Terpenes are compounds found in plants (and some in animals!) that give cannabis and plants their unique smell and taste. In addition to their role in scent, terpenes also provide a host of other potential benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Different strains of cannabis have diverse terpene profiles, which means they will smell and taste different from one another. If you're new to cannabis, learning about terpenes is a good place to start!
This article will cover the role terpenes play in cannabis, how they affect the smell and taste of different strains, some of the potential benefits they may provide and how these benefits may differ based on method of consumption.
What Do Terpenes Do?
Cannabis plants produce terpenes to attract different types of insects, which is why some plants have distinctive smells. These scents also help deter animals that might eat the plant.
While they typically are not psychoactive or intoxicating, terpenes are believed to contribute to "the entourage effect" in cannabis, which is a theory suggesting that the combined effects of the compounds in cannabis are greater than the sum of their individual parts.
In other words, the entourage effect theorizes that terpenes might make certain cannabis strains more effective at treating specific conditions. For example, a strain with high levels of terpene myrcene might be more effective at relieving pain than a strain without any myrcene.
A specific terpene’s effect depends mostly on how it’s used-- whether it’s topically, orally, or inhaled. When terpenes are inhaled, the olfactory sensors are triggered, and the signals are sent to the olfactory bulb and brain. This explains the role they play in aromatherapy.
When absorbed through the skin or digestive system, terpenes can directly activate GABA receptors and TRP channels.
However, more research is needed to understand how exactly terpenes work and what role they play in the therapeutic effects of cannabis.
Terpenes vs. Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are the most well-known compounds in cannabis, but terpenes are completely different molecules. A cannabinoid is a large molecule produced primarily in the cannabis plant. They require high heat to evaporate and work by interacting with our body's endocannabinoid system (ECS).
On the other hand, terpenes are very small organic molecules found in all sorts of plants (and even some animals!) Terpenes are believed to work in the body by modulating the effects of cannabinoids. Terpenes are also what give a pine tree its scent and they are what give lavender its calming effect. While more research is needed to understand the exact role of each terpene compound, we know that they all work together to produce a unique effect when used topically, orally or inhaled.
Are Terpenes Safe?
Yes, terpenes are safe! In fact, they're found in many everyday items such as fruits, vegetables, and essential oils.
While there is still much to learn about terpenes, they are generally considered safe for human consumption. Cannabis terpenes are non-toxic and generally well tolerated by most people. Unlike THC, terpenes do not produce any psychoactive effects.
How Do Terpenes Affect the Flavor of Cannabis Strains?
As we mentioned before, different strains of cannabis have different terpene profiles, which means they will smell and taste different from one another.
If you're looking for a particular flavor in your cannabis strain, pay attention to the terpene profile! For example, strains with high levels of myrcene tend to have earthy, musky aromas, while strains with high levels of limonene tend to have citrusy flavors.
Keep in mind that the flavor of a cannabis strain is also affected by factors like how it was grown and harvested.
What Are Some of the Potential Benefits of Terpenes?
In addition to their role in flavor, terpenes also provide a host of other potential benefits. Here are some common ones found in cannabis and what they're thought to do:
Myrcene: Potential sedative and pain-relieving effects. Found in lemongrass, thyme, and basil.
Limonene: Potential antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. Also found in citrus fruits.
Caryophyllene: Potential anti-inflammatory and commonly used as an antioxidant. Also found in cloves, black pepper, and basil.
Linalool: Potential sedative and anti-anxiety effects commonly found in lavender.
Pinene: Potential antimicrobial and neuroprotective effects. Also found in pine needles and rosemary.
It is important to note, that research on terpenes is still in infancy, and it is unclear if the method of consumption affects the absorption and effect of terpenes. Some benefits that occur as a result of inhaling (combustible) terpenes, may not be experienced when terpenes are ingested in edible form and vice-versa.
Now that you understand more about terpenes and their role, you can start to pay attention to the different aromas and flavors of various cannabis strains. And who knows, you might even find a new favorite!
Do Terpenes Have Any Side Effects?
Generally speaking, terpenes are safe for human consumption and don't cause major side effects. However, it's always a good idea to start with a small dose to see how your body reacts.
As with anything, it's possible to have an allergic reaction to certain terpenes. If you experience any unfavorable effects, stop using the product and consult a doctor.
Common Uses of Terpenes
In addition to their role in the cannabis plant, terpenes are also used in a variety of everyday products.
Some common uses of terpenes include:
Food and drink flavoring
Perfumes and fragrances
Soaps and cosmetics
The easiest way to consume terpenes is by smoking or vaping cannabis strains with a high level of them. You can also find products like terpene-infused oils, tinctures, and topicals.
With edibles, some terpenes may not be processed as they are through other ingestion methods. This is because when we consume edibles, they must be prepared into food, then digested before taking effect. There are many variables in this process and very little research as has been done on the specific effects of terpenes in edibles.
Pantry Food Co. has decided to utilize isolate/distillate THC, CBD, and CBN molecules that are made free of additional terpenes. Providing a precise dose of isolated cannabinoids allows us to provide products with consistent, predictable effects that our consumers can rely on.
Furthermore, Pantry has chosen to use alternative functional ingredients in that have been studied and shown to have similar effects to terpenes, specifically when these ingredients are ingested. These ingredients include lion's mane mushroom, ashwagandha root, blue matcha/butterfly pea flower, passionflower, and l-theanine found in tea.
The Bottom Line
Terpenes are a fascinating and complex topic, and there's still much to learn about them. However, the potential benefits they offer are hard to ignore. So if you're looking for a specific aroma or effect in your cannabis strain, pay attention to the terpene profile!
Pantry Food Co. is committed to providing products that are not only delicious but also effective. Although we use alternative ingredients in our products instead of terpenes, our team of experts has curated a selection of ingredients that we believe offer the best possible experience. Try our products today and taste the difference! We offer Cacao Keto Bites with CBD and THC, Nite Bites infused with Melatonin for nighttime relief and many other healthy edible options.
What are your thoughts on terpenes? Let us know in the comments below!