What Effects Do Terpenes Have in Cannabis? from Aromas To Unique Experiences

When you open a bag of CBD marijuana buds and take a deep breath of the pungent and unmistakable aroma of cannabis, what you are really smelling are the terpenes. These invisible compounds are primarily responsible for the unique aromatic profile of the different cannabis strains. But cannabis terpenes are much more than just aromas.

Terpenes evoke a range of sensations and effects in cannabis users.

The world of cannabis is much more complex and fascinating than it might seem at first glance. Join us in this monograph on the effects and sensations of cannabis terpenes.

Discover terpenes and improve your experience with cannabis

What are terpenes and what is their function?

Briefly, the terpenes are aromatic compounds that give many plants, including marijuana, their odor. Cannabis terpenes are found in the trichomes, those sticky, bulbous, resin-filled hairs that cover the buds. In this resin are also found the cannabinoids cannabinoids .

The cannabis plant produces more than 200 types of terpenes, which act as a kind of“chemical weapon” against predators. Most of these are present in very small amounts, and only about ten are found in significantly higher amounts than the others.

The unique combination of majority and minority terpenes is what gives the different cannabis strains their characteristic olfactory profiles.

In contrast, cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have no aroma.

The basic function of these compounds is to provide us with information that allows us to quickly identify the substance in front of us. But this very instinctive fact has become highly sophisticated nowadays. Today, terpenes and other aromatic compounds in cannabis are used to provide a unique sensory experience.

Effects of cannabis terpenes

What is the effect of terpenes?

Terpenes play a crucial role in the way we experience cannabis. Its effects are related not only to the olfactory enjoyment by consumers, but also to the modulation and potency of the effect of cannabinoids.

Just the smell of the buds can make us squint to transport us to a memory, draw a smile on our face, or make us wrinkle our nose. These small gestures, apparently so simple, are actually part of complex chemical reactions produced by these tiny aromatic molecules in our brain, and only in a matter of seconds!

From sweet floral notes to enticing penetrating and woody aromas, each flower variety awakens different sensations in us.

And if that were not incredible enough, even more amazing is the fact that each person can have a different perception of the same aromas. Here is the complexity of the effects of cannabis terpenes!

Types of cannabis terpenes and their effects

Main terpenes in cannabis and their effects

  • Myrcene is the predominant terpene in cannabis strains. It offers a deep, slightly sweet, spicy, earthy aroma with spicy undertones and subtle fruity notes. It is known for its calming and sedative effects, and it is believed that it could enhance the sedative properties of cannabis. Strains high in myrcene are related to the well-known couch-lock, the effect by which cannabis knocks you out on the couch.
  • Beta-Caryophyllene is the second most abundant terpene in cannabis strains. It provides pungent, spicy and spicy notes. It is also found in black pepper, and is the only terpene with proven cannabinoid properties. It is attributed with analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic and relaxing properties, among others.
  • Limonene Limonene: as its name indicates, it is responsible for the citric and refreshing aroma of citrus fruits. But it is also the flagship scent of many marijuana strains and is highly appreciated by cannabis consumers. Its most prominent effect is to elevate mood.
  • Humulene Humulene: Humulene is the flagship terpene of hops, the flavor of beer. Its aroma is complex, herbaceous and refreshing, earthy, woody and resinous . It stands out for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
  • Alpha and Beta Pinene: These two terpenes, which are included within the pinene are known for their fresh and penetrating aroma, characteristic of pine and turpentine, which transports us directly to a lush forest – think of the smell of freshly cut wood! Its effect is to keep us alert and calm. Studies suggest that they have anti-inflammatory and memory-enhancing properties.

Marijuana tasting: The new cannabis experience

Gone are the days when the selection of cannabis flowers was based solely on their THC or CBD cannabinoid levels. Today, the focus is also on the real protagonists that define the olfactory experience for consumers: terpenes.

Marijuana tastings take you on a sensory adventure, exploring the aroma of resinous flowers with sweet, bitter, earthy, spicy, floral and fruity notes.

Currently, the breeding or development of new marijuana strains is largely focused on the terpenes present in the plant, and not only on cannabinoids. Because it is known that the development of unique terpene profiles can provide an unparalleled trip.

Secrets of cannabis terpenes: How do they affect the high?

The entourage effect

The effect of cannabis, its bioactive properties, derives from the plant’s large number of secondary metabolites, which include cannabinoids, terpenoids, sterols and flavonoids. Translated: Like an orchestra, the different compounds of the cannabis plant work together to produce a stronger effect than what could be expected if taken individually.

This very interesting phenomenon, known as the entourage effect, was described by Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam in the late 1990s. Since then, it has been investigated for decades.

The entourage effect explains that terpenes act in synergy with cannabinoids, enhancing their effects on the body.

Thus, cannabinoids and terpenes interact with each other synergistically. Some of these compounds can enhance the relaxing effect of CBD, enhance the psychoactive effects of THC, or attenuate the psychoactive effects of marijuana, as examples of terpenes and their effects.

How do terpenes interact with cannabinoids?

