What Are Terpenes And How Do They Work?

01 November 18

What Are Terpenes And How Do They Work?

Although frequently overshadowed by the well known cannabinoids, terpenes are the star compounds contained in cannabis, and are becoming a widely used term within the cannabis industry. The answer to the question of “what are terpenes?” is simply that these are aromatic organic hydrocarbons frequently contained in various plant essential oils.

Those compounds are commonly known to offer unique fragrance profiles that medicinal cannabis users seek out on a regular basis. As science continues uncovering the unknowns regarding cannabis, specific research on terpenes has demonstrated the therapeutic benefits that these aromatic compounds provide to users. The research shows that the molecules are active within the synergistic effects from the consumption of whole-plant cannabis, which is referred to as the ‘entourage effect.’

Terpenes are definitely a big star within recreation and medicinal marijuana circles, however the important compounds are becoming well known within the hemp-derived CBD arena as well. As anecdotal evidence and research continues to expand, the role that individual terpenes play have become very well documented. The compounds offer potentially unique medical benefits that anyone consuming cannabis should consider.

Popular Terpenes Contained in Cannabis

Although more than 100 terpenes have been identified and found in cannabis, a couple of abundant types are the most common ones. Below we will be looking at the most well known of the cannabis-occurring compounds:

Representation of Linalool Terpene

The widely sourced compound Linalool is contained in several hundred different kinds of plants. The compound has been used for quite some time as a sleeping aid. Modern research has shown its therapeutic potential in being able to treat a broad range of various ailments.

Formula: C10H18O
Boiling Point: 198°C (388°F)
Molar Mass: 154.25 g/mol
Aroma: Floral
Potential Effects: Mood enhancer, sedative
Potential Medicinal Value: Treat neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, insomnia, inflammation, pain, anxiety, and depression
Also Found In: Rosewood, coriander, birch, laurels, citrus, and lavender

Representation of Limonene Terpene

D-Limonene is a type of cyclic terpene that has very important uses. This compound is used commonly in citrus cleaners and has very low toxicity with a low chance of causing allergic reactions. The molecule is important for using in medicinal cannabis since it helps with absorbing other cannabinoids and terpenes through the skin, digestive tract, and mucous membranes – which all increase bioavailability.

Formula: C10H16
Boiling Point: 176 °C (349 °F)
Molar Mass: 136.13 g/mol
Aroma: Citrus
Potential Effects: Stress reliever, improved mood
Potential Medicinal Value: Anti-inflammatory, painkiller, immuno-stimulant, anti-tumor, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-fungal
Also Found In: Juniper, peppermint, rosemary, fruit rinds

Representation of Humulene Terpene

Formula: C15H24
Boiling Point: 198 °C (388 °F)
Molar Mass: 204.19 g/mol
Aromas: Earthy, woody, hoppy
Potential Effects: Appetite suppresant, Anti-inflammatory
Potential Medicinal Value: Anti-bacterial, Anti-tumor
Also Found In: Cloves, basil, coriander, hops

Representation of Beta-Myrcene Terpene

The monoterpene β-Myrcene is one of the most important and well known in cannabis. The compound is a type of precursor to a number of other terpenes and provides a wide range of benefits and effects. The molecule specifically reduces resistance across the blood into the brain barrier. The property speeds up the onset of the effect of other types of cannabis compounds which specifically includes cannabinoids.

It has been shown that Myrcene increases the CB1 receptor’s maximum saturation level which allows for great psychoactive effects when consuming THC. It can work through using myrcene-rich strains, or eating foods rich in myrcene like mangoes about 45 minutes before THC is inhaled.

Formula: C10H16
Boiling Point: 168°C (334°F)
Molar Mass: 136.13 g/mol
Aromas: Musky, herbal, earthy, cloves, cardamon
Potential Effects: Increases cannabionid effect rate, relaxing, sedative
Potential Medicinal Value: Anti-spasm properties, anti-inflammatory, pain relief, insomnia treatment, antioxidant
Also Found In: Bay leaves, lemongrass, eucalyptus, hops, fresh mango

Representation of Phytol Terpene

When the molecule chlorophyll degrades, phytol is one of the two parts that are created during this process. The oily diterpene is utilized in the synthesis of the vitamins K and E.

