The aromatic richness of cannabis is in its terpenes and there are over 100 of them. This post from Happy Healthy Green profiles the most important terpenes and their benefits.
Terpenes in Cannabis
Myrcene, specifically β-myrcene, is a monoterpene most commonly produced by cannabis (some varieties contain up to 60% of the essential oil). Its aroma is musky, earthy, and herbal – akin to cloves. A high myrcene level in cannabis (usually above 0.5%) results in the well-known “couch-lock” effect of classic Indica strains. Myrcene is found in oil of hops, citrus fruits, bay leaves, eucalyptus, wild thyme, lemon grass, and many other plants.
Myrcene has some very special medicinal properties, including but not limited to, lowering resistance across the blood-to-brain barrier, which allows itself and many other chemicals to move through that barrier quickly and with a great deal of ease. When thinking of this in relation to cannabinoids (like THC), myrcene helps the effects of the cannabinoid to take effect more quickly. Even more interesting is the fact that myrcene increases the maximum saturation level of the CB1 receptor, allowing for a greater maximum psychoactive effect.
Myrcene is a potent analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anti-mutagenic. It blocks the action of cytochrome, aflatoxin B, and other pro-mutagenic carcinogens. The Bonamin et al study focused on the role of β-myrcene in preventing peptic ulcer disease. The study revealed that β-myrcene acts as an inhibitor of gastric and duodenal ulcers, suggesting it may be helpful in preventing peptic ulcer disease. In addition to this, its sedative and relaxing effects also make it ideal for the treatment of insomnia and pain.
Since myrcene is normally found in the essential oils present in citrus fruits, many claim eating a fresh mango about 45 minutes before consuming cannabis will result in the faster onset of psycho activity and greater intensity. If you are going to take advantage of this scientifically observed benefit, be sure to choose a mango that is ripe, otherwise the myrcene level will be too low to make a difference.
Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpenoid. As its name suggests, pinene has distinctive aromas of pine and fir. There are two structural pinene isomers found in nature: α-pinene, the most widely encountered terpenoid in nature, and β-pinene. Both forms are important components of pine resin.
Pinene is found in many other conifers, as well as in non-coniferous plants. It is found mostly in balsamic resin, pine woods, and some citrus fruits. These two isomers present in pinene constitute the main component of wood turpentine. Pinene is one of the principal and most important monoterpenes present physiologically in both plants and animals. It tends to react with other chemicals, forming a variety of additional terpenes (like limonene), as well as numerous other naturally occurring compounds.
Pinene is used in medicine as an anti-inflammatory, expectorant, bronchodilator, and local antiseptic. α-pinene is a natural compound isolated from pine needle oil which has demonstrated specific anti-cancer activity and has often been used as an anti-cancer agent in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. It is also believed that the effects of THC may be lessened if mixed with pinene.
Limonene is a monocyclic monoterpenoid and one of two major compounds formed from pinene. As the name suggests, varieties high in limonene have strong aromas of citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes. Strains high in limonene promote a general uplift in mood and attitude. This citrus smelling terpene is the major constituent in citrus fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, and peppermint, as well as in several pine needle oils.
Limonene is highly absorbed by inhalation and quickly appears in the bloodstream. It assists in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and other body tissue. It is well documented that limonene suppresses the growth of many species of fungi and bacteria, making it an ideal antifungal agent for ailments such as toenail fungus.
Limonene may be beneficial in protecting against various cancers, and orally administered limonene is currently undergoing clinical trials in the treatment of breast cancer. In addition to its cancer fighting properties, limonene has been found to help promote weight-loss, among other things.
Plants use limonene as a natural insecticide to ward off predators. Until only a few decades ago, limonene was primarily used in food and perfumes. More recently, it has become better recognized as the main active ingredient in citrus cleaners, due to its astringent properties as well as its very low toxicity, meaning that adverse effects rarely occur.
Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene found in many plants such as Thai basils, cloves, cinnamon leaves, black pepper, and, in minor quantities, in lavender. Its aroma has been described as peppery, woody and/or spicy, and it is often used in chewing gum when combined with other spicy or citrus flavors.
Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact with the endocannabinoid system (CB2). Research shows shows that β–caryophyllene selectively binds to the CB2 receptor and that it is a functional CB2 agonist. Furthermore, β–caryophyllene was identified as a functional non-psychoactive CB2 receptor ligand in foodstuff and as a macrocyclic anti-inflammatory cannabinoid in cannabis, making it another frontrunner in the treatment of cancer.
The Fine/Rosenfeld pain study demonstrates that other combinations of phytocannabinoids, especially cannabidiol (CBD) and β-caryophyllene, when administered orally, appear to be promising candidates for the treatment of chronic pain, as they produce little or no adverse effects and appear to be extremely safe to use.
The Horváth et al study suggests β-caryophyllene, through a CB2 receptor dependent pathway, may be an excellent therapeutic agent to prevent nephrotoxicity (poisonous effect on the kidneys) caused by anti-cancer chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin.
The Jeena, Liju et al study investigated the chemical composition of essential oils isolated in black pepper, of which caryophyllene is a main constituent, and studied its pharmacological properties. Black pepper oil was found to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-nociceptive properties. This suggests that high-caryophyllene strains may be useful in treating a number of medical issues such as arthritis and neuropathy pain.
Continue reading about 10 more terpenes.