Terpenes are responsible for the aroma and flavors of cannabis and influence its effects by interacting with cannabinoids.
Ah, what’s that heavenly aroma? Based on the blog you’re currently reading, it’s probably fresh cannabis. But simply identifying a smell as “weed” doesn’t come close to expressing the true nature of what you smell, why you smell it, and what exactly it is.
The it in question is a collection of aromatic molecules known as terpenes, and they are responsible for the unique aroma of each cannabis cultivar. That’s right—whether you’re inhaling bouquets of citrus, skunk, pine, or the tropics, the sublime scents and flavors we experience when we consume cannabis are all thanks to terpenes.
In fact, there are more than 200 terpene varieties found in a cannabis plant, while individual cannabis strains have their own distinctive flavors and scents as a result of their unique terpene profiles.
Found in the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD, terpene compounds actually occur across the spectrum of plant life, not only in cannabis. When you smell an orange, it smells like an orange because of terpenes. When a hint of lavender tickles your nose, that’s terpenes. And when the aromas of rosemary, sage, and thyme coalesce together like a Thanksgiving feast, it’s because of terpenes.
The high concentrations of terpenes in cannabis and other plants essentially act like a dinner bell, enticing the sniffer and stimulating the senses.
More Than Meets The Nose
These days, recreational and medical dispensaries are spiking their vape oils, lotions, edibles, drinks, and tinctures with terpenes, along with THC and CBD cannabinoids. And it’s not just for the smell of it.
Terpenes (also called terpenoids or terps) could work synergistically with cannabinoids to puff up the mental and physical benefits of cannabis. Research is beginning to show that terpenes—in all plants—could demonstrate therapeutic properties. One recent study from 2017 smacks of good news in this department, saying that terpenes appear to have properties that could soothe inflamed joints after exercise while increasing mental acuity, improving absent-mindedness, and supporting normal cognitive function.
Meanwhile, a separate study from 2018 suggests that terpenes, along with cannabinoids, show promise in soothing discomfort, relieving occasional headaches, and potentially reducing soreness experienced from daily activities, such as exercise.
But how exactly do terpenes interact with cannabinoids to create a cosmic concoction of potential mental and physical benefits? Let’s get a dose of cannabis basics and discover something called the “Entourage Effect.”
The Entourage Effect: How Do Terpenes Interact with THC and CBD?
To figure out how terpenes interact with THC and CBD—and why you should definitely care—let’s do some science.
First, the basics. On the molecular level, CBD and THC are nearly identical. Put your lab coat on; this is about to get technical. Both cannabis compounds possess 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. When THC enters your body, it binds with your cannabinoid 1 and 2 brain receptors, making you feel the euphoric “high.” CBD barely binds with those same receptors but can interfere with THC, thereby easing any psychoactive effects.
It all happens in your body’s Endocannabinoid System—your body’s very own built-in cannabis processing factory. This vital chemical signaling system houses a network of receptors that cooperate with the incoming cannabinoids in CBD and THC, dispersing the compounds throughout your body to regulate mood, stimulate appetite, and alleviate physical discomfort.
According to research, terpenes hop aboard via the “Entourage Effect,” a theory proposing that THC and CBD work in concert with each other and with terpenes to achieve a colorful array of benefits. First mentioned in relation to cannabis in 1998 by a team of researchers that included medical marijuana pioneer and biochemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the Entourage Effect, in theory, gather the cannabinoids and terpenes, initiating interactions that could potentially create a defensive barrier that soothes the body, helps maintain proper immune function, promotes general relaxation, improves mood, and more.
A study from 2011, “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy And Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects,” concludes that select high-terpenoid and high-phytocannabinoid strains have shown promise in a host of physical applications—though further research is needed to unlock the full capacity of the Entourage Effect.
Cannabinoid compounds THC and CBD tend to get all the credit—but the cannabis-consuming public is beginning to sniff the nuanced potential of terpenes.
Understanding how to predict a product’s high by its terpene content is the key to better experiences. Our Patient Advisors are always available to guide you to the right terpene-rich products for you using Remedy’s proprietary Terpene Tracker. With our tracker, we can lead you to similar products that produce similar effects.
Click here to check out our Terpene Tracker, or here, to schedule a video consult with a Remedy Patient Advisor.