Formula: C20H40O
Boiling Point: 204°C (399.2°F)
Molar Mass: 296.53 g/mol
Aroma(s): Balsamic, Floral
Potential Effects: Immunosuppressant
Potential Medicinal Value: Wound treatment, reduce itching

Representation of Citronellol Terpene

For more than 2,000 years people have been using citronellol as a natural type of insect repellent in order to protect fabric against moths and prevent mosquito exposure.

Formula: C10H20O
Boiling Point: 225°C (437°F)
Molar Mass: 156.27 g/mol
Aroma: Floral
Potential Medicinal Value: Anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory
Also Found In: Shrubs, succulents, perennials, rose

Representation of Caryophyllene-Oxide Terpene

The terpene Caryophyllene-Oxide is the oxidation product from beta-Caryophyllene. This molecule is well known for its tumors and anti-fungus properties. Within the medicinal hemp arena, the compound is also very important and might play an important role in improving uptake of CBC/CBD within the CB2 receptor. It is also thought to be the only terpene contained in cannabis that binds with the CB2 receptor.

Formula: C15H24O
Boiling Point: 257 °C (495 °F)
Molar Mass: 220.35 g/mol
Potential Effects: Anti-inflammatory
Potential Medicinal Value: Local anesthetic, cancer treatment, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-fungus
Also Found In: Hops, rosemary, cloves

Representation of Alpha-Pinene Terpene

Formula: C10H16
Boiling Point: 155 °C (311 °F)
Molar Mass: 136.12 g/mol
Aromas: Sweet pine, sharp, sweet pine
Potential Effects: Counteracts THC’s psychoactive potency
Potential Medicinal Value: Treats cancer, anxiety, ulcers, pain, asthma, inflammation
Also Found In: Basil, parsley, dill, rosemary, pine needles

Representation of Beta-Caryophyllene Terpene

Formula: C15H24
Boiling Point: 130°C (266°F)
Molar Mass: 204.36 g/mol
Aromas: woody, spicy, peppery
Potential Effects: Stress reliever
Potential Medicinal Value: Ulcer treatment, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, painkiller
Also Found In: Cloves, cinnamon, black pepper

Representation of Terpinolene Terpene

Formula: C10H16
Boiling Point: 185˚C (365˚F)
Molar Mass: 136.23 g/mol
Aromas: Citrus, herbal, flora, pine
Potential Effects: Sedative
Potential Medicinal Value: Anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-cancer
Also Found In: Lilacs, cumin, apples, tea tree, conifers, nutmeg

Represntation of Guaiol Terpene

Boiling Point: 92˚C (197˚F)
Molar Mass: 136.23 g/mol
Aromas: Pine
Potential Medicinal Value: Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory
Also Found In: Guaicum, Cypress pine

Representation of Ocimene Terpene

Formula: C10H16
Boiling Point: 50˚C (122˚F)
Molar Mass: 136.24 g/mol
Aromas: Slightly acidic, fruity, woody, sweet, herbaceous
Potential Medicinal Value: decongestant, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory
Also Found In: Herbs and fruits including kumquats, orchids, mangoes, basil, pepper, parsley, mint

Hemp-Derived CBD Products and Terpenes

When it comes to consuming various types of terpenes, users of marijuana have it really made these days. There is a wide selection of strains that are available on the marketplace currently that feature specifically tailored, unique terpene profiles that provide each kind unique medicinal benefits, effects, and characters. Unfortunately, this same level of options for consumers are not offered by the hemp-derived CBD industry right now.

That being said, an increasing number of companies are focused on offering full-spectrum CBD products which are rich in added or naturally extracted terpenes. The leading companies provide batch level potency tests on terpenes for the products that they make. Consumers have the ability to check the lab results in order to find products that contain a profile that suit their individual needs and preferences.