What are terpenes?

Oct 05, 20
What are terpenes?

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during this blog post are solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BudCBD and its employees."

Knowledge is very critical. Let us help you get familiar with all things connected to terpens found in hemp. 


It's essential to remember that terpenes are different from cannabinoids. 

Cannabinoids and terpenes share similar precursor molecules, so they're made from the same basic ingredients, but they act in very different ways. Terpenes are technically called monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and phenols. To date, scientists have identified around 140 different cannabinoids. Some of the better know cannabinoids are CBD, CBG, and THC. In comparison, over 4,000 different types of terpenes have been identified. 

Other names for terpen concentrates; terps, dabs, wax, crumble.


The plant because of the way it uses them will be fairly variable for example, upper leaves, tend to be preyed upon by insects a lot of the time so the plant will put out anti insecticide terpenes such as limonene or Piney versus in the lower plant where it put some bitter sesquiterpenes in to prevent grazing from forest woodland, mammals, animals, things like that. The same plant can produce different terpene levels in the upper versus the lower branches to deal with different threats.

why do they make terpens


Yes, they do! It's the terpenes responsible for the smell of hemp and its flavors because the cannabinoids THC and CBD don't smell. So when we are smelling lemon kush or Silver Haze it is the terpenes, you smell, not the cannabinoids. Terpenes are generally volatile molecules, light enough to float through the air and small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier. And because of that, when one is processing terpenes, or even just storing your flower at home, it's very important to keep them tightly sealed containers.


Terpenes are technically called monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and phenols. They give plants and trees their unique and aromatic scents. A bunch naturally makes them, cannabis plants, citrus plants, evergreen plants, and many other plants and fruit trees make terpene molecules. From cannabis buds to the zesty scent of lemons, these smells are all created by terpene molecules that are naturally produced by the plant. 

Most of the terpenes produced by hemp plants are also produced by other well know plants.

 Lemon Grass Lavender 
Lemons Mangos
Blueberries Pinecones


Processing can change it or the type of soil that is grown in can change it. Conditions of humidity and temperature during the time of growth can affect it.


Humans are primed to respond to terpenes. Millennia ago, our ancestors breathed in the scents of a wide variety of flowers and herbs. They may not have known it at the time, but they were also enjoying terpenes - possibly even terpenes from cannabis or hemp plants. 


Terpenes are common to human diets. They are listed by the regulatory agencies as generally recognized as safe. Numerous studies have shown that they affect even at very low concentrations; many of them are widely used and studied in aromatherapy. They behave very safely and have a long history of use in humans. Nothing ever fatal happens from consuming terpenes and there have been no recorded deaths from consuming them. Topically, they're very safe when fresh. There can be some minor irritation if the product is old. On rare occasions, terpenes that are used past their shelf life can sometimes cause minor skin irritations.


They're very versatile. And Terpenes are very effective even at low concentrations so start slowly with microdoses whatever method you choose to consume them. They complement the cannabinoids and create synergy when consumed together. They can create synergistic effects, depending on how they are used. They can be taken alone or in conjunction with cannabinoids. Some people have very different reactions to certain types of cannabis and the terpens that accompany them. The terpene profile of a particular cannabis strain can have an effect on one user and taken in the same dose by another, it has different effects. So, understanding as a consumer, what works for me, what doesn't work for me, takes a lot of time.

Inhalation. Dabbing, vaporizing. 
Topically. And terpenes can be effective topically and orally as well. 
Orally. In the mouth.
Suppository. Up the bum.


They interact with different enzyme systems in the body, neurotransmitters, second messenger systems, and these are part of the ways that they create physiological effects. We have an immediate, visceral set of responses to the presence of terpenes when we breathe in their scents: our muscles relax. We become more sensitive to hormonal signals within and around us.

It also takes experimenting with a lot of different products. Botanical medicine is much fuzzier and it does require a lot of time and it requires at least somebody helping the patient who knows what they're doing, who can make proper suggestions, the patient can do a lot on their own. Through diaries of dosage, Gene strain selection, etc. 

The cannabis plant can have a wide variety of terpene expressions, even within the same plant itself. Terpene counts concentration will vary throughout processing. The terpene levels can rise as the plant dries. And also, as the plant ages, it loses smell and terps as the dried flower ages. When you open a nice new jar of really smelly CBD flowers that permeate the room, those are the terpenes leaving the plant and going into the air. 

what do terps do to our bodies


You'll notice when you first purchase some CBD from the online dispensary, and you take it home and you open it and you smell it, it might have a very powerful or pungent aroma to it. but two or three weeks later, especially if that jar has been opened, closed, open-closed, those levels can change drastically, with terpenes simply evaporating, 

The human smell and the palate can be very effective at detecting certain terpenes. And certainly combinations of flavors. In the wine-tasting world, for example, the sommelier has training. And when you go to the test for the sommelier, you're smelling the wine. And you should be able to tell not only what type of wine it is, but what year it was grown and what soil it was grown in. Terpenes tend to do well in soils with a little less nitrogen. The French have a saying about wine. To make great wine, the grapes must suffer. And I think that they're talking about real hot days real cold nights and some of the plant molecules in the grape are much more expressed during stress. Some of the plant chemicals are more expressed during times of stress.

