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Interest in the potentially beneficial properties of terpenes has risen considerably in recent years. References to terpenes are now everywhere and will not have escaped your notice. But what exactly are terpenes and why should they find their way onto your radar?
Here’s the 10 things you really need to know about terpenes:
1. Terpenes are organic compounds found in plants including cannabis and hemp. They are the naturally occurring compounds which are responsible for the unique aroma of each plant or cannabis strain. It is terpenes which give orange zest its vibrant scent and lavender its calming aroma. If you have ever utilised essential oils, you have experienced terpenes.
2. In nature, terpenes create the aromas which both defend plants from parasites and attract vital pollinators to blossoms.
3. More than 20,000 individual terpenes have been identified and 200 of these can be found in hemp. These terpenes are secreted from the same glands in hemp plants as the cannabidiol (CBD).
4. Terpenes alone cannot induce a high. However, these compounds are known to influence the nature of the high caused by the psychoactive THC in cannabis.
5. It is thought that terpenes work in synergy with CBD and/or THC to impact the endocannabinoid system in a process now known as the entourage effect. In other words, the various compounds are team players. They bind to receptors in the body and combine to elicit a cellular response in the human endocannabinoid system. This is the system which regulates important functions such as appetite, mood, pain and sleep. It appears that the benefits offered by terpenes, CBD and/or THC are greater when they work together.
6. Terpenes seem to increase the absorption of any cannabinoids taken. But they also impact the cannabinoids naturally occurring in the body by reducing the barriers which impede blood flow to the brain.
7. Even when taken independently of CBD, terpenes are thought to be beneficial. There are terpenes which exhibit anti-inflammatory or antibacterial properties. Certain terpenes may moderate anxiety, depression and insomnia. Others are believed to address pain. Terpenes have been used for thousands of years in many cultures for their healing properties.
8. Terpenes are often confused with terpenoids. Terpenes are naturally occurring aromatic hydrocarbons. Terpenoids are created when oxidation occurs during the drying or curing of terpenes.
9. The term "terpene" was first used in 1866 by the German chemist August Kekulé.
10. There is no evidence to suggest that naturally occurring terpenes could be detrimental to human health.
There has been far too little research conducted into the potential benefits of terpenes or the existence of the entourage effect. This is largely due to terpenes being so closely associated with cannabis. As a result, most current thinking is based on anecdotal evidence. However, that evidence is mounting rapidly, and many believe that the entourage effect definitely exists. Terpenes may play an important role in that process and could be highly beneficial, whether working in synergy with other compounds or not. There is generally no smoke without fire and so terpenes are worthy of your attention!
The principle terpenes found in hemp are as follows:
Myrcene – notable for its relaxing effect and used as a sedative
Limonene – valued as an antidepressant and uplifting effect
Terpinolene – useful antioxidant with antibacterial properties and woody aroma
Beta-Caryophyllene – an anti-inflammatory with a peppery taste
Alpha and Beta-Pinene – energy inducing terpene also found in pine needles
Humulene – appetite suppressant with anti-inflammatory benefits