What are Cannabis Terpenes and How Do They Work

There are many things to consider when purchasing a cannabis product. You must determine the type of cannabis you’re buying, its strength, and its benefits. You will also need to think about the cannabis terpenes it contains. 

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But what exactly are cannabis terpenes? And how do they affect the type of high the product provides? This article will answer all your questions. 

What are Cannabis Terpenes?

Terpenes are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants and some animals. They provide characteristics like aroma, flavor, and colors. Some can even have therapeutic properties. They may also protect plants from harsh weather and predators. 

While nearly all plants have some terpenes, the most common sources include:

  • Cannabis
  • Citrus fruits
  • Aromatic herbs

Scientists are unclear about how terpenes work when they enter the human body. Researchers believe cannabis terpenes may affect you differently depending on the THC content and strain of the plant. 

Preliminary research shows that cannabis terpenes may also treat mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. 

Do Terpenes Get You High?

Cannabis terpenes won’t get you high in a traditional sense. However, they may impact the effects of THC. Many cannabis connoisseurs claim that terpenes, rather than cannabis potency, play a more important role in getting you high. 

Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. Isolate

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When shopping for CBD products, you will find they are labeled as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate. Here are the differences between the three. 

  • Full-spectrum: Full spectrum is comprised of terpenes and cannabinoids such as THC. The THC won’t be enough to get you high, but it can cause you to test positive on a drug test. 
  • Broad-spectrum: Broad-spectrum CBD will contain cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids, but it will not contain THC. 
  • Isolate: Isolate is pure CBD with no other cannabis terpenes or cannabinoids. 

Many people prefer full- or broad-spectrum products as the various components are said to make cannabis more effective. However, some feel that CBD isolate is the way to go as they feel more confident that it will be pure and THC-free. 

Common Terpenes and Their Effects

Here are some terpenes that may be in cannabis products and the effects they produce:

  • Beta-caryophyllene: Often found in aromatic herbs, beta-caryophyllene is known to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. 
  • Beta-pinene: Beta-pinene is a component of forest-like foliage. It has a refreshing piney scent. It has potent anti-depressant and anti-cancer properties. 
  • Humulene: Found in ginseng, this terpene has long been used in folk medicine for its energizing effects.
  • Limonene: This commonly found terpene is present in citrus fruits. Studies have shown it to have anti-cancer and anti-anxiety properties. 
  • Linalool: Linalool is often used in aromatherapy for its soothing characteristics. 
  • Myrcene: Mercene is present in mangos. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties. It may have sedating effects. 

Myrcene, caryophyllene, and linalool are the terpenes most often found in cannabis products. 

Studies Involving Cannabis Products with Terpenes

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Studies have shown that cannabis with terpenes may produce more beneficial results than cannabis without terpenes. 

A 2018 review of people with epilepsy showed those who took a full-spectrum CBD extract with cannabinoids and terpenes experienced a  greater improvement in symptoms and fewer side effects as compared to those who took the isolate only. 

The same study also found that full-spectrum CBD was four times more potent than the isolate due to the synergistic effects of the cannabinoids and terpenes. Therefore, people should take lower doses of full-spectrum products as compared to isolates. 

More recent research showed that cannabis terpenes boost cannabinoid activity. But it was uncertain how high the concentration of terpenes needed to be to produce enhancing effects. 

How to Get the Full Benefits of Cannabis Terpenes

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If terpenes play a big role in the cannabis products you choose, you’ll want to make sure they are providing optimal effects. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Read the Label: Some cannabis product labels may have a breakdown of their ingredients including terpene profiles. The label will tell you which terpenes are in the product and how concentrated they are. 
  • Check for Freshness: The power of terpenes can diminish over time. Therefore, it’s essential to find a product with a recent package date. You can also sniff the product to determine terpene freshness. A highly fragrant product will have a greater terpene concentration. 
  • Use Caution: Despite increasing legalization measures, the cannabis market is still highly unregulated. As a result, companies may not be honest about the purity and potency of products and the terpenes they contain. For example, the product may contain synthetic terpenes which may be less effective than natural terpenes. They may also be made with chemicals. It’s best to buy from a trusted brand to make sure the product you are buying is safe. 
  • Minimize Heat Application: Dabbing weed involves heating the concentrate before inhaling it. There is evidence that heat can degrade synthetic terpenes breaking them down into harmful byproducts. It’s best to vaporize flowers or consume edibles for optimal effects. 
  • Keep a Journal: Use a journal to keep track of the terpenes you have used and how they made you feel. Over time, you can pinpoint the terpene profile that works best for you. 

Generally, there is still a lot to be learned about cannabis terpenes. Most studies that have taken place were performed on animals or in test tubes, not on humans. But growing clinical interest is showing fascinating findings. We will likely have a better understanding of how terpenes work in the coming years.

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