Intro to Terpenes

We’ve talked about terpenes in a previous blog, but we focused only on one, myrcene. Terpenes are aromatic elements in the plant that are found in cannabis resin and which help give each strain of marijuana its distinctive fragrance. Over 200 terpenes have been isolated in the cannabis plant to date, and only a small number of those have been studied to find out what pharmacological properties they can bring to the medicinal table. It appears, however, that each terpene is essentially different from one another and each one produces a different effect.

Limonene, for example, is a terpene that has a relaxing effect and gives a citrus aroma to lemons, oranges juniper and rosemary. It also an anti-depressant, anti-bacterial and possesses anti-carcinogenic and anti-fungal benefits. Limonene passes through cell membranes speedily, which enables other terpenes to be absorbed much faster and more effectively. Limonene’s therapeutic uses range from treating bronchitis and cancer to losing unwanted weight.

Linalool is the terpene that has anesthetic and anti-convulsant properties. It also acts as an analgesic (pain reliever) and has been shown to fight anxiety. Linalool is also found in the herb lavender, which is a highly popular oil used in aromatherapy. This terpene was found to have a very calming effect on experimental mice. When tested on the small rodents, their activity declined by 75%.

Caryophyllene is the terpene in your cannabis that gives off a spicy, peppery, clove-like aroma. It is also found in black pepper, cloves and rosemary – what a coincidence! This wonderful terpene has many healing aspects. It is an analgesic and antibacterial; it is also an anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative, which means that it helps prevent the growth of cancer cells. Caryophyllene also relieves anxiety by being a anxiolytic substance along with being neuroprotective, which protects the nervous system and the brain.

Borneol is another interesting cannabis terpene. It has an earthy pine/camphor aroma and is used as a potent pain reliever, antiseptic and bronchodilator, which opens up your lung passages to make breathing easier. Along with also being an anti-inflammatory as well as an antibacterial, Borneol is used as a relaxant and anti-insomnia medication. Borneol is also found in cinnamon and Wormwood and has long been used in Chinese traditional medicine.

Pinene is the terpene that can energize and increase your focus. It’s also an expectorant, a topical antiseptic, a bronchodilator and it’s great for your memory.  Besides being one of the many terpenes in cannabis, Pinene is also found in pine needles, rosemary, sage and eucalyptus among other plants.

Selinene has the fragrance of amber and it is also found in celery seeds. This terpene has antioxidant, analgesic and antifungal properties.

Nerolidol is a terpene that has a subtle fragrance reminiscent of apple, rose and citrus with a touch of a wood-like flavor. It is also found in citronella, citrus peels and ginger. It has been shown to have antifungal properties along with antimalarial effects and antileishmaniasis, which fights leishmaniasis, which is a disease caused by single-celled parasites brought to the skin by sandflies. Nerolidol also has shown to exhibit sedative effects.

We could go on and on and on, but there simply isn’t enough room to go through all of these magnificent terpenes that are found in cannabis. Obviously terpenes present their own unique medical benefits and there are many laboratories that are investigating these very important elements in marijuana. They are doing so with the hope of isolating terpenes even further and pinpointing which cannabis strains contain which terpenes. We are living in an enlightened age of new discoveries as far as the humble marijuana plant is concerned. Brilliant people are exploring cannabis as if it holds the secrets of the medical universe. And perhaps it does. One day we may be able to order terpene pharmaceuticals over the counter, to treat whatever malady we may have.


Cover photo courtesy of Allie Beckett.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *