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The most common class of chemical compounds found in essential oils, used for aromatherapy in such places as spas, are called terpenes (pronounced TUR-peen).

Terpenes are the main component of any plant resin/oils and play many important roles in the plant kingdom- “from deterring insect predation, protection from environmental stresses and vitally, and act as chemical building blocks for more complex molecules, like cannabinoids.”1

Terpenes are a large and varied class of hydrocarbons (hydrogen + carbon atoms), produced by plants and also, some insects; they are  referred to asball-1055956_960_720 terpenoids when denatured by oxidation (like being dried and cured). 1  

Terpenoids contribute to scent, flavour and pigments: the scent of eucalyptus, the flavours of cinnamon, cloves, and lavender, as well as the colour of yellow flowers. 1

When you smell that distinct aroma of a particular strain of cannabis, you’re smelling the result of a specific blend of terpenes. Like cannabinoids such as THC & CBD, terpenes are secreted from the plant’s tiny crystal-looking hairs (trichomes) that cover the bud.2 It is important to remember that creation of terpenes in cannabis is influenced by multiple external factors, including soil and climate. 2

Oh what a “Riot of perfumes” as the poet and hash loving Arthur Rimbaud once said.

There are at least 140 different types of terpene in a cannabis plant, while a more “traditional” oil, like eucalyptus, produces a high number of one type of terpene only.3  Some cannabis strains have terpenes in only trace amounts, while others in double-digit percentage.4 Being able to measure these volatile compounds before and after breeding/hybridzation experiments will offer the cannabis community with endless opportunities for developing new flavours by basing breeding decisions on real analytical data. 4

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Cannabis essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the flowers and upper leaves of cannabis plants. 2 It is green in colour, highly volatile, and its component parts “are very powerful..highly active organic compounds”.

 

The 9 Primary Terpenes of  “Cannabis Aromatherapy”:

(The most common, higher dosed, terpenes found in common cannabis strains) 1 2 4 5

1.) Alpha Bisabolol violet-292367_960_720

Flavour & Aroma: Sweet / Berry/ Mild floral

Medicinal Benefits: May help fight bacteria, heal wounds and treat inflammation

Effects: Known as an anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant and anti-microbial. Smooth and tasty.

Soco Strain: CBD Blue OG,  Big Grape

2.) Alpha-Pinene/ Beta-Pinene 

Flavour & Aroma: Pinepine-1559085_960_720

Medicinal Benefits: May help with memory retention, increases alertness and counteracts cognitive fatigue. Like Sage, it aids as an anti-congestgent, anti-mucus, and bronchodilator – ergo it is great for coughs and respiratory difficulties.  

Effects: Known as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-asthmatic.

*Note, this terpene counteracts the effects of THC, ergo you wont get as much “brain fog” as you would with other strains. “Skunk” smelling strains have high levels of pinene. 

 

4.) Borneol aroma-906137_960_720

Flavour & Aroma: Earthy, mint, camphor

Medical Benefits: May help with fatigue, stress, relaxation and boosting your immune system. Often used heavily in Chinese medicine.

Effects: Known as an analgesic, anti-insomnia and bronchodilator.

5.) Caryophyllene

spices-541974_960_720Flavour & Aroma: Woody and spicy, notes of pepper

Medical Benefits: May help with inflammation, autoimmune disorders and gastrointestinal ailments. Anti-fungal/bacterial properties; said to be great for a toothache! 

Effects: Known as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This is one of the most common terpene found in cannabis.

Cool Fact: “Studies show that this terpene, also found in other legal herbs, spices and food plants (it contributes to the spiciness of  black pepper), activates the CB2 receptor and acts as a non-psychoactive anti-inflammatory.  Because it binds to a cannabinoid receptor, it is considered a cannabinoid and since the widespread natural plant product beta-caryophyllene is an FDA approved food additive and ingested daily with food, it is the first dietary cannabinoid” 1

Soco Flower: Kings Kush

 

6.) Humulenewoods-18989_960_720

Flavour & Aroma: Woody and earthy

Medical Benefits: May help with inflammatory diseases and pain relief. 

Effects: Known to suppress appetite, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. Suppression of appetite may be required when dealing with G.I issues or if you want to avoid the munchies!

Soco Flower: Washing Machine

 

7.) Limonenelemons-1149003_960_720

Flavour & Aroma: Citrus 

Medical Benefits: May help inflammation, gastrointestinal ailments, heartburn and depression. Has anti-fungal and bacterial properties, like oregano, and has even shown to have anti-carcinogenic effects. It is said to protect against mold and carcinogens present in smoke! 