So terpenes are quite variable but use your nose and the nose can become very sophisticated. And also we have beautiful laboratory analytics. Now, some of the displays I've seen are quite nice. In terms of gauging the various levels. Terpene concentrations can vary. And this is one large reason why some people do much better with certain types of cannabis than others. And again, that's a very individual story and specific choice. 


So when we look at studies, we know that rodents, laboratory animals, show there can be pretty profound effects on their activity. You can have the animals in a relatively lethargic state, and you can introduce terpenes. And you can observe increases in movement and movement patterns, very obvious and this can happen at very low concentrations. So that suggests a pharmacologic effect on their nervous systems as low five nanograms per ml. And then we also see positive effects at undetectable levels in the blood, which could be because the terpenes even though they come in at already low concentrations, they distribute pretty widely in the body. If it's in the nervous system, they go into the lipids pretty quickly. So the body can absorb a lot of the terpenes and take them right out of the plasma, but we can still have effects at very low concentrations. 

Some studies show strong serotonin activity which could be partially responsible for the effects on mood, pain, and sleep. And we see this a lot with some of the Indica strains. Certainly, some types of cannabis will make people much more sleepy than other types of cannabis. A lot of this is involved with a terpene profile.


When we have an educated palate, we can learn to smell the types of terpens that tend to work best for us. Some people will notice that they do much better with certain types of strains than others. A large part of terpene production is genetic. So utilizing genetic information can potentially be helpful for folks as well. They can be quite broad, the different levels of concentrations. 

An expert can sometimes be very helpful to make suggestions. And the terpenes are a good example of this huge variability, not only even within similar chemotypes of the plant but also within the same plant itself. And then the cannabis one week is going to be a different type of cannabis two or three weeks later, especially if it gets is dry and exposed to open air and a lot of the terpenes can escape. Terpene production is more genetically than environmentally determined. 

 So, the strain is very important. Think of wine being stressed in the heat of the sun, kind of a thing, and decreases with soil fertility, but it does increase terpene yields are higher when the plants are deprived of nitrogen. So to maintain tight tolerances, good manufacturing process practices, like you would have pharmaceutical, for example, cannabis does require the vegetative processing of the plants to have a tightly controlled temperature, light, and humidity. The more sophisticated recreational grows are doing a lot of this home grows, maybe not so much. But realize that there are environmental factors that definitely do affect it and that also genetics are the same.

 And if you look at any kind of terps analyzed by a laboratory, a lot of labs are doing terpene analysis, you'll see a pretty wide range of variables. 

Some of the most common and popular terpene profiles.


The terpenes we'll start with Myrcene is a monoterpene and the most common terpene produced by cannabis, also known as β-myrcene is a terpene that is common to a lot of other plants. Lemon Grass has a high level of Myrcene, as do mangoes, and hops. hops in and lemongrass are known to have sedative and relaxing effects. Hops are a cousin of cannabis in the plant world. So when combined with THC, especially, there's a synergistic effect with Myrcene and it really can help produce sedation. Myrcene is one of the molecules responsible for the "couch-lock" feeling. So for those people who like an indica to get into their body and feel relaxed, that a lot of the times is a high Myrcene component. It does have some pretty remarkable physiologic effects as a standalone molecule. It's anti-inflammatory through prostaglandin pathways. So anytime you're using an anti-inflammatory approach, there are different inflammatory pathways, and when you hit more than one you have this potential for synergy as well. So also in addition to anti-inflammatory is a good pain reliever. I mentioned the sedative aspects of it. It is a muscle relaxant. 

 And, in animal studies, Myrcene blocks liver cancer from forming. I'm not suggesting that that's the case. But just in terms of liver protection. Thinking of medicines we normally think of medicines is things that hit the liver heart. Acetaminophen, Tylenol, for example, can cause liver cancer. This is a pain-relieving molecule that actually in animal studies is preventing it. So again, the potential for synergy with other pathways where Whether that be for sleep induction, or for pain relief, or for muscle relaxation for spasticity, this is a pretty good molecule and is shared by a bunch of other plants on that line, sometimes it could theoretically be much cheaper to get terpenes from say, lemongrass or mangoes. Then it would be to hunt for a cannabis plant and try to create one that's super high in a certain level. Sometimes I recommend that my patients would enjoy like a mango smoothie or a mango drink with the cannabis or lemongrass tea along with the cannabis there are ways that we can utilize these chemicals very affordably from other plants. As cannabis is still a pretty expensive plant to grow if you think about it. 


This particle terpene has a very lemony smell to it. So even something like a lemon-fresh pledge, something that kind of smells clean and bright. We know in human studies that we can take depressed patients, we can put them in a room, we can expose them to the Limonene at very low levels and measure their depression on something called a Hamilton depression score. And you can see the before and after their scores. The scores on the depressions are reduced. 

