounds can provide varying medical benefits used to manage pain, alleviate stress, and treat inflammation and muscle spasms. Leafly has an infographic detailing the most common of these compounds and their corresponding aromas, effects, boiling points, medical benefits, and more. For other, not-so-common terpenes, WeedMaps developed a health benefit chart to help in identifying more potential applications.
As the medical marijuana markets continue to grow, the demand for lab-tested products grows alongside it. Cannabis testing is the scientific process of measuring different chemicals and compounds in the product. Testing can measure beneficial components like cannabinoids and terpenes, or even undesirable contaminants such as pesticides and mold. Research now shows that strains have unique compound profiles built by a specific composition of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Almost everything that is known about cannabis compounds is a result of studying their properties in isolation. There is still research to be done in order to understand exactly how terpenes enhance the other health benefits of the cannabis plant. Today, companies like Blue River Terpenes and the Werc Shop are already at work studying and innovating in this new field.
In the past, research on cannabis compounds has been focused on cannabinoids, so the world is just now starting to understand the distinctions between terpenes and how they appear to be the next frontier in cannabis connoisseurship.
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