The cannabis plant belongs to the Cannabaceae family and conservatively contains over 80 chemical substances. Other publications suggest cannabis has over 500 chemical compounds, with the exact number remaining a mystery due to the scarcity of cannabis research.
These compounds are cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes (also known as terpenoids), omega fatty acids, essential oils, and vitamins.
Terpenes, for instance, are believed to be the reason behind scent, aroma, and color. Furthermore, research shows that they have various physiologic properties and could be responsible for some of the observed effects of cannabis.
Although nearly all plants have terpenes, these naturally occurring chemical compounds are mostly sourced from cannabis, citrus fruits, and aromatic herbs like thyme and sage.
What are cannabis-derived terpenes
When you have some cannabis on hand, you may have caught a whiff of a piney or earthy scent that just ignites your senses. If you have done this often, you might even have noticed that these scents differ. What you may not know is that terpenes are responsible for that scent.
Terpenes give cannabis its distinct taste and smell and are believed to have a wide range of therapeutic benefits. So, understanding what terpenes are and some of their effects on the body will help you get the most out of your stash.
Scientifically speaking, terpenes are aromatic oils found in the same glands where the more well-known cannabinoids like CBD and THC are obtained. Currently, it is thought that there are over 100 different types of cannabis terpenes. They are not psychoactive, so they will not make you "high" in the traditional sense.
Like cannabinoids, terpenes vary in character. Similarly, each cannabis strain tends to have a particular terpene type. For example, you will likely smell the pungent diesel-like flavor with Sour Diesel and a tropical aroma with Pineapple Express.
Medical marijuana patients prefer these two sativa strains due to their long-lasting uplifting and energetic effects. As a result, they are quite popular among people with depression, fatigue, stress, and pain.
Knowing the strains of cannabis that give you the best effects is the key to understanding which terpenes you like. Each cannabis strain has its own terpene composition and concentration.
These differences are usually brought about by factors like soil, fertilizers used, climate, and plant age, among others.
How do terpenes work?
Terpenes function in several ways. These cannabis compounds significantly affect each strain's effects and add flavor and aroma.
Researchers believe that terpenes and cannabinoids work together. This leads to a phenomenon known as the "entourage effect." This is where compounds from different backgrounds collaborate to enhance each other's effects.
For instance, caryophyllene, limonene, and pinene synergize with THC to deliver several advantages, while linalool and CBD also have a unique synergistic connection.
The overarching hypothesis is that a strain's terpene profile goes hand-in-hand with the cannabinoid content to produce the effects associated with different strains. This probably explains why two different strains of cannabis with the same amount of THC and CBD can have different experiences.
Researchers also think terpenes are cannabimimetic (they mimic the effects of cannabinoids). In a paper published in Scientific Reports, the researchers found that terpenes amplified the pain-relieving effects of cannabinoids.
Let’s examine some of the best terpenes for the corresponding conditions.
Best terpenes for relieving aches and pains
In the same way cannabinoids have different effects, so do terpenes. However, it should not surprise you that most of their properties overlap. This is a good thing because it means you have many options.
Alpha-humulene, linalool, geraniol, and beta-pinene are believed to be quite effective in promoting pain relief.
A team of researchers investigating the effects of terpenes found that these four terpenes in combination with WIN55,212-2—a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist—significantly reduced pain sensation than either of the terpenes or WIN55,212-2 alone.
This suggests that terpenes work best in collaboration with cannabinoids and lends credence to the "entourage effect."
The researchers discovered that all four terpenes activated the CB1 receptors in the same way THC does.
Expressed majorly in the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, and central nervous system, the CB1 receptor regulates the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, glutamate, and dopamine to produce wide-ranging effects such as pain relief.
Other terpenes with analgesic properties are myrcene (or beta-myrcene), limonene, and caryophyllene. Myrcene is believed to be the most dominant terpene in marijuana, with its presence in over 40% of cannabis strains.
Its pain-relieving properties were discovered in a 1990 study after it reduced pain behavior in mice. Limonene is not as common as myrcene and is only available in roughly 8% of cannabis strains.
Caryophyllene is regarded as probably the best terpene for pain. Researchers believe it is a CB2 receptor agonist and may reduce inflammation and pain.
A 2013 study showed that caryophyllene reduced pain in mice. It is also able to enhance the painkilling properties of low-strength morphine. Though not as abundant as myrcene, caryophyllene exists in about 13% of cannabis strains.
Best terpenes for seniors
In the U.S., a "senior" citizen is someone aged 65 years and above; in India, it is 60. Despite the quirks, what is true across the board is that seniors require more care — medical or otherwise.
As we age, a lot of changes take place in our bodies. Our sleep patterns change, we lose muscle mass, become less fit, develop more health complications, and so on. So, at advanced ages, we may need more supplements, for example, vitamin D for stronger bones.
As people learn more about the benefits of natural supplements, their use has increased. A 2019 survey found that 88% of people aged 65 and above took supplements or vitamins. Just as well because some terpenes sure can benefit the elderly.