 They also are shown to reduce their use over time of antidepressant medications. We see a lot of folks changing their medications with cannabis. What the science is showing us that this terpene, limonene, is a very potent anti-depressant through inhalation.

What I like to use the lemon fragrances for or if people are having a bad reaction to THC, a lot of the times the lemon can kind of lift them out of that dour mood. I don't know if you've ever had an experience of trying a particular strain and then all of a sudden, you're in a bad mood or you're worried about something that may or may not be the case. But if you see that same pattern happening over and over again with the same strain, that could be indicative. One thing that can be very helpful is some of the lemon flavors with that. Terpene molecules are also known to kill bacteria and viruses in the air and on surfaces. Renowned aromatherapist David Crow calls this property "community immunity." That is why so many modern sanitation products smell of lemon or pine. 

 Limonene does affect serotonin pathways. So there is a mechanism that physiologically makes sense why would be having these anti-anxiety properties. It can help with GERD, topically can be helpful against acne bacteria, and in a laboratory and Sell tissue studies causes breast cancer lines to self destruct. So it literally turns on an auto-destruction program in breast cancer cells again, not in humans we need more study on and I find it to be very synergistic, especially with THC for folks who tend not like THC but may need a little bit of THC because that helps with their pain, Limonene is a good terpene to have for daytime use. pining. 


One of my favorites not because of what it does, but because I can just smell it so easily. So a lot of the times I don't even need a lab to know that it's there. It is anti-inflammatory through prostaglandin pathways. It also acts as a bronco dilator which means it opens the airways which can be good for folks who have may have trouble with inhalation, Pinene oriented products, where they want to do inhalation, might make that a little bit better. Pinene does aid in memory. That's one of the places where I think it can be most useful. People who tend to get a little dumb or stupid when they're using too much THC. The Pinene can kind of help neutralize that as along with the CBD. And it does the memory as an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor so we know the mechanism about that. So when I think of pine when I smell pine, I'm thinking oh, that's cool that the THC high is going to be more tempered, less of a stupid patient less likely to take the IQ down. 


The evolutionary function of this terpene is the plant uses it to stop itself from being eaten either by insects or even mammals herbivores. And at the same time, there is a predatory lace wig insect that when it smells Beta-caryophyllene when it's attracted to the plant. So it's repelling the insects that it doesn't like and it is attracting the insects that eat the insects that it doesn't like kind of like a ladybug will take care of insects in a beneficial way. Very common to black pepper. Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene that is common to black pepper. It has a good anti-inflammatory activity at a low level and can be good in a topical product. 


Is a terpene that is common in lavender. Many people are familiar with lavender. It's become very popular lavender pillows. Very nice, relaxing smell for a lot of folks. It's believed that Linalool modulates glutamate and GABA neurotransmitters, so largely responsible for some of the anti-anxiety effects of it and also it is a sedative on inhalation and in a rodent model. So we talked about earlier on limonene in a rodent model getting the animals to move faster. The linalool will slow them down. And it is an analgesic via adenosine receptors so is working on a different pathway from the prostaglandins that a lot of the other terpenes run on. I think of this as a sedative, something that along with Myrcene can help with a couch-lock and again, The terpenes can be present in the cannabis plant or they can come from another plant such as lavender. We don't necessarily need to have them together.

I don't recommend this, but some folks will sprinkle in some a little bit of lavender flower and with their smoke to add a little bit of a flavor. I don't know very much about the smoking of lavender. But from a terpene perspective, that certainly would make sense on one level. But again, a regular lavender diffuser in the atmosphere, or even a lavender candle or something like that can have a positive influence in the room for patients or recreational users who are using cannabis. Again, this is something that tends to be calming and sleep-inducing. So think couch lock, think sleep aid that kind of thing.


A lot of people bake with CBD cannabis, you'll notice that the room starts to smell like weed after it's been baking for a while. Those are the terpenes in the air, they've left the plant and are not useful for medicine when they've done that. So one tip when making some baked goods with CBD is to keep the baked goods covered, which would be something you normally wouldn't do. When you're cooking brownies you would normally have them lifted up but it might be appropriate to cover them with foil, to keep some of the terpenes in there. 


Specialized knowledge is important because it's not about whether or not terpens works, it's how to get it to work better. I do think that the whole industry suffers from a lack of expertise. And I hope that part of what we're doing here is to raise the overall level of awareness so that people can make good choices to suit their own needs.

A shortage of experts in this area is causing the market not to behave as it should. Because the consumers are not experiencing the positive effects from well refined and laboratory tested terps. 

What is important is quality of products, good selection of products, folks who can make good recommendations for those products, and then consumers who are educated enough to make intelligent choices to choose product A, B, or C and to try them out and see which one may work best for them. 

There are so many things to consider and it is not so much having an ideal perfect product, but having the patient be aware and be able to make choices and adjustments. So again, knowledge is very critical.

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