Terpenes, pronounced (TUR-peen), are medicinal molecules and important building blocks in nature. They are part of a diverse group of organic HydroCarbons (C5H8) which are produced by a wide variety of plant life. Terpenoids are Terpenes which have undergone a chemical modification. They are the important building blocks for:
- Essential Oils
They are naturally released from their plants when temperatures are higher, assisting in seeding clouds which in turn, cool the plants. Terpenes have the ability to interact with each other synergistically for broad range of smells, qualities, and effects.
Effects when ingested
When Terpenes are ingested by animals, including humans, the following effects can be effectively measured:
- Analgesic (painkiller)
- Psychoactive (active molecules in Woodworm/absinthe, Salvia and Cannabis)
- Sensory enhancer
Some Terpenes are poisonous to varying degrees and can also act as natural pesticides (poison hemlock)
Terpenes in Cannabis
There are over 120 distinct Terpenes that can be manufactured by Cannabis, some in trace amounts and others in double-digit percentages. They are produced in the Trichomes, the same gland where THC is produced, comprising of between 10-20% of the total oils produced by the glands. Additionally, 10-29% of Cannabis smoke resin is composed of Terpenes/Terpenoids. Drug sniffing dogs are able to identify the fragrant Terpenes, not THC. Age, maturation and time of day can affect the amount and ratio of Terpenes. They are produced constantly, but are vaporized by heat and the light of day. Climate and weather can also affect terpene and flavonoid production. The same variety, even genotype, can produce a distinctly different Terpene profile when grown in different soils, under different conditions, with different fertilizers. In addition to the many circulatory and muscular effects, some Terpenes have the ability to interact with neurological receptors, while a few bind weakly to Cannabinoid receptors. Still other Terpenes appear to alter the permeability of membranes, on the cellular level, to allow either more or less THC, while other Terpenes affect serotonin and dopamine chemistry (neurotransmitters).
Examples of common Terpenes in Cannabis
Borneol: Essense of menthol, camphor, pine, woody.
Easily converted into menthol. Found in Cinnamon and Wormwood. Considered a "calming sedative" in Chinese medicine. Directed for fatigue, recovery from illness and stress.
Caryophyllene: Spicy, sweet, woody, clove, camphor, perppery.
Found in Black Pepper (15-25%), Clove (10-20%), and Cotton (15-25%). Binds weekly to CB2 receptor. As a topical preparation, it is one of the components of clove oil, and anti-inflammatory and analgesic treatment for toothache. In large amounts, it's a calcium and potassium ion channel blocker. As a result, it impedes the pressure exerted by heart muscles. Since THC itself has no fragrance, drug dogs are trained to find one, very odorous molecule called Caryophyllene-epoxide.
Cineole/Eucalyptol: Spicy, camphor, refreshing, minty.
Found in rosemary and eucalyptus. Common uses: increase circulation, pain relief and easily crosses the blood-brain-barrier to trigger fast olfactory reaction. Eucalyptus oil is centering, balancing and stimulating, possibly the stimulating and thought provoking component of the cannabis smoke stream.
Delta3Carene: Sweet, pine, cedar, woodsy, pungent.
A component of rosemary, pine and cedar resins. Used in aroma therapy, cypress oil, high in D-3-carene, is called upon to dry excess fluids, tears, running noses, excess menstrual flow and perspiration. It possibly contributes to the dry eye and mouth experienced by some marijuana users.
Limonene: Citrus (orange, tangerine, lemon, lime, grapefruit), rosemary, juniper, peppermint.
Found to repulse predators. Found in the rinds of many flowers and fruits. With the presence of other specific Terpenes, Limonene can be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-depressant as well as anti-carcinogen. Limonene synergistically promotes the absorption of other Terpenes by quickly penetrating cells on the membrane level, resulting in an increase in systolic blood pressure. Since Limonene is such a potent anti-fungal and anti-cancer agent, it is thought to protect against aspergillus fungi and carcinogens found in the cannabis smoke stream.
Linolool: Floral (spring flowers), lilly, citrus and candied spice.
Possesses anti-anxiety and sedative properties, also found in lavender.
Pinene: Alpha: Pine needles, rosemary. Beta: Dill, parsley, rosemary, basil, yarrow, rose, hops.
The familiar fragrance associated with pine trees and pine tar resin. The major ingredient in turpentine and is found in may other essential plant oils including rosemary, sage, and eucalyptus. Pinene can assist in increasing mental focus and energy, act as an expectorant, bronchodilator (the feeling of smoke expanding in your lungs), and as a topical antiseptic. Easily crosses the blood-brain barrier where it inhibits activity of acetylcholinesterase, which in turn destroys acetylcholine, an information transfer molecule, resulting in increased memory. It may counteract THC's activity, which leads to low acetylcholine levels. Rosemary and sage are considered "memory plants, largely due to the presence of Pinene. Various concoctions, prepared from their leaves, have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to retain and restore memory.
Pulegone: Mint, camphor, rosemary, candy.
Has been implicated with liver damage in very high doses. It is found in tiny amounts in marijuana. Pulegone is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, it stops the action of protein that destroys acetylcholine, which is used by the brain to store memories.
Sabinene: Oak, tea tree, black pepper.
Found in oak trees, tea tree oil and black pepper and a major ingredient of carrot seed oil.
Terpineol: Floral, lilac, citrus, apple/orange blossoms, lime.
Is a minor component of many plant essential oils. Used in perfumes and soaps as a fragrance. Reduces physical motility 45% in lab rat tests.
Marinol: Synthetic THC, contains no terpenes, therefore, little medicinal value.
Sativex: Maintains a strict ratio of both THC and CBD as well as a strict ratio of certain Terpenes. The company does not disclose what the actual concentrations of there terpenoids, therefore, probably does not contain the same profile or medicinal benefit as found in a whole cannabis plant.
- The Big Book of Buds, Volume 3, Ed Rosenthal