Cannabis is an interestingly complex plant, made up of a variety of chemicals, compounds, and substances. This contributes to its versatility and a wide variety of use cases.
For the most part, cannabis users tend to be familiar with the THC and CBD compounds of the plant, and for good reason. THC is the main psychoactive compound that you find in cannabis. CBD is claimed to have wide-ranging medicinal benefits, such as anti-inflammatory properties and the potential to relieve anxiety.
However, there is far more to a cannabis plant than just these two compounds. There are exactly 483 known compounds in the cannabis plant. Some scientists believe that each one of them plays their part in the sensations and benefits that you experience from smoking cannabis.
Let’s take a closer look at cannabinoids, terpenes and an interesting phenomenon that is commonly referred to as “the entourage effect”. We will then discuss some of the benefits of the terpenes.
What are Terpenes?
You know that strong distinct smell you get with cannabis? You can thank terpenes for that.
Terpenes are the chemicals found in the essential oils of plants. They give a distinct aroma to each one of them. Each cannabis strain contains varying concentrations of different terpenes. This is why there are different types of strains that taste and smell completely different.
There are believed to be around 20,000 different types of terpenes in the plant kingdom. There are more than 100 terpenes in most strains of cannabis. These terpenes are synthesized in the secretory cells in a part of the cannabis plant called the glandular trichomes. The more light that the glandular trichomes are exposed to, the more terpenes are secreted.
The Entourage Effect
There is a lot more to terpenes than simply providing a nice aroma and flavor to your cannabis. They play an essential role in transporting the vital compounds around your body’s systems. They work in synergy with the cannabinoids and other chemicals that are found within cannabis. This is what we call “the entourage effect.”
The logic behind the entourage effect is that all of the compounds within cannabis work together synergistically to produce their effects. So in other words, consuming just one compound will have less effect than consuming a whole cannabis bud. Terpenes, CBD, THC, all play a role as part of a larger ensemble, like one big marijuana orchestra.
The collection of chemicals within the cannabis plant is more effective when consumed together rather than in isolation.
Chemical Properties of Terpenes
Terpenes are derived biosynthetically from units of isopentenyl pyrophosphate. These terpenes are a class of molecules that are bonded together with 10 to 15 different carbon atoms called isoprene.
These molecules are extremely volatile. This means that in different conditions they can evaporate very easily, which gives off their pungent odor.
Biosynthesis of Terpenes
When we smoke weed, THC enters our system and combines it with our brain receptors. That is what causes the psychoactive effect that we feel. Similarly, we have cannabinoid receptors in our brain which is where many of the cannabis compounds such as CBD travel to after we smoke it.
It is believed that terpenes influence how much of these compounds enter our brain and other bodily systems, hence the entourage effect. The terpenes act as some sort of transporter and facilitator for the other cannabis compounds whilst inside our body.
One thing you can do to experience the effects of terpenes for yourself is to eat a ripe mango just before you smoke weed. The mango is densely concentrated with a terpene called Myrcene. This is said to act synergistically with THC and may prolong and increase the intensity of the psychoactive experience.
Medical Effects of Terpenes
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of the most common terpenes and their medical effects. Before using these terpenes you should consult with the medical marijuana doctors.
Pinene, as the name suggests, smells and tastes like pine. The medicinal terpene effect has said to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It may also aid memory.
Myrcene is found in hops and is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis strains. It said to have relaxing, calming, and sedating effects. Also, it works in tandem with THC which increases psychoactive potential.
Linalool has a pleasant lavender smell and is said to help with anxiety and feelings of stress. It also has potential antiepileptic properties.
Limonene is another common terpene found in cannabis plants. This is what gives some strains this citrusy smell. It is claimed to have antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Caryophyllene has a spicy smell and flavor and is found in substances like black pepper. The terpene effect for this one is anti-inflammatory properties. It can even help to ease pain.
In conclusion, as you can see, cannabinoids and terpenes, and just about every other chemical that is present in the cannabis plant, play their part in the entourage effect. The interaction between CBD and terpenes and all the rest of the phytocannabinoids are vital if you want to experience the best high and get the most effective medicinal benefits from cannabis.