When you educate yourself on the health benefits of cannabis, you’ll want to educate yourself on cannabis terpenes as well. It’s undeniable that cannabis terpenes add to the overall positive effects of CBD and cannabis products.
The rising popularity of cannabis and hemp products for medicinal purposes seems to focus almost entirely on their THC and CBD content. Their individual effects, how they work in combination with each other, and the health conditions cannabis can help remedy, have generated thousands of research papers.
However, there’s something that is often missing from the hemp conversation – actually, hundreds of things. Hemp and cannabis contain hundreds of terpenes. Cannabis terpenes are the aromatic phytochemicals that provide much of the differentiation between various strains of cannabis. Purified THC and CBD may not be enough to give you the best results, as cannabis terpenes can boost hemp’s medicinal qualities while preventing unwanted side effects.
The major terpenes in cannabis include:
Limonene: Citrus Fun and Mental Health
One of the cannabis terpenes responsible for giving some strains a citrus aroma is limonene. The second most widespread terpene in the world, limonene is named for its place in lemon and other citrus essential oils. We love the bright scent of citrus fruits, and if you’re a cannabis connoisseur, the lifting effects of Sunset Sherbet and Super Sour Diesel. But are there specific health benefits of this terpene?
Limonene acts much like a natural antidepressant, or even nootropic, as it can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine. This contributes to the anti-anxiety and stress-relieving properties of some citrussy cannabis strains and CBD oils, such as Wunderkind’s Terpene-Infused Citrus Lemon Haze Sativa CBD Oil.
Early research indicated that limonene was one of the cannabis terpenes that relieved depression in hospitalized patients, with 9 out of 12 patients able to stop their pharmaceutical medication after aromatherapy with a citrus CBD oil. Even better, limonene normalized the balance of their CD4 and CD8 immune cells, an important benefit because of the link between inflammation and mental health issues.
Alpha-Pinene: A Pine-Fresh Mental State
Alpha-pinene, also found in natural turpentine extracts, provides that distinct pine scent you may notice in not only pine trees, but also eucalyptus and sage. Blue Dream and Pineapple Express are two examples of pinene-rich strains.
Alpha-pinene slows the breakdown of acetylcholine, a major neurotransmitter involved in cognition. If you’re using cannabis with pinene as a major terpene, this may prevent the temporary loss of memory caused by THC intoxication. A CBD oil with significant levels of pinene could help you to think clearer and have more mental energy throughout the day. This is far removed from traditional painkillers which leave your head feeling fuzzy.
What’s more, alpha-pinene is an anti-inflammatory through the prostaglandin-E1 pathway, and widens your airways even at low doses. These properties could be helpful if you have asthma, and are partly why walking in the forest feels so energizing.
Beta-Caryophyllene: A Spicy Anti-Inflammatory
Peppery, spicy beta-caryophyllene contributes to the flavor of black pepper, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. If you’re a strain connoisseur, you may notice notes of it in Fire OG, Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies and others.
The chemical structure of beta-caryophyllene looks like a love heart. Fitting, because in a way it extends love to regions where hemp and cannabis are still illegal. Essential oil sellers in Australia, for example, promote copaiba essential oil (which is roughly half beta-caryophyllene) for its anti-inflammatory and calming properties.
Why? Beta-caryophyllene stimulates the CB2 receptors, making it the first known phytochemical that acts like a cannabinoid, but doesn’t solely belong to the Cannabis genus. It’s also anti-inflammatory by acting on prostaglandin pathways, and may have anti-ulcer effects. Other benefits of cannabis terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene include pain relief, neuroprotection, anti-anxiety properties, and possibly even protection against cancer. It increases expression of anti-cancer genes, such as the famous p53, while reducing activity of pro-cancer genes including the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme. As COX-2 is involved in inflammatory conditions such as joint pain and period pain, products rich in beta-caryophyllene are popular whether or not hemp is legal.
Myrcene: Pain Relief
Myrcene, or beta-myrcene, is a musky, resin-scented terpene also found in mangoes, bay leaves and hops. As for cannabis strains, high-myrcene buds include Hawaiian Punch and Cannatonic. It has been recognized in Germany for years as a key part of hops preparations used to aid sleep, thanks to its sedative effects. This property is responsible for the “couch lock” effect of some cannabis strains that sometimes occurs when combined with THC.
However, Myrcene is also an anti-inflammatory and analgesic through the prostaglandin-E2 pathway. If you suffer from chronic pain, myrcene-rich extracts may be right for you, especially if you have trouble sleeping due to pain.
Why Are Cannabis Terpenes Important?
Cannabis terpenes are not to be overlooked. If you enjoy cannabis recreationally, terpenes affect the flavor profile and the overall effect you get. The major flavor types are hop, spice, pine, lime and orange, representing the most prevalent terpenes. They affect the “high” you experience as well, which may be uplifting, energizing, calming, or so sedative you don’t feel like moving around (the “couch lock”).
Beyond recreation, cannabis terpenes can make or break the medicinal benefits of hemp and cannabis products. We can see above that terpenes have much to add to THC and CBD’s properties. This is called the entourage effect, where the whole extract is more effective than the main cannabinoids on their own.
Lab research has shown that CBD alone can have a bell-shaped dose-response curve when it comes to remedying pain and inflammation. A bell-shaped dose-response curve is where there is a sweet spot of CBD efficacy, and it is less effective in higher doses. When a whole extract was tested instead, it kept getting more effective at higher doses, and surpassed the best results of CBD alone. Other research on cannabis extracts and cancer have found similar results. Sometimes, a cannabinoid alone, such as THC, had no anti-cancer properties at all, but a whole extract was effective.
These effects are likely to be synergistic, where two or more phytochemicals come together and exert a whole new property that none showed on their own. In fact, one paper only found a weak anticancer effect of pinene, even though the whole cannabis extract was significantly anti-cancer.
The constituents of cannabis are better together than separated. Strain specific terpenes can be experimented with, to find the one that works best for you. Anti-inflammatory effects of CBD or THC can be amplified, for example, while the THC brain fog may be relieved by alpha-pinene and limonene’s cognition-enhancing effects. Other benefits of limonene include reduced depression, while alpha-pinene can open your airways and beta-caryophyllene may protect against stomach ulcers. Overall, it’s best to seek whole-plant cannabis or hemp extracts, instead of trying to find which phytochemical is the holy grail of cannabinoids.
Wunderkind Extracts recently won an award for their high-quality terpene infused CBD oil tinctures. With expertly formulated, high-quality CBD oil that is both a full-spectrum CBD oil and terpene-infused, the effects will likely help you with issues such as anxiety, sleep, productivity and mood.