For cannabis to be utilized to its fullest potential, understanding the interaction of cannabinoids and terpenes is essential for those seeking a remedy instead of just a high. The process of educating medical and recreational cannabis users is slow, confounded with erroneous claims, inferior products and most of all, a lack of information.
For the past years, access has increased with dispensaries selling an array of products, all with ingredient labels held to high standards. The list of ingredients on labels is given by percentage that usually includes the top three cannabinoids and the top three terpenes.
Education of terpenes is at a snail’s pace with most concerned with the psychoactive THC percentage. But for those familiar with the entourage effect, they understand that every particle of every strain matters in healing. Just like the term rose describes many types and hundreds of basic varieties, so does the word cannabis. Each variety or strain has its own fragrance, color and texture. In cannabis, terpenes can aid in the absorption of THC and other cannabinoids to help them find their way into cannabinoid receptors in the body to deliver what scientists and researchers are calling building blocks to better health. How to find what mix of terpenes is right can pose a challenge.
Do you know what a terpene is and how it can affect your high? Does your cannabis have the terpenes you need? Cannabis state leads the way in telling consumers what is in the cannabis they smoke or ingest, but now there are web sites that give strain recommendations from symptoms and a few web sites that give product referrals with what may or may not be the proper terpenes for each individual.
The lack of education begins with the numbers on containers and packages. You don’t have to be a medical card holder to be medical in your thinking and purchasing. While all the hardcore smokers seek the high THC content upward of 30 percent, not many know what is a good terpene percentage and different testing labs come up with high terp counts than others. Growing techniques have increased terpene volume.
Some terpene profiles boast high numbers, often as high as 5 to 10 percent of content for myrcene and limonene, the two most prevalent terpenes in respected strains. Myrcene percentage is often the key to determining whether the strain is indica-dominant or sativa-dominant. Myrcene percentages can range from 1 to 12 percent, limonene less prevalent. A strain that has 7 percent myrcene and 3 percent limonene produces different effects than a strain with 7 percent limonene versus 3 percent myrcene. When myrcene is at a high level, the result is better pain management and sleep time.
Color can matter and be a guide, not a rule. A dark, purple color denotes myrcene and other sedative effects while light green and orange can produce high quantities of limonene. When limonene is dominant, a sativa strain is most likely, with hybrids often boasting colorful plumes of orange and yellow.
Take Durban Poison for example, with its bright green leaves speckled with orange and full of oversized terpene glands. Many citrus strains contain a lot of limonene and so does Durban Poison, for example. The result is energy, focus, happiness and ever euphoria. The Durban Poison strain originated in South Africa, while the Afghani breed often are musky and more sedative. Purple strains are usually indica strains, which also can be darker buds with a musky scent.
When the oil is extracted with a full-spectrum method, terpenes stay intact while terpene and cannabinoid blends go through separation in the distillate process. They can be reintroduced in numerous types of concentrates.
Leafly.com can be used as a guide by searching strains to see which strains are best by strain name. Some desired affects are listed as well and location for purchase. Another is the use of a web site to pick which terpenes are best by matching symptoms to terpenes. But whether or not the strain is sold as flower or used in oil creates two challenges. The choice remains whether to use the full spectrum approach that preserves the entourage effect or use of mix of terpenes from the plant or synthetic terpenes created in a lab. Many consider the man-made way inferior while others claim there is no difference in mixing synthetic terpenes together.
Buried in the same glands that produce cannabinoids, terpenes are essential oils that flavor and enhance cannabis. Researchers have found nearly 200 distinct terpenes in cannabis plants and various claims have been made. Scientists are now out to prove they’re important rather than abstract speculation.
Terpenes are volatile (see turpentine), aromatic oils that affect receptors and neurotransmitters in the brain. Researchers want to determine exactly how each terpene works and how they play off each other. Such knowledge will help treat specific illnesses with pinpoint dosage. A medical patient with an autoimmune disorder might need a different strain than a migraine-sufferer, while those with too much energy would benefit from a far more mellow strain than someone who is lethargic.
