Terpenes (sometimes referred to as terpenoids) are an aromatic compound found in the marijuana plant known to produce the smell and flavors that we’ve come to know from marijuana. The first thing many do when choosing a strain of marijuana is to smell it. The more potent the smell the higher the potency of that strain, researchers have found that in most cases THC is 50% more potent when mixed with terpenes rather than just pure THC. Cannabis is believed to contain somewhere in the ballpark of 200 terpenes, though so far only a few have been linked the effects often associated with marijuana consumption.
Terpenes, like flavonoids, are naturally occurring not only in marijuana but in other plants and fruits as well, and can serve as a defense mechanism against fungus and insects as well as combat plant diseases. Terpenes are actually approved by the FDA and considered safe for human consumption. These compounds and their antioxidant properties have led many researchers to believe that marijuana smokers have been protected from the carcinogens found in smoke.
While terpenes may possibly be protecting cannabis smokers it seems that they may also be responsible for the wild differences between marijuana strains that contain the same about of THC and CBD, limonene for example is a terpene that is known for its relaxing effects. The Berkley Patient Care organization believes that the terpene beta-caryophyllene (bcp) may be responsible for the stimulation of the CB2 receptors in the human brain. This acts as an anti-inflammatory that binds to your cannabinoid receptors. Interestingly enough it has even been accepted by the FDA as an approved additive making it a legal dietary cannabinoid.
According to the United Patients Group there are five specific terpenes that enhance the medicinal effects of marijuana. Beta-Myrecene, which is the most common terpene in marijuana, is believed to reduce pain and inflammation while giving you a relaxed feeling. Limonene, being the second most common terpene in marijuana, gives the lemon like aroma to many strains and has been suggested to support the reduction of tumors and bacterial infections. There is also alpha-pinene, believed to kill bacteria and beta-caryophyllene, which we touched on earlier that have been shown to stimulate the brain’s CB2 receptors. That leaves us with Linalool, often used in perfumes for its flower-like aroma, and it is believed to help reduce the stress, anxiety, as well as help reduce epileptic seizures in many suffering patients.
There is currently limited research as to which terpenes are found in cannabis and which ones actually enhance the potency of THC and marijuana’s medical effects. Many researchers currently believe that they hold the key to the next major breakthrough in the effort to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. They may also pave the way to legal medication production of a synthesized cannabis drug that can fully replicate the medicinal properties of the plant, something that current synthesized cannabis drugs have been unable to do.