What are terpenes and how do they affect your weed?

Terpenes are basically the building blocks of the essential oils of cannabis. They are what gives each strain its individual perfume and, since our sense of smell is also intimately linked with our sense of taste, they also influence how its flavour is perceived.

What is the purpose of terpenes?

A plant’s perfume generally serves some kind of practical purpose. It is often used to attract pollinators (such as bees) or to warn off predators. In terms of dietary plants, scent can often serve as an indication of whether or not a plant is edible at all and if so how it is likely to taste (sweet, sour, pungent…). Over the course of millennia, certain terpenes have come to have very specific associations with certain flavours, the various “Diesel” strains being a classic example of this.

What are the medical benefits of terpenes?

For years, research into the medical benefits of marijuana has focused on CBD/THC and the cannabinoids. It has only been relatively recently that scientists have started to take an interest in the terpenes themselves.

To a certain extent some of the accepted benefits of terpenes correlate to the benefits of aromatic products as a whole, which have been identified as a result of interest in aromatherapy and other forms of natural medication. For example citrus and menthol aromas are known to have mood-lifting effects and menthol is also recognized as a decongestant. Researchers are now starting to dig deeper into the actual chemistry and pharmacology involved to try to get a clearer view of the health benefits offered by terpenes and how to make the most of them. The terpenes which have been studied so far include the following.

Myrcene

myrcene synergistic cannabis terpeneThe plant Myrrh was already highly prized in biblical times and the terpene Myrcene has very similar qualities to its (almost) namesake. In addition to relieving pain, it fights inflammation and bacterial infection and also calms the mind. This is the most common terpene in marijuana, which could already go a long way to explaining its medicinal uses.

Limonene

Terpene Limonene marijuanaLimonene is both the second most-common terpene found in marijuana and also the second most-common terpene found in plants as a whole. One possible reason for this is that insects (which eat plants) generally dislike citrus smells. Medically, however, Limonene has many benefits. It has been demonstrated to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and recent research suggests it may help prevent cancer.

Pinene

Terpene Pinene 420 weedAs the name suggests, this is a terpene with a pine/menthol scent and flavour with the benefits expected of menthol. In addition to being anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, it is extremely helpful to the respiratory system.

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