The power players of cannabis: Terpenes, THC and CBD

Cannabis 1:1

Fresh cannabis emits an intoxicating scent.  This aroma springs from powerful compounds that are known as terpenes.

A recent article in The Cannabis Digest notes, “We’ve all been around terpenes before: This diverse class of organic compounds is found in a variety of plants and is responsible for giving things like pine trees, citrus fruits, and lavender their distinct smells.” 1

Terpenes provide significant healing properties according to 420 Intel.  In an article, they point out that understanding individual terpenes is key for evaluating the ways they interact with both the THC and CBD compounds in cannabis.

While there has been an influx of THC- and CBD-only products in the market, The Cannabis Digest cites research showing terpenes and cannabinoids have a synergistic effect.  When THC, CBD, and terpenes are used in the ratios occurring in nature, when all the compounds of the plant are being used—cannabis is at its most effective, broadly referred to as “the entourage effect.” 2

Scientific research shows that terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid system in the human body. This system includes cell receptors that assist in regulating body functions including appetite, memory, sleep, and the perceptions of pleasure, and pain. The endocannabinoid system is significant. Unlocking its nuances creates a framework to study cannabis and potential health benefits associated with its use. 3

Terpenes work with cannabinoids.  When terpenes cross the blood brain barrier, they influence how much THC gets into the system. Some terpenes create an energetic effect while others are relaxing. 4  These interactions are fascinating to scientists and some future research will greatly help determine the best way to combine THC, CBD, and terpenes to benefit patients.

Though cannabis contains up to 150 different terpenes, there are about 10 primary terpenes that occur in significant concentrations.  They are Limonene, Pinene, Myrcene, Linalool, Eucalyptol, Humulene, Beta-Caryophyllene, Delta-3-Carene, Terpinolene, and Geraniol 5

While tempting, it’s not realistic to presume that the terpene profile found in one strain and harvest will be replicated in another. Regions and harvests vary dramatically in terpenoid profiles, based on factors in both the growing and curing processes. If you are making a strain choice based on a potential terpene profile, you’ll have to use your olfactory sense to guide you! Products tested in a lab can more accurately measure terpene ratios, but scientists acknowledge there is a lot more to know.

When patients and adult users are choosing a way to consume cannabis they need to keep an important fact in mind: The effects of terpenes are altered by the temperature, therefore the beneficial qualities of terpenes can be seriously damaged if heated past their boiling point.  This is one more case when in cannabis low and slow is the way to go!

For more terpene information, refer to “The Terpentry”


1 Cannabis Digest • Terpenes