Unfortunately, although there is a lot of ongoing research and data, the interactions between terpenes and cannabinoids are not yet fully understood. Although it would be exciting to describe which terpene attenuates or enhances the mental or physical effect of cannabis, as of today, we still do not have enough conclusive data for such statements.

We do know, for example, that the terpene beta caryophyllene can bind to cannabinoid CB2 receptors, which are involved in the regulation of pain and inflammation, and enhance the analgesic effects of cannabinoids.

Do terpenes determine the indica or sativa effect?

Through all of the above mechanisms, cannabis terpenes directly influence the effects of a cannabis strain, determining whether the effect will be more relaxing or more cerebral. However, it is impossible to ignore that cannabinoids also play a crucial role in the effect of cannabis.

Although the difference between indica and sativa strains has traditionally been associated with genetic factors, more recent research has shown that it is the chemotype that is most important in determining the effect of cannabis, referring to the measurement of the terpenoid and cannabinoid profile of the buds. As a result, more and more scientists are suggesting a new model for classifying cannabis plants according to their unique phytochemical profiles (chemotypes), rather than the indica or sativa designations .

Benefits of cannabis terpenes

Discovering the benefits of cannabis terpenes

When the medicinal properties of cannabis began to be studied, all the interest focused on cannabinoids, particularly THC. However, very soon researchers realized that pure THC did not have the same therapeutic benefits as the plant extract. Thus, it was discovered that terpenes also play an important role in the therapeutic effects of the plant.

By modulating and enhancing the effects of the herb, terpenes are of interest to those seeking a pleasurable sensory experience, and open up the possibility of developing new cannabis strains specifically to achieve certain effects. We now know that, in addition to giving cannabis its unique aromas, terpenes are studied for their possible effects on the body.

Properties of cannabis terpenes

Most of the benefits of cannabis terpenes are known to us through aromatherapy, which, for centuries, has been studying the essential oils of plants – composed mainly of terpenes.

Terpenes can exert effects on brain electrical activity and neurotransmitters, awakening or decreasing activity in certain areas of the brain.

But are you sure that a simple scent can have such an impact on the organism? Yes, it seems so! This is no exaggeration. Scientific studies show that terpenes exert effects on the organism even in very small doses.

How do terpenes act in the body?

These small and powerful aromas can be absorbed by air – by inhalation; digestive, when ingested orally; and cutaneous, when applied to the skin.

Due to their lipophilic chemical nature, terpenes are assimilated very quickly, reaching the brain in a short time, where they cross the blood-brain barrier with ease and exert many of their mental effects.

As mentioned above, hundreds of terpenes are found in cannabis. Trying to list all their benefits is extremely complex, since each of these compounds has slightly different properties and they also interact with each other. And things get even more complicated when cannabinoids come into play, due to the aforementioned entourage effect.

Taking this into account, in a generic way, the potential beneficial effects of terpenes that we highlight are the following:

Increasing mood

The most obvious benefit of terpenes is undoubtedly that of flooding our mind and our reality with pleasant and pleasurable aromas, capable of relaxing the other senses, to enter into a purely sensory experience.

The sweet and floral aromas can transport us to a spring memory or a basket of summer fruits; the penetrating, herbaceous or earthy scent, to a quiet forest in the middle of nature, or the smell of grass on the lawn in the morning.

The perception of smells is irrational and involuntary, and therefore takes us to the deepest part of our experiences and allows us – demands us – to disconnect.

Can’t stop thinking about something that’s bothering you? Try to smell something pleasant and think about what it reminds you of. Or try to remember the smell of a pleasant place. You will find that, immediately, all your thoughts are turned off for a moment. Because few things require as much attention as smell, and are as powerful as aromas.

Smell is an input of information other than our thoughts, which aromatherapy takes advantage of for its benefits for anxiety, depression and sleeping problems.

Some studies have demonstrated the anxiolytic and antidepressant effect of terpenes. For example, some terpenes, such as pinene and linalool, have been shown to have effects on neurotransmitters such as GABA.

Sedatives and relaxants

Another of the flagship properties of terpenes are their sedative and relaxing effects. In particular, myrcene, the most abundant terpene in marijuana strains, is known to promote sleepiness and stress relief.

Analgesics, for pain and inflammation

Terpenes have great benefits related to analgesia, due to their potential as natural anti-inflammatories. Some terpenes have been shown to have cannabimimetic effects, which could enhance the analgesia produced by cannabinoids (1).

Some of the most studied terpenes known for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties include limonene and caryophyllene.

Uses of cannabis terpenes

Vaporization of cannabis terpenes

If you have just landed in the world of terpenes, hold on tight. There is currently a very powerful industry working on the vaporization of cannabis. vaporization of cannabis mixing terpenes to try to match the flavors of certain mythical commercial marijuana strains.

Vape liquids carefully blend terpenes to mimic the aromas of cannabis and its effects. These companies offer a whole range of cannabis e-liquids, imitating marijuana strains and their possible effects.

Cannabis gummies

Terpenes are widely used in the production of cannabis gummies. cannabis gummies which may or may not contain cannabinoids.

