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What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are the oils that give cannabis its smell and flavor, but they may also have potential medicinal benefits.
Cannabis plants can contain multiple terpenes—and the combination helps make each strain (or type) unique. This means cannabis plant breeders have many possible combinations and can grow a plant with specific characteristics, scents, and flavors in mind. The combination and ratio of cannabinoids & terpenes in each unique cannabis strain is part of the reason why cannabis can be such a personalized medication which may work for various conditions.
You may have heard cannabis experts commenting on the smell of certain strains. For example, terpenes make the cannabis strain “Blueberry” smell like berries.
Similarly, terpenes are also found in many other plants, not just the cannabis plant. They’re responsible for the citrus scent of lemons and the refreshing fragrance of peppermint leaves, for example.
Most Common Terpenes in Cannabis:
• Treatment of Asthma
• Bronchodilator (Sinus)
Potential Medicinal Benefits of Terpenes
Like cannabinoids, terpenes may also play a role in the physiological and psychological effects of a certain strain.
As a 2011 study concluded, breeding cannabis for their terpene content may strengthen and broaden clinical applications.
For example, sedation may be a common effect of some terpenes. A 1993 study showed that over 40 terpenes have sedative effects when inhaled by mice. For example, this 1993 study indicated that Linalool was the most sedating and reduced mouse motility by 73%. Knowing this, Licensed Producers may choose to grow cannabis strains specifically to have high amounts of linalool,to help patients with anxiety or insomnia.
Fortunately, since many of the terpenes in cannabis are present in other plants, researchers have already studied many of their specific benefits, which we detail later on in this post.
Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
Terpenes not only have their own set of potential therapeutic benefits, but they can make the benefits of certain cannabinoids stronger.
They contribute to what’s known as the “entourage effect.” This means that when terpenes interact with cannabinoids, they may increase each other’s therapeutic benefits. Put simply, they’re more effective when they’re present together than alone.
However, since there are so many different terpenes and cannabinoids, more research needs to be done to fully understand the benefits of the effect.
To learn more about the entourage effect, we recommend reading The Entourage Effect Explained Simply.
What Role Can Terpenes Play in Your Treatment with Medical Cannabis?
As our understanding of terpenes increases, with it’s prevalence in research, medical cannabis doctors may begin to match conditions to a strain that has certain terpenes present. For example:
- A patient looking for painkilling effects may be recommended to try a strain high in the terpene linalool, which has potential pain relieving effects.
- Strains high in the terpene limonene may be recommended for a patient suffering from depression.
- A patient with arthritis may benefit from a strain that has caryophyllene, which has potential anti-inflammatory properties.
If you’re eligible, a doctor will authorize you a prescription for medical cannabis, which allows you to purchase your medicine from a licensed producer (LP). Unlike illegal dispensaries, LPs must test their products to ensure they’re accurately labeling them. One of the things that analysis labs can test for is terpene content. This means that when you get a prescription, the amount of therapeutic terpenes you’re getting is accurately reported.