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An Introduction to Terpenes

Terpenes are aromatic chemical compounds found in plants and have even been found in insects, though many people commonly associate them with cannabis because cannabis plants contain high concentrations of them.

There are approximately 200 terpenes found in cannabis and of these only 9 truly dominate through their sheer concentration levels – myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene, pinene (Alpha/Beta), terpineol, borneol, linalool, eucalyptol and nerolidol.

These terpenes are medically active and recent scientific research (featured in the below terpene wheel) shows promising mental and physical benefits.  As regulations surrounding cannabis become more relaxed, research into the benefits of terpenes is gaining speed and more recognition.

If you ever smelled essential oils or consumed herbs such as black pepper, basil or rosemary, then you have interacted with terpenes.

These aromatic compounds create the characteristic scent of many plants, such as cannabis, pine and lavender, as well as fresh orange peel.

The fragrance of most plants is due to a combination of terpenes. In nature, these terpenes protect the plants from animal grazing or infectious germs.

When you bite into fruit for example, its flavour is affected by its scent — the more fragrant the fruit is, the more delicious your taste buds and brain perceive it to be.

The same idea applies to when you consume hemp oil: Terpenes give its distinctive smell and taste.

But it goes beyond stimulating your senses as the chemical compounds also have a slew of mental and physical effects, from fighting pain to relieving stress and anxiety.

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Top Terpenes in Cannabis/Hemp

Humulene is commonly found in hops, sage, ginger and ginseng. It offers an earthy, woody and distinctive hoppy aroma. It is known to suppress appetite and offers anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

Pinene is commonly found in pine trees, conifer trees and rosemary. It is a natural insecticide and bronchodilator and offers a very pine-like aroma. Aside from opening the airways, its alleged potential as a memory enhancer offers encouraging signs for dementia treatment.

Myrcene is found within thyme, bay leaf and parsley in high concentrations. Its herbal scent is often described as spicy, peppery and a little intense. Known for its potent antioxidant properties, myrcene also produces sedative effects for those who ingest it.

Beta-caryophyllene gives black pepper and cloves their unmistakable scent. The pepper and spice like aroma shine through in the flavour of many things that include BCP.  Its properties offer inflammation related pain-relief and anti-anxiety benefits explained by its direct binding with one’s CB2 receptors.  It’s cousin, CBD oil, binds with a user’s CB1 receptors.

Linalool is more commonly associated with lavender and birch. Also found in some cannabis strains, linalool has been shown to offer anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety effects. Linalool has been utilised in aromatherapy for centuries for its intense floral scent and has also been shown to act as an anti-convulsant and anti-nausea compound.

Limonene has a potent citrus aroma and is commonly found in oranges, lemons and limes.  Its medicinal properties have assisted in anti-anxiety and anti-depressant treatments.  For generations, it’s also been used as a common home remedy in treating Athlete’s Foot and acne.

The Terpene Wheel

For people new to terpenes, the terpene wheel illustrated below is an easy starting point for the 7 most common terpenes used.

This wheel uses the classification of terpenes based on their smell, the specific benefits it may offer and lists the plants in which terpenes most frequently occur.

There are many versions of the terpene wheel, each offering their own unique layouts.

Some versions provide unique details, such as the effects they produce and their respective boiling points.

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Until next time….Aroha nui (Maori for much love) from us at pink vine presents