The Israeli Agricultural Research Organization claims to have performed terpene research under the title “aromatic compounds” for the last 50 years while naysayers in the United States claim little research has been completed.
A study conducted by the University of Siena in Italy found “the synergistic effect between cannabinoids and terpenes is often claimed to be the major difference between ‘holistic’ herbal preparations of cannabis and products based on single cannabinoids.”
A 2011 report in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that the complex interaction between terpenes and cannabinoids like THC “could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.”
Researchers are investigating if the reactions between terpenes and cannabinoids produce effects that would be beneficial for cancer patients and chronic illnesses as well as CTE and PTSD. Scientists also are developing ways to manipulate a mother plant’s terpene profile.
All About the Buzz
The most frequently asked question of any budtender is always going to be, “what is the most potent weed you have?” What the best response should be smoke two joints if you need that much of a buzz but don’t cheat yourself from any of the terpenes and the strongest benefits of the entourage effect.
Here are a sample of the most prevalent terpenes:
6 Common Terpenes
β-Myrcene is known by its earthy smell, Myrcene-rich strains have a relaxing effect. β-Myrcene is a monoterpene and a precursor in the formation of other terpenes. The most prevalent terpene in cannabis, β-Myrcene is found fresh mango fruit, hops, bay leaves, eucalyptus, lemongrass and many other plants. β-Myrcene is known to be anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and used in the treatment of seizures and spasms. It is also used to treat insomnia and pain. In the case of cannabinoids like THC, it allows it to take effect more quickly. β-Myrcene has been shown to increase the maximum saturation level of the CB1 receptor, allowing for a stronger psychoactive effect. For most people, the consumption of a fresh mango, 45 minutes before inhaling cannabis, will result in a faster onset of psychoactive activity and greater intensity.
Limonene, formed from a-Pinene, produces a sweet, citrus smell. Research indicates that it has antifungal and anti-bacterial properties. It’s also thought to help with anxiety and depression. Research will soon find it inspires creativity. D-limonene was primarily used in medicine, food and perfume until a couple of decades ago when it became the main active ingredient in citrus cleaners. It has low toxicity, and humans are rarely ever allergic. Medicinally, limonene is known for treating gastric reflux and assists in the absorption of other terpenoids through the skin, mucous membranes and digestive tract. Limonene also may be useful in treating depression.
Caryophyllene is a spicy, pungent terpene thought to have anti-inflammatory effects. Caryophyllene can help activate Cannabinoid 2 receptors and is known for its anti-biological activity against fungus and tumors. It is also anti-oxidant. It may play a part in improving uptake of CBD/CBC in the CB2 receptor.
Linalool has a floral smell and produces a strong sedative effect. Mice dosed with linalool decreased their activity by a 75 percent. Linalool has been used for several thousands of years as a sleep aid and in the formation of Vitamin E. It has been used in the treatment of both psychosis and anxiety, and as an anti-epileptic agent. It also grants relief from pain and has been used as an analgesic. Its vapors have been shown to be an effective insecticide against fruit flies, fleas and cockroaches.
Terpinolene is known for being an anti-oxidant, anti-tumor, antibacterial and antifungal agent. It also has been used for hundreds of years in the treatment on insomnia. Terpinolene is found in oregano, marjoram, cumin, lilac, some citrus rind and conifers.
α-Pinene is one of the principle monoterpenes, used for centuries as a bronchodilator in the treatment of asthma. Pinene also is an anti-inflammatory agent and a major constituent in turpentine. When you take a deep breath in the woods, that aroma is pinene.
Humulene is found in hops, cannabis sativa strains and Vietnamese coriander, among others. Humulene gives beer its ‘hoppy’ aroma. It is anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and an appetite suppressant.
No matter how organic or nonorganic a grower it is, flushing is critical for terpene explosion during the grow. By flushing the cannabis properly at the end of the grow cycle, impurities and growth enhancements can be washed away. Eliminating the hindrances creates the environment for better terpene enhancement. A good way to tell is flushing was done properly is to see if the ash burns cleans or dark.
In the quest for the best terpenes to use, knowledge is power as research will continue to prove their effect.