What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are highly aromatic compounds that determine the smell of many plants and herbs, such as rosemary and lavender, as well as some animals.
Terpenes play a vital role in plants. In some plants, terpenes attract pollinators, while in other plants, they cause a strong reaction to repel predators, such as insects or foraging animals. Some terpenes play a protective role in the plant, helping the plant to recover from damage; others act as a part of the plant’s immune system to keep away infectious germs.
Some people use the term terpenoids. However, terpenes and terpenoids are not the same. Terpenes are the natural form of these compounds when they are in the live plant. As a plant dries and cures — in the production of cannabis, for example — the terpenes oxidize and become terpenoids.
Over 100 terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant.
How do terpenes work?
Terpenes work in a variety of ways. Aside from injecting pleasant tastes and smells into the cannabis experience, these molecules also play a huge role in the effects of each strain.
Researchers have identified an interplay between terpenes and cannabinoids. Molecules from these two families appear to work together to produce enhanced benefits—a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. To learn more about the entourage effect, click here. And to learn more about cannabinoids, click here.
There is emerging evidence to suggest that psychological phenomena such as expectations, beliefs, and associations play at least some role in the way terpenes affect the human body. This means that it’s important to listen to your intuitions about smell. If you do not like the scent of a particular strain, you may find that you don’t like the experience either.
As we look to the future, it’s anticipated that further analysis will reveal more about the way terpenes interact with our bodies and minds. Terpenes will continue to be studied in the context of the many other compounds in whole-plant cannabis, such as cannabinoids, since many researchers believe these compounds all work together to produce effects they could not create alone. When it comes to the way the terpenes in cannabis affect the body, researchers have only just started to scratch the surface!