The word “terpene” comes from a now-defunct word, “terpentine”. Turpentine is distilled from tree resin and has many uses.
Turpentine and terpenes are similar and share some biological components. But terpenes are more complex and contain additional molecules, typically oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.
What Are Terpenes?
The most important thing to know about terpenes is that they’re naturally-produced organic chemical compounds found in plants. Terpenes have many beneficial and protective properties-they’re responsible for the uniqueness of each individual cannabis strains (all 700+ of them).
Regardless of where or how they occur, most terpenes have a very strong scent and also a strong flavor (making them unique to every plant).
To date, tens of thousands of plant terpenes have been identified. In addition to the well-known organic chemical cannabinoids THC and CBD, the typical cannabis plant contains over 100 terpenes in a single plant!
These terpenes give different cannabis plant strains many unique fragrances and flavors.
Very often, the name of the cannabis strain is chosen in part because of its predominant terpenes and their signature scent and/or flavor.
What’s the Difference Between Cannabinoids and Terpenes?
Even if you’ve ever tried any products derived from the cannabis family of plants, you’ve likely heard of cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids are a group of naturally-occurring, plant-derived chemical compounds with different psychoactive and/or health and wellness benefits.
Hundreds of cannabinoids exist – more than 480 to date have been discovered. While researchers still don’t know what each one does, medical science does know quite a bit about the two most famous cannabinoids – THC and CBD.
THC is responsible for the psycho-active, or mind-altering, properties of marijuana as well as a number of important health properties. CBD is linked to a number of health benefits, including relief from stress, pain, sleep disturbance and more.
What Are the Top 8 Cannabis Terpenes?
Because more than 20,000 terpenes have now been identified, of which more than 100 are known to exist to some degree in various strains of the cannabis family of plants, you may wonder how you can possibly know which ones will benefit you. Let’s take a look at the most popular ones.
Myrcene, sometimes written as B-myrcene, is probably the best-known of the cannabis terpenes. The predominant scent is often described as “musk,” “cloves,” “earthy” or “herbal”. Myrcene is a particularly important terpene for medical researchers due to its ability to help substances cross the notoriously difficult blood/brain barrier with more ease.
This property, in turn, can help provide health and wellness benefits more rapidly, such as the easing of pain or nausea, feeling of alertness or decrease of anxiety.
Myrcene has known beneficial properties as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain reliever), antibiotic and anti-mutagenic (prevents dangerous changes to cellular DNA such as those brought on by infection or cancer).
Pinene is the terpene responsible for that signature pine scent we mentioned here earlier. It is the most common terpene in nature by far. This terpene also has known anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, broncho-dilation and expectorant properties. It is also thought to have anti-cancer properties.
The terpene called limonene is responsible for the scent of citrus fruits. Its primary property is of elevated mood and a positive attitude. Limonene is a natural antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, insecticide, anti-cancer, and anti-toxicity agent.
Phellandrene is found naturally in turmeric essential oil. It has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties and is known to treat disorders of the gastrointestinal system.
Linalool is a terpene associated with calm and relaxation. It is found in quantity in lavender. It’s often used as a natural insecticide and pest repellant. It is helpful for promoting sleep, reducing anxiety and inflammation, boosting mood, improving mental recall and immune response.
Terpinolene is best known as the terpene responsible for sage and rosemary’s unique scent. This terpene works very well to repel insects and pests. It is also great for relaxation and promoting good sleep. Researchers are particularly interested in terpinolene’s cancer cell-suppression properties.
Camphene is being studied for its ability to fight cardiovascular disease by reducing harmful levels of cholesterol and triglycerides that lead to heart disease. It may also be important to prevent muscle damage, liver damage, and intestinal disease.
Beta-caryophyllene is the sole terpene known to interact with the body’s endo-cannabinoid system. This terpene is also shown to be beneficial to the CB2 receptor in the human brain. Beta-caryophyllene is currently being studied for its protective effect on the kidneys and its anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.
Where to Buy Cannabis Terpene Oils for Sale
Terpene oils are most readily obtained in essential oil form. They’re easy to find online as well as available in many grocery and health stores – though caution should be used when selecting a provider. Always choose a pure essential oil without synthetic fillers, artificial ingredients or “fragrance” (perfume) added to get the best results.
Can You Make Your Own Terpenes?
Yes. While terpenes are naturally-occurring organic plant-based compounds, terpenoids are oxidized, whether by natural or synthetic means. An example of an oxidized terpene, so thus a terpenoid, might be a dried cannabis flower or leaf.
The easiest way to remember the difference is to think of terpenes as hydrated and terpenoids as dried-out.
As a cannabis grower or hobbyist, you may be interested in making your own unique terpenes, or terpenoids. Depending on how you cultivate and synthesize your cannabis crop, you can accomplish this in one of two ways:
1. Grow hybrid strains by crossing two pure strains to come up with a unique terpene profile.
2. Add back terpenes after extraction to create new and interesting scent and flavor profiles.
Cannabis terpenes are an important component of cannabis and are responsible for the many health and wellness benefits that have come to be associated with the plant.