Medical cannabis and terpenes

In cannabis, the properties of terpenes attract attention mainly for the development of medical cannabis strains. medical cannabis for use in people with inflammatory diseases. Marijuana terpenes can modulate cannabinoid activity, which is used as a powerful therapeutic tool to enhance cannabinoid therapy.

Cannabinoid therapies can induce psychoactive and somatic side effects. In this sense, the development of medical marijuana strains with a specific chemotype could modulate the psychoactive effect of THC and attenuate the mental effects caused by the treatment. Therefore, cannabis terpenes allow not only to maximize the therapeutic efficacy of cannabinoids, but also to reduce unwanted psychoactive side effects.

The world of terpenes: they are much more than just aromas!

As we reviewed in a previous article, the Cannabis sativa plant has an exceptional phytochemical richness, capable of producing hundreds of different cannabinoids and terpenes.

Although the former have always attracted all the attention, the terpenes in cannabis also influence the effect produced by each cannabis strain. Different combinations of cannabinoids, terpenes and other fragrant compounds can affect the effects and sensations provided by each cannabis strain. As a result, more and more cannabis enthusiasts are enjoying experimenting and identifying which terpenes are present in their chosen bud and what their sensations are like.

I hope that throughout this article you have become aware of the potential that cannabis terpenes have. But don’t believe everything we’ve told you, experience it! The next time you smell cannabis, concentrate and immerse yourself in the sensations it gives you. Think about the hundreds of compounds and chemical reactions involved, and how terpenes accompany you in your cannabis experience.

  1. LaVigne JE, Hecksel R, Keresztes A, Streicher JM. Cannabis sativa terpenes are cannabimimetic and selectively enhance cannabinoid activity. Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 15;11(1):8232. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-87740-8. PMID: 33859287; PMCID: PMC8050080.
  2. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Aug;163(7):1344-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x. PMID: 21749363; PMCID: PMC3165946.

Information on cannabis terpenes (frequently asked or curious questions)

What dose of terpene can give effects in the organism?

How can molecules in tiny doses have an effect on the organism? We only smell them, we don’t even eat them,” a customer told us. Well, this is a very interesting reflection. It is not unreasonable to wonder whether cannabis aromas can actually have real effects on the body. Terpenes are volatile compounds that are highly bioavailable to the organism and can be assimilated via the lungs, by inhalation, very easily. They are compounds of rapid metabolism and distribution in the organism, with a lipophilic nature that makes them have a high affinity for brain structures, where they can exert their effects. Thus, it is possible to observe benefits from terpenes at undetectable serum concentrations. Terpenes are believed to have effects at concentrations starting at 0.05% (2).

Are all aromatic compounds in cannabis terpenes?

Well, no. Although terpenes get all the attention, there are more aromatic compounds in cannabis. For example, the skunk aroma does not come from terpenes, but from sulfur compounds, like those found in garlic! Cannabis never ceases to amaze!

How is it possible to modify the terpene content of cannabis?

The terpene composition of cannabis appears to be determined both by (mostly) the genetics of the plant and the growing medium. If we talk about quantity, the type of crop can modify the yield. As with cannabinoids, terpene production in cannabis increases with exposure to light, but decreases with soil fertility. This is supported by experience in indoor cultivation, which shows higher yields if plants experience a relative lack of nitrogen just before harvest, favoring floral growth over foliar growth. However, if we talk about quality, if you want a variety with a certain aroma, you should also look at the genetics of the plant when buying the seed.

What do terpenes look like visually?

The appearance of the terpenes is oil-like. Cannabis terpene images are simply viscous-looking resin droplets.

What are some of the best cannabis terpene strains?

It is difficult to decide on the best variety of terpenes, because it is a totally subjective assessment. However, based on studies conducted in U.S. dispensaries (where cannabis is legal), it seems that consumers appreciate citrus or refreshing terpenoid profiles the most. In Cannactiva, you will find these aromas in Orange Mood, Candy Krush, Ohana, Limoncello, Willits or Vibration flowers, among others.

What is the terpene content of cannabis?

Most cannabis plants have a terpene content of less than 1%. Some strains with high terpene content (usually commercial cannabis) contain between 1 and 3% terpenes. Even, although less usual, higher concentrations of up to 5% have been described. It is important to note that terpene content can be influenced by several factors, such as plant genetics, environment, state of maturity at the time of harvest and the extraction method used to obtain the final product.

What is the mechanism of action of terpenes in the body?

If you are a scientist and you are wondering about the mechanism of action of terpenes, we will tell you about it. These compounds are pharmacologically very versatile, and can interact with cell membranes, neuronal and muscle ion channels, neurotransmitter receptors, G protein-coupled receptors (odor and taste receptors), second messenger systems and enzymes. Animal studies suggest that terpenoids can have profound effects on activity levels, suggesting a direct pharmacological effect on the brain, even at extremely low serum concentrations.

En Cannactiva queremos cambiar la perspectiva sobre el cannabis. Te traemos lo mejor de la planta a través de nuestros productos y de los posts que puedes leer en nuestro [...]

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