What are Terpenes and can we benefit from them? Why do plants produce terpenes in the first place?
Humans and Animals respond to their surroundings by movement, if a predator challenges us, we can simply walk away. Plants are pretty stuck, if a herbivore tries to challenge them they're more than likely to end up in a chopped salad. Plants' hidden ecosystems lie beneath leaving them totally susceptible to any lurking herbivores above, so how do plants protect themselves?
This is where terpenes come in to help our leafy friends. Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons that plants use as a defense mechanism to ward off herbivores that might eat them and to attract helpful predators and pollinators. Cannabis naturally has high levels of terpenes, giving it it’s “dank” smell.
So how can we benefit from Terpenes? Nearly all of the major terpenes in cannabis are either analgesic (anti-pain) or anti-inflammatory. A game-changing paper by Raphael Mechoulam published in 2011 described the way cannabinoids and terpenes work together to boost and modulate the effects of one another in the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The paper also revealed terpenes “could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.” Cannabinoid terpenoid interactions can even amplify the beneficial effects of cannabis while reducing THC-induced anxiety.
A few common terpenes and their effects:
The most common terpene in cannabis and commonly found in hops, Myrcene. It is also known as the "couch-lock" terpene for its highly-sedative effects.
Common in citrus like lemon and lime, Limonene is highly-energetic and a known antidepressant.
Caryophyllene is gastroprotective and a strong anti-inflammatory with a woody, peppery taste. Commonly found in cloves.
Energetic and therapeutic, Pinene is common in rosemary and pine needles. If you've ever hiked through a forest and felt "uplifted" you've experienced this terpenenoid.