Terpenes: What Are They and What Do They Do?
Most plants have built-in defense mechanisms that protect them from deterring herbivores. Terpenes, a class of organic compounds, play a key role in this process.
These substances occur naturally in the cannabis plant. They are also found in rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, and evergreen shrubs.
In addition to their protective role, terpenes give plants their distinctive aroma. Due to their therapeutic properties, they may help with pain management, stress relief, inflammation, and more.
You might have heard about linalool, myrcene, limonene, and other terpenes. Myrcene, for example, occurs naturally in sweet citrus fruits, cannabis, and other plants. Due to its analgesic effect, it may help reduce pain and promote relaxation.
Cannabis terpenes are particularly beneficial for human health. These aromatic compounds may improve sleep, decrease anxiety, and relieve depression. They’re also responsible for the so-called entourage effect — but more on that later.
But how do terpenes work? Most importantly, which ones are best for you? Here’s what you should know about these fragrant compounds and their surprising health benefits!
What Are Cannabis Terpenes?
The cannabis plant contains more than 150 different terpenes and 100 cannabinoids. Terpenes are volatile oils that attract pollinators and repel predators. They’re also responsible for the distinctive fragrance of various cannabis strains.
These fragrant substances have a wide range of therapeutic uses. Some may protect against cancer. Others can help ease anxiety, reduce pain, and ward off infections.
Terpenes are non-psychoactive. These compounds can be found in citrus fruits, thyme, and other plants. Oranges and lemons won’t get you high — and the same goes for pure CBD oil.
The terpenes in cannabis are extremely varied, and each has distinct properties. These include but are not limited to:
- Alfa- and beta-pinene
Linalool, for example, occurs in cannabis, mint, lavender, and some mushrooms. This compound exhibits anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, and sedative effects. It also supports neural function and may benefit people with epilepsy.
How Cannabis Terpenes Work
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and other CBD products are used for their analgesic, sedative, and antioxidant effects. For example, one study has found that CBD reduced anxiety in nearly 80% of patients. Subjects also experienced better sleep.
These benefits are due to cannabinoids and terpenes, which work synergistically to improve your health. That’s what the entourage effect of CBD is all about. Simply put, the different compounds in cannabis are more potent when used together.
The synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids may help with anxiety and other conditions. Furthermore, many terpenes interact with each other — not just with cannabinoids. That’s why it’s recommended to use full-spectrum hemp products.
After ingestion, terpenes bind to specific receptors in the central nervous system. They also interact with cell membranes, enzymes, and muscle ion channels. These interactions may trigger cancer cell death and relieve pain, among other benefits.
Limonene, for instance, has a stimulating effect. Linalool relaxes the mind and body. Myrcene exhibits anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and analgesic activities.
Potential Health Benefits of Terpenes
Now that you know more about terpenes, you may be wondering how they benefit your health.
Let’s start with myrcene, one of the most abundant terpenes in the cannabis plant.
This compound occurs in most cannabis strains, especially indica, and has sedative effects. It’s particularly effective against pain and inflammation. For this reason, it may benefit people with arthritis, Crohn’s disease, or injuries.
Alpha- and beta-pinene are found in cannabis, sage, basil, and orange peel. These terpenes can boost your energy and brainpower. At the same time, they protect against oxidative damage, suppress inflammation, and ward off anxiety.
Borneol may help relieve pain, dilate the airways, and prevent infections. It also has a mild sedative effect.
Eucalyptol, another beneficial compound, suppresses the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. For this reason, it’s often used in the treatment of inflammatory disorders.
A recent study assessed its effects on the cognitive function of older adults with dementia. Subjects were exposed to varying amounts of eucalyptol diffused in the air. Their cognitive and behavioral status improved within days.
The cannabis plant is a good source of geraniol. This compound has strong antioxidant effects and may suppress tumor growth. Moreover, it sensitizes cancer cells to chemotherapy agents.
Current evidence suggests that geraniol may protect against breast, skin, liver, and colon cancers. It also appears to benefit those with melanoma, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer.
Other terpenes, such as humulene and linalool, are just as beneficial. Humulene, for example, may decrease inflammation and improve appetite control. Linalool supports mental health and immune function.
Again, it’s important to choose quality CBD products. Not all formulas are rich in terpenes. Plus, different cannabis strains have different concentrations of terpenes and cannabidiol.
Look for blends that contain high doses of terpenes. These compounds have no side effects and can be used on a daily basis. If you have a balanced diet, you’re already getting terpenes from the foods you eat.
Restore Your Health and Energy Levels
The cannabis plant is one of the best natural sources of terpenes. These volatile compounds may improve your health and energy levels, keep your brain sharp, and boost immunity. Some have been shown to protect against cancer and reduce seizures.
Terpenes are not the only beneficial compounds in cannabis, though. This plant also contains CBD, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that support overall health.
Interested to know more? You’re in the right place. Browse the rest of our blog to learn more about legal marijuana, CBD, and everything cannabis-related!
June Potter wrote this article on behalf of FreeUp. FreeUp is the fastest-growing freelance marketplace in the US. FreeUp only accepts the top 1% of freelance applicants. Click here to get access to the top freelancers in the world.
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