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An Introduction to Terpenes: Part I

An Introduction to Terpenes: Part I

So you’re wondering what terpenes are? You might know that they have something to do with smell, and they’re good for us, but so many explanations out there seem to resemble a complicated math equation we’ve done a thousand times: we can get there in the end, but we don’t know how we got there.

Well, we’re here to help. We’ll take you through terpenes and how we can use them to help us Feel Good.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic molecules found in plants that evaporate easily, quickly telling us what they smell like. The absorbing fragrance and particular psychoactive flavor in a cultivar (when you think strain, you are actually thinking about a plant’s cultivar) are determined by the predominant terpenes. Plants developed terpenes (and terpenoids) to keep away herbivores that might eat them and to attract beneficial predators and pollinators. In cannabis, these volatile molecules enhance your high while carrying numerous medical benefits.

Terpenes appeared on the cannabis scene in an interesting way, and it didn’t happen until recently. Indoor grow facilities allowed growers to breed THC-heavy genetics and a curious thing happened: these heavyweight cultivars were testing high in labs but scoring low with patients. Upon closer inspection, breeders found a lack of flavor and aroma. The missing ingredient? Terpenes!

Heightened Effects From Terpenes

Breeders and growers alike quickly found out that certain terpenes bond to cannabinoid receptors in the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and enhance the effects of other important compounds in the cannabis plant, including the two most infamous: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). When terpenes were accidentally removed through selective breeding, their content decreased, and the plant as a whole… just wasn’t as good.

Imagine that cannabinoids and terpenes are dance partners, boosting and regulating the effects of one another in the body’s ECS. For a long time, THC was considered the only chemical with psychoactive importance in cannabis. Nowadays, we know that other cannabinoids like CBD and CBN (which will be explained more in-depth later) along with terpenes can either increase or decrease the effects of THC and other chemicals in the body that interact with the ECS.

Terpinolene, for example, which is found in apples or cumin, induces sedation (sleepiness) and provides antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antibacterial effects. Humulene, on the other hand, found in ginseng or ginger, is an anti-inflammatory agent and hunger suppressant.

Taste and Flavor of Terpenes

Mother Nature is infallible. Did you know that the smell of terpenes aids in guiding you toward the cannabis your body wants? If a variety of weed smells good to you, it could be your body’s way of telling you exactly what it wants. And by extension, what might bring benefits.

Now that we know which terpenes can work to ease specific ailments, we can use cannabis more effectively. We can enjoy their healing qualities in many ways—after all, terpenes are found in all plants. One way to complement the positive effects from cannabis is essential oils. Prominent terpenes found in cannabis are also present in many varieties of essential oils, and can be:

  • Absorbed through the skin

  • Ingested

  • Diffused and inhaled for aromatherapy purposes

Tune in next time for part 2 of our terpene blog, where we’ll explore the make up of terpenes and finding the right ones to help you Feel Good.