Effects: Shown to help elevate mood and provide stress relief. If added more is added to a strain, one would have a more stimulating herb. Participants in studies have repeatedly reported experienced an increase inattention, mental focus, well-being and even sex drive! Often the culprit for such difficulties is depression and anxiety, therefore it does have SSRI properties. Used by plants to ward off predators, it is said to repel like an insecticide. 1

Soco Flower: Alan Young

 

8.) Linaloollavender-1537694_960_720

Flavour & Aroma: Floral and sweet with a touch of spice, like lavender. 

Medical Benefits: May help with anxiety, inflammation, epilepsy and depression

Effects: Known for anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, antidepressant and sedation properties. If more is added to a strain, one would have a more sedative. In mice, it was discovered to decrease their activity and induce sleep by 75%. 1  

SoCo Flower: High CBD Strains

 

9.) Myercene cloves-1049598_960_720

Flavour & Aroma: Most similar to cloves. Earthy, musky and herbal with a hint of fruit and citrus. 

Medical Benefits: May help with pain, insomnia, muscle tension and depression. 

Effects: Shown to be an effective anti-inflammatory, astringent, sedative and muscle relaxer. Considered “the most common” terpene (up to 60% of the essential oils of certain varieties); acting in synergy with THC, myercene increases its psychoactive potential. 1

Soco Flower: Scotts OG

It’s the unique and varying combination of these terpenes, found in each strain, that creates a distinctively specific aroma and flavour, along with an individualized set of health benefits and symptom relief.

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“Terpenes work synergistically with other cannabis compounds called cannabinoids (i.e. THC, CBD, etc.) to magnify therapeutic benefits…They work together with cannabinoids to create a specific and targeted result. Some terpenes have been found to buffer the psychoactive effects of THC, while amplifying the healing effects of cannabinoids. Others may eliminate some of the anxiety brought on by higher THC levels. And some terpenes can dilate lung capillaries, helping the cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream quicker for a faster onset of symptom relief.” 2

 

Cannabis as an aromatic plant goes often unnoticed and unsaid.  Cannabis is so complex from this point of view that the possible terpene combinations are endless, creating a broad spectrum of possible aromas and flavours. 1

“Scientists are researching to learn more about the benefits of terpenes. With every study more is being discovered on the massive potential of these plant compounds. We know now that terpenes bind to the receptors sent to the brain to affect dopamine and serotonin levels. According to highly regarded neurologist and psychopharmacology researcher Dr. Ethan Russo, terpenes “could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.’’ Understanding the role of certain terpenes will allow scientists to manipulate cannabinoids to desired ratios.  Some terpenes are said to modulate the physiological and psychoactive effects of cannabis. 1  

 

What is key to terpenes – synergy.

“Synergy has a scientific basis in our body’s endocannabinoid system. THC binds to receptors concentrated most heavily in the brain where psychoactive effects take place. Terpenes also bind to these receptor sites and affect their chemical output. They can also modify how much THC passes through the blood-brain barrier.” 2

 

BIGGEST GAIN:

 

Considering that this oil is so powerful, “very small amounts are necessary for it to have an effect.” 2 This means that cannabis oil is not only highly beneficial (for mind, body and soul), but also a frugal and an organic approach to your health and wellness!

We must not forget, terpenes can add great depth to the horticultural art and connoisseurship of cannabis; combining “left & right brain values”, we should move forward and onward, through all our senses, as we mediate our body’s interaction with therapeutic cannabinoids.

 

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Warning: Although this article’s data clearly shows that cannabis essential oil can be an effective remedy for many health conditions, it is still a potent chemical substance extracted from a plant with psychotropic substances. Speak to a healthcare professional about mixing essential oils and present medications before adding any new to your health regimen. Remember to always “Start Low, Go Slow.”


1.
Healing with Terpenes – Cannabis Aromatherapy. Autoflower Portal. https://autoflower-portal.net/healing-terpenes-cannabis-aromatherapy/#prettyPhoto. Published July 18, 2014. Accessed October 13, 2016.
2.
Health Benefits of Cannabis Essential Oil. Organic Facts. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/cannabis-essential-oil.html. Published 2015. Accessed October 12, 2016.
3.
Kohr A. The Legal Way of Combining Cannabis With Aromatherapy . yoganonymous.com. http://yoganonymous.com/the-company-combining-cannabis-with-aromatherapy. Published June 25, 2016. Accessed October 14, 2016.
4.
TERPENES, TERPENOIDS AND CANNABIS. Berkley Patient Care Collective. http://berkeleypatientscare.com/2010/10/08/terpenes-terpenoids-and-cannabis/. Published 2010. Accessed October 14, 2016.
5.
Marijuana terpenes and their effects. Alchimia. https://www.alchimiaweb.com/blogen/marijuana-terpenes-effects/. Published June 24, 2014. Accessed October 14, 2016.