What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes have become increasingly prominent in the modern world, due to their versatile and valuable applications. These organic chemicals not only provide a beautiful range of fragrances from lavender's floral sweetness, sandalwood's musky tones and rosemary’s minty qualities but also possess significant wellness properties when applied commercially. They are used as flavour agents in food products like beer or energy drinks, whilst various medicinal benefits make them desirable for pharmaceutical industries too - proving just how powerful these special phytomolecules can be!
Terpenes, or 'terps', have recently been thrust into the spotlight due to their integral role in a multitude of developing industries: from cannabis/hemp and CBD-infused products boasting beneficial properties. Studies indicate that much of these attributes are attributed to terpene's biochemical influence - making them invaluable components across this booming sector.
Once thought to merely be responsible for smell, terpenes have been integral in the lives of humankind since antiquity. Surprisingly uncovered by Otto Wallach during the late 19th century, scientists now know that over 40,000 variants exist and can be found within 20K plant species - including cannabis & hemp! While modern times are still revealing these compounds' many usages and benefits, they were employed long ago throughout Ancient Egypt.
Terpenes are essential for plant survival, providing protective properties against predators and shielding them from harmful UV radiation. They also make possible the formation of beneficial compounds like CBD, CBG and THC that have various medical applications in humans. Not only do terpenes ensure plants can reproduce but they may even aid us one day!
Terpenes, the pungent compounds that give cannabis and hemp their unique aromas and flavors, are found in three distinct sources. First is Cannabis or Hemp Derived Terpenes sourced directly from plants; secondly Botanically Derived Terpenes which come from thousands of botanical sources other than cannabis or hemp trees; lastly terpene production can be done synthetically through laboratory manipulation.
Terpenes have been the subject of extensive scholarly studies over recent years, and they are believed to bring considerable health benefits. These range from anti-inflammatory qualities that reduce swelling in various parts of the body, to anticancer properties which may be useful for many types of patients. This series will examine these purported wellness attributes in more depth.
Cannabis and hemp plants produce two categories of terpenes: Major and Minor. Of the major varieties, Myrcene is the most commonly produced by cannabis/hemp while Pinene is prevalent in nature generally. In comparison to these more abundant compounds, minor terpenes such as Borneol, Camphor, Carene and Phytol are typically found only within trace amounts across various native sources. Understanding their distinctive properties can provide insight into how specific strains may be utilized when seeking out desired recreational or therapeutic effects from consuming marijuana products.
Beyond the cannabinoids, cannabis and hemp also contain a rich assemblage of terpenes. While up to 200 different types exist in various cultivars, only dozens are found across multiple plant species – chief among them myrcene, humulene and pinene. For example; while typically associated with cannabis/hemp cultivation due to its abundance some strains - humulene can be identified in basil clove ginseng hops sage plants too! Similarly Pinene dominant aroma gives many conifers away but it is also abundant within certain cannabis/hemp varieties.
For decades, terpenes have been used to enhance our food with their pleasant aroma and flavor. But these same molecules also offer numerous medicinal properties sought after by the pharmaceutical industry such as antiallergenic, antibiotic and antifungal qualities. According to Natural Products (2013), studies on terpene metabolites reveal an even wider range of therapeutic uses including antimicrobial activity; management of hyperglycemia, inflammation & parasitic infections; immunomodulation; skin permeation enhancement - all providing powerful preventative health benefits for modern day consumers.
Cannabis and hemp each possess their own distinct terpene profile, determined by the mix of molecules present in a given sample. Terpenes produce unique aromas as well as medicinal properties when they are combined into profiles; for example, linalool is largely responsible for lavender's sweet and spicy scent. Additionally, certain ratios between individual terpenes will shape even further how these plants smell and benefit our health - if one cultivar contains 800 percent more myrcene than pinene it will provide different outcomes compared to another with equal proportions or other combinations.
Terpene blends replicate the natural profiles of terpenes present in plants, providing aroma, flavor and medicinal benefits. Furthermore, they offer two properties that are essential for industrial and pharmaceutical requirements: consistency and repeatability. Additionally, there is a popular concept regarding their therapeutic potential which suggests beneficial effects when particular combinations of these compounds exist with specific ratios.
Isolates are terpene concentrates that contain predominantly, or exclusively, one type of terpene. These potent compounds provide a variety of benefits and uses as both ingredients for household items to industrial products.
The entourage effect, while still a largely hypothesis-based theory at the moment, suggests that certain terpenes and molecules can interact with each other in unique ways. For instance, it has been suggested that particular groups of these compounds may modify systematic effects to create distinct efficacies when present within specific ratios – something which requires further research data for full confirmation.
In 1998, the concept of an entourage effect was unveiled by a dynamic team of Israeli researchers headed up by Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat. Their impactful research involving terpenes or cannabinoids revealed that when multiple wellness molecules are combined they produce a collective benefit greater than their individual parts - something entirely unique and unprecedented in pharmacology at large.
Terpenes are an incredible type of natural chemical compound, with tens of thousands produced by more than 20,000 plant species. The recent federal legalization initiatives for hemp and cannabis across the United States and other countries have prompted a resurgence in interest surrounding these molecules - from uses like wellness supplements to medicinal therapies and industrial applications alike.