Terpenes are the aromatic molecules that give cannabis its characteristic fragrance. It is found in hemp, cannabis, and thousands of other plants. These molecules are also present in some species of the animal kingdom, like certain kinds of butterflies, caterpillars, and termites.
Because the hemp plant contains a combination of various terpenes, many of our hemp-derived products – especially those that have been extracted using the CO2 method, which preserves the full spectrum of elements from the industrial hemp plant – include terpenes as well as CBD.
Cannabis terpenes interact synergistically to create what is commonly referred to as the “entourage effect”. In this article, we will outline some main terpenes found in hemp and cannabis and explain how terpenes affect the human body.
Terpenes and terpenoids
The words terpenoid and terpene are often used synonymously, but the two words actually have different meanings. Terpenes are a hydrocarbon, which means they are comprised of only carbon and hydrogen. Terpenoids, on the other hand, are modified by oxidation and may include alcohol, aldehyde, ketone, and/or other functional groups.
We don’t want to bore you with the scientific details, though. All you have to know is that terpenoids are simply terpenes with the addition of a functional group.
Terpenes in plants
All plants synthesize a number of terpenoid compounds that are used both as both a defense mechanism and to attract insects — while certain terpenes attract insects that keep predators at bay, others serve to attract useful pollinators like bees. Thus, it could be argued that plants have developed terpenes as a survival mechanism of sorts!
Terpenes in the cannabis plant
Over 200 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and each cultivar exhibits distinct and complex terpene profiles. With that said, relatively little is known about terpenes: CBD and THC have received the most attention and research. Studies have shown, however, that terpenes can also work in conjunction with CBD and cannabinoids to provide a unique set of benefits. While research into terpenes is still in its infancy, the results have been very promising so far.
Here are several of the most common terpenes that are found in marijuana and hemp:
Myrcene is one of the major terpenes found in cannabis, but it can also be found in hops, thyme, verbena, laurel leaves, and lemongrass. Myrcene’s herbal aroma can be described as musky and earthy. It is distinctively “hoppy” and gives highly hopped beers their distinct flavour profile.
As the name suggests, this terpene has a particularly citrusy aroma. Limonene is responsible for the wonderful smell of oranges and often used in the production of household products and cosmetics. Limonene is present in a variety of citrus fruits, but it is also a prominent terpene in many cannabis strains.
Linalool is found in hundreds of plant species including mint, cinnamon, birch, laurel, and several citrus fruits. It is also present in the cannabis plant. Linalool has two stereoisomers: S-linalool and R-linalool. While the former exudes a sweet, floral note, the latter has a woodier smell.
The isomers known as a-pinene, or Alpha-Pinene, are present in many plants, most notably pine trees, sage, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Pinene has a woody and earthy aroma with notes of pine and cedarwood.
Humulene is one of the main terpenes in cannabis, and its earthy, woody, and herbal notes give certain hoppy beers their distinctly hoppy taste. Humulene is cherished for its pleasant and distinctive aroma.
Beta-Caryophyllene is a pungent sesquiterpene that produces a sharp, spicy aroma reminiscent of clove, black pepper, rosemary, and basil. It carries a distinctive earthy, woody, and spicy aroma