Terpenes! Stop and Smell the Flowers: They are Talking to You
There’s this beautiful drive down 6th street in Los Angeles, California when you are coming from Hollywood and headed toward Koreatown. The street is fairly narrow and there are all different kinds of trees hanging over the street lamps, traffic lights, and your car as you drive. It feels as if they are saying hello? This feeling is not insane, or maybe it’s only partially insane.
Terpenes create the aroma of a plant. When you smell a plant, you are smelling the terpenes that the plant has released into the air. The terpenes are these tiny chemical molecules that go up your nose, into you brain and you actually gain many health benefits from them. Terpenes are why it is so healthy to breathe in the scent of trees. The trees are saying hello through their terpenes!
But What are the Health Benefits of Terpenes?
Experiments have been conducted with rodents and terpenes, in his paper Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects, Dr. Ethan Russo concludes, “Mice exposed to terpenoid odors inhaled from ambient air for 1h demonstrated profound effects on activity levels, suggesting a direct pharmacological effect on the brain, even at extremely low serum concentrations.” If you have ever sniffed lavender and felt clear or refreshed, that is because the terpene D-Linalool is stimulating sedative neural activity inside of your brain. The terpene limonene is both antibacterial and antifungal, cleaning products are always trying to produce this and that is why they consistently have a lemony smell.
Different terpenes have been studied and they have been found to have effects that are ranging from neuroprotective (Alpha-Pinene), anti-convulsant (D-Linalool), anti-inflammatory (Myrcene), and much more.
Pinene: Also found in Pine Needles
Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Bacterial, Bronochilator, Memory Aid
Linalool: Also found in Lavender
Anti-Anxiety, Anti-Convulsant, Analgesic, Anesthetic
Limonene: Also found in Citrus
Anti-Anxiety, AntiDepressant Aids Acid Reflux
Myrcene: Also found in Thyme
Muscle Relaxant, Sleep Aid, Why Indicas are Sedative
Beta Caryophyllene: Also found in Rosemary
Anti-inflammatory, Protects the cells lining the digestive tract, Analgesic
What about the Terpenes in Hemp?
While most plants have a single terpene, the hemp plant has hundreds! Terpenes are famous for their role in the “entourage effect.” This phenomenon is produced when the whole plant, and the entirety of its chemical compounds, works together to create the maximal amount of health benefits for the flower connoisseur. Terpenes are part of the chemical makeup of hemp, and they help determine how the plant can be used therapeutically. Different chemical reactions will occur with different combinations of both cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBG, etc.) and terpenes, which will then work with and modulate different pathways in the body. For example, terpenes are said to be the differentiating factor between sativa and indica strains of cannabis. This makes sense as terpenes are developed in the same part of the plant as the cannabinoids; in the trichomes!
What is the Trichome?
The trichome is where the most potent concentrations of the active chemical compounds of hemp are found. This is where the cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBG, etc.) are located. These tiny hairs of the plant are the most important part for anyone looking to benefit the body by utilizing flower power. While terpenes are only 1% of the overall hemp content, they are 10% of the tricome content.
So the plant is actually talking to you?
Terpenes interact with enzymes, neurotransmitters, and messenger systems throughout the body. Through terpenes, the very specific smell and pungencies tell the story of the very specific chemical properties of that plant, and therefore what that plant will do for the body.
Utilizing Terpenes from other (less expensive) sources to Boost Cannabis Therapeutics?
I have been a little confused reading online, as the terpenes of cannabis are coined as “cannabis terpenes”. Terpenes are just molecules made by a bunch of different plants,
and the terpenes found in cannabis can be found in other plants as well. If you want to supplement your hemp with terpenes found from things like mangos (myrcene) or lavender (linalool) that is definitely an option. My two favorite terpenes are:
Beta-Caryophyllene, found in many essential oils, rosemary, and clove. It is the only terpene (so far) found to interact directly with the Endocannabinoid System. It is an anti-inflammatory and a metabolite. It is technically a cannabinoid as well, because this terpene binds to the CB receptors of the body!
Myrcene, found in lemongrass, hopps, mango, and thyme. It cuts the blood brain barrier of the body which allows for further uptake of cannabinoids. This is also the terpene responsible for either an indica or sativa effect, indicas have more 0.5% myrcene and sativas have less than 0.5%.
How can I work with these talking flowers?
When a person begins his or her journey utilizing plant medicine there is a period of trial and error. An individual must learn to be in touch with the self and the body. Fundamentally, the person must take the responsibility onto the self to feel out what works for him or her. The hemp world is individualized and so are terpenes. The variability of the terpenes is representative of the multitude in the potential uses of hemp. One must research, self-test, and discover what works best in the unique body of the individual.
We have evolutionized alongside plants, they are part of our history, our medicines, and the cells inside our bodies. Our noses have evolved to point us in the direction of something good (a flower), instead of something bad (rotten fruit). It’s okay if you want to try and listen to their attempt at communication, our ancestors have throughout the entirety of human history, and when you think about it like that it really doesn’t seem so crazy.
An Article By Evie Louise
Evie Louise is a recent psychology graduate from New York University. She is a certified in International Cannabinoid Clinical Therapy. Evie sees all forms of the cannabis sativa plant as the future of psychiatry, and hopes to use it in her therapy practice as a full spectrum approach to mental health and wellness.