Essential for the biological functioning of various plant species, terpenes also play a role in human health. In this guide, we’ll cover basic facts about terpenes, describe some of the most common types, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about terpenes and the plants that contain them.
Terpenes are fragrant, naturally occurring compounds present in many species of plants. Thousands of terpenes exist, capable of creating a virtually infinite variety of scent combinations that produce the unique aromas of our planet’s flora. Furthermore, terpenes are a component of essential oils in most plant varieties. Terpenes act in a similar way to an immune system for plants, fighting off germs and bacteria.
When inhaled by humans, terpenes in their various combinations can promote certain states of mind or emotion. Accordingly, terpenes support overall wellness and wellbeing. Many terpene compounds are also naturally anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and may help humans stave off illness and infection. In particular, fragrant terpenes help keep predators away while simultaneously attracting pollinators like butterflies and bees.
Tens of thousands of terpenes are currently identifiable, occurring in unique variations in plants around the world. Some terpenes are more common than others and are frequently known for their potential use in natural and plant medicines. Three of the most common terpenes include:
Myrcene is a common terpene highly valued for its powerful antioxidant properties that help protect against brain damage following a stroke or similar trauma. Furthermore, myrcene is a high in anti-inflammatory properties and may be effective against inflammatory conditions like types of arthritis. Found in plants like lemongrass, cardamom, mango, hops, and cannabis, among other plants, myrcene has an earthy and slightly fruity aroma – like sweet musk or clove.
Pinene is found in abundance in pine trees, rosemary, basil, and even in insecticides and insect-repellant candles as an added fragrance. Sharp, bright, fresh, and slightly minty pinene contains therapeutic mental and emotional effects. Revered for its anti-anxiety and airway-clearing properties, smelling pinene is like breathing a breath of fresh air.
If you have ever heard of terpenes, you have probably heard of limonene. True to its name, limonene is often found in the rinds of citrus fruits like lemon and grapefruit and has a bright, bitter, citrusy scent. An antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral compound, limonene helps to boost immune health and overall wellbeing.
Cannabis plants are naturally abundant in terpenes, which are what give cannabis its signature intense aroma. As any cannabis enthusiast will tell you, different strains smell different. In fact, some producers explicitly breed cannabis terpenes to isolate certain scents and flavors. To create new strains with unique flavors, growers carefully cross strains with specific terpenes to develop exciting combinations. Significant for developing a pleasant aroma and flavor, cannabis terpenes can also impact how you experience a high.
Terpenes themselves contain no THC and cannot get you high. While terpenes might not get you high, there is evidence to suggest that these compounds play a role in differentiating cannabis strains. Additionally, terpenes may create more sedative strains (indica) vs. more energizing strains (sativa). Thanks to their medicinal properties, consuming cannabis terpenes may also contribute to therapeutic effects like reduced inflammation or anxiety. Here’s how common cannabis terpenes affect the body:
Plants that produce essential oils are often abundant in terpenes and possess intoxicating and often therapeutic scents. In fact, plant terpenes and essential oils are one of their few natural means of defense. When extracted, essential oils are used in aromatherapy to promote physical, emotional, and mental wellness and may even help combat bacteria-causing germs and infectious diseases.
All essential oils contain terpenes! Here are a few terpenes you’ll find in popular essential oils:
Commercial producers use terpenes in their scents or flavorings. In the world of cannabis growers, terpenes are combined to create exciting new flavors and strains. Capable of mixing in virtually any combination to create unique scents, this century’s cannabis growers have become experts at combining terpenes to develop incredible options for every kind of smoker with every type of taste. Sometimes combined purely for flavor, some growers target specific terpenes for their therapeutic effects, promoting calm, reduced inflammation, or other health benefits.
If you are a cannabis smoker, figuring out which terpenes you prefer can inform your future dispensary purchases. For example: if you enjoy citrusy scents, you might look for cannabis strains that heavily feature the terpene limonene. Popular strains that are heavy in limonene include Wedding Cake, Do-Si-Dos, and Strawnana. Once you know which terpenes you prefer, you can look for new strains to try the characteristics of certain terpenes you will certainly enjoy!
Yes! Terpenes help promote a whole host of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. Whether you enjoy terpenes in their pure form by smelling a bunch of roses, smoke them in your cannabis, or receive a relaxing aromatherapy treatment featuring terpene-heavy essential oils, you’ll find these compounds give you a wellness boost.
Yes! Terpenes contain no THC or other psychoactive compounds and are completely legal on their own. Terpenes being present in a product does not mean that it is psychoactive since most plants contain naturally occurring terpenes.
Yes! However, if an extract or concentrate is incorrectly made and contains too many terpenes, they can produce a slight burning sensation on the lips or in the mouth.
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