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What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are organic compounds found in all kinds of plants and are particularly important in medicinal cannabis. They give everything from rosemary to lemon their unique flavors and are responsible for the effects and aromas of different cannabis strains. 

How do terpenes work?

Terpenes are not cannabinoids, but they do come from the same part of the medicinal cannabis plant and work on your endocannabinoid system. When terpenes are combined or taken with cannabinoids, each can boost the benefits of the others. This is known as the “entourage effect”.  

Are Indica and Sativa strains determined by terpene profile?

The simple answer is yes. Terpenes are known to change the way cannabinoids, like THC, interact with our brain. The type of terpenes present in a strain, as well as the concentration of the terpenes, can determine the type of high you can potentially experience.  

Common Terpenes

There are more than 20,000 terpenes in the plant world and over two-hundred in cannabis alone, but there are a few key terpenes that have particular medicinal benefits: 

  • Myrcene – Myrcene is the most abundant of all cannabis terpenes. In fact, some varieties of cannabis contain up to 60% of myrcene alone.  Scent: fruity and earthy; Potential benefits: calming, muscle relaxant. 
  • Caryophyllene – Caryophyllene, or beta-caryophyllene, is a predominant terpene found in many cannabis strains. Scent: spicy, woody, cloves; Benefits: pain reliever, gastroprotective.  
  • Limonene – Giving off a bright, citrusy smell, limonene is the second-most abundant terpene in all cannabis strains. Scent: lemon, citrus; Benefits: stress relief, reduces acid reflux. 
  • Linalool – Linalool is most responsible for the distinct cannabis smell. Boasting rich, spicy and floral notes, linalool occurs in more than 200 species of plants and is most commonly known for giving lavender its distinct scent. Scent: floral, lavender; Benefits: calming, anesthetic, anti-convulsant, pain reliever.  
  • Pinene – As its name might suggest, pinene terpenes have a rich pine aroma. Also found in pine trees and various conifers, the sharp scent of pinene is often the first note you’ll recognize when smelling a pinene-rich cannabis strain. Scent: pine, rosemary; Benefits: memory retention, anti-inflammatory.  

 

A Few FAQs

Does all medicinal cannabis contain terpenes? All un-processed forms of cannabis, like flower, naturally contain terpenes.

Will terpenes make me feel “high”? No, terpenes do not have the same cognitive effects as THC, but they can still make you feel calm, uplifted, or relaxed, depending on which you take. 

Which terpenes are the best? No terpene is better or worse than the others. Which you choose comes down to how you want to feel and what benefits you’re seeking. 

How do I add terpenes to my care?

If you have more questions about terpenes in cannabis, feel free to talk with one of our knowledgeable patient care specialists.  

Sources: 

Backes, M., Weil, A. (2017). In Cannabis Pharmacy: The practical guide to medical marijuana (pp. 45-48) and Ahmad, S., Hill, K.P. (2021). Medical marijuana: A clinical handbook. Walters Kluwer. (pg 225) 

Have more questions?

Send us your questions in the comments and we will do our best to address them in our future segments.

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