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Last week on the blog, we noted that there are 480 identified chemical compounds in the cannabis plant, and we told you about one class of compounds that make cannabis an effective medicine: cannabinoids. This week, we wanted to dive deeper into the healing properties of cannabis by examining another group of medicinal chemicals found in cannabis: terpenes.
Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes are found in many plants; they’re the chemicals that give a plant its aroma and flavor. Different levels of terpenes in different strains of cannabis are what give it a more earthy, fruity, or skunky smell and taste. In addition to stimulating our senses, many of these terpenes have medicinal effects. There are 120 terpenes found in cannabis, but let’s just look at the top 5 terpenes that help your body heal:
Beta-myrcene is the most common terpene in cannabis, and it is also found in hops, eucalyptus, mango, bay leaves, and lemongrass. Its aroma has been described as “herbal, balsamic, rooty, or spicy.” It helps ease pain and inflammation, and it relaxes muscles.
Limonene is the second-most-common terpene in cannabis. The aroma is found in citrus plants and is commonly used in lemony-fresh cleaning solvents and natural insect repellants. Limonene fights tumors and bacterial infections, stimulates the immune system, relieves depression and anxiety, and treats gastric reflux and ulcers.
As you might guess from the name, this compound is commonly found in pine trees and other coniferous plants. It helps dilate the bronchial tubes, reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, and increase cognitive function.
This terpene gives clove and black pepper their rich smell and taste. Like many cannabinoids, beta-caryophyllene binds to the CB2 receptor, found mostly in the immune system. Beta-caryophyllene is antibacterial and antiseptic, and it eases inflammation, nerve pain, ulcers, and depression.
Linalool is a common ingredient in perfumes because of its pleasant floral aroma. It is naturally found in lavender, citrus, mint, cinnamon, and birch. It has especially helpful mental effects, helping with psychosis, reducing anxiety and stress, and making SSRI antidepressants more effective. It also reduces epileptic convulsions.
Terpenes are a big contributor to the Because terpenes have a wide variety of medicinal benefits, and each terpene has many different properties, there are overlapping synergies between them. This fact is well known to herbalists, who take advantage of these synergies to greatly increase the effectiveness of their treatments.
An example of overlapping synergies can be found in the combination of [Beta]-Myrcene with D9-THC for pain, with THCA for inflammation, with CBD and Linalool as an antipsychotic, and with THC, THCA, and CBD in the treatment of muscle spasms.
When choosing the right strain of cannabis for your health needs, you should consider terpenes as well as cannabinoids. Many medical cannabis dispensaries list the terpene content of each strain, and a trained budtender can help you find a strain that has higher amounts of the terpenes that will help you most.