The major chemical form of limonene, d-limonene, is present in the rind of citrus fruits, e.g., lemon and orange.
One of the most abundant terpenes in nature, limonene is believed to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and several disease-preventive qualities.
This terpene (also known as alpha-humulene) smells like craft beer or hops. A keen nose may pick out woody and spicy scents. Humulene exists in ginseng, basil, and ginger besides cannabis.
It has the same chemical formula as beta-caryophyllene but different structures. It is mainly known for its energy-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.
For centuries, humulene has been an integral part of Eastern medical practices. It is no stranger to modern biomedical research either and has been studied in ginseng, hops, and black pepper studies.
Best terpenes for insomnia
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by persistent difficulty falling and remaining asleep. Interestingly, people with insomnia experience daytime sleepiness and a host of cognitive impairments due to sleep deprivation.
Insomnia is classified into either sleep-onset insomnia or sleep maintenance insomnia. The former refers to the inability to fall asleep quickly, while the latter is characterized by the inability to stay asleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, insomnia is more common in those over the age of 60 due to several factors. For starters, seniors are more likely to experience sleep problems, including restless legs syndrome, sleep-disordered breathing, and psychiatric and medical illnesses that can cause insomnia symptoms.
As we age, our sleep-wake cycles and circadian rhythms also change. This impacts how much and how well we sleep. Furthermore, sometimes the drugs used by the elderly can also disrupt sleep.
Fortunately, Mother Nature offers beneficial compounds to help with some sleep problems.
Fresh flowers come to mind when you smell linalool, thanks to its sweet and lavender-like aroma with a tinge of spice. It may alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety since it has a sedative and soothing effect.
Further, this terpene is believed to possess both analgesic and anti-epileptic qualities. Research is ongoing to see whether it can effectively treat particular conditions.
A 2017 study showed that aromatherapy of linalool combined with piperonal, cedrol, and santalol reduced sleep difficulties among the elderly with dementia.
By extension, the study showed that aromatherapy could help alleviate sleep problems such as early morning awakening, trouble falling asleep, and waking after sleep.
Myrcene, commonly associated with the sedative properties of hops and lemongrass, is also present in basil, mangoes, and a shrub called Myrcia sphaerocarpa, traditionally used to cure health problems like diarrhea, dysentery, diabetes, and hypertension.
This property may help combat symptoms of various inflammatory disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune diseases like Crohn's.
Further, a scientific study postulated that myrcene might have substantial pain-relieving effects. This terpene has been found to possess pain-relieving qualities without causing dependency risks, as is common with prolonged morphine usage.
It remains to be seen whether this could herald the integration of myrcene into modern pain management methods.
Being the most dominant terpene, expect to find it in our Premium Full Spectrum CBD Drops and Premium Full Spectrum CBD Gummies, made with extracts from the whole hemp plant for optimal effect. These products give you greater focus, more restful sleep, and a feeling of ease throughout the day.
Best terpenes to improve cognition
Several factors can contribute to cognitive decline. These include the side effects of certain medications, abnormalities in metabolic or endocrinal functions, mental confusion due to illnesses, depression, and dementia, with Alzheimer's dementia being the most prevalent.
However, these terpenes may help improve cognition.
Research shows that linalool may help reduce cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients.
A 2015 study investigating the effects of linalool on mice with Alzheimer's disease showed that giving linalool orally to mice with advanced Alzheimer's attenuated the histopathological symptoms of the disease and improved cognitive and affective abilities.
Another 2018 study looking into the effects of linalool on memory loss and behavior impairment caused by REM sleep deprivation demonstrated that linalool significantly reduced learning and spatial memory deficits and stress-related behavior in sleep-deprived rats. It appeared to do this by increasing serotonin levels while lowering cortisol levels.
A more recent study reviewing the potential use of linalool and pinene for brain health showed that these terpenes are relevant candidates for more research as novel medications for various neurological diseases.
The researchers found that pinene and linalool could alter various inflammatory, neurotransmitter, and neurotrophic processes and behaviors but displayed non-intoxicating psychoactivity.
Pinene is believed to have local antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also an expectorant and a bronchodilator with known use in treating respiratory distress. Thanks to its neurodegenerative properties, researchers think pinene can improve memory in addition to increasing energy and sharpening focus.
Pinene's nootropic properties are equally impressive. Research shows it is an acetylcholinesterase and cholinesterase inhibitor similar to many medications used to treat dementia.
As a result, pinene may enhance attentiveness, short-term memory, and creativity. Cannabis lovers who do not want the mind-altering effects of THC, e.g., short-term memory loss, should opt for cannabis strains with high pinene content.
Best terpene for pain
Pain typically prevents you from engaging in physical and social activities. Moreover, it can also affect your mood, sleep, and ability to concentrate.
Uncontrolled pain may lead to problematic behaviors like anger or mental distress. People who have trouble communicating are particularly vulnerable to poor pain treatment.
So, which terpenes can help alleviate pain?
Humulene contains potent anti-inflammatory properties that have been compared to those of dexamethasone.
This terpene is also a strong painkiller, whether applied topically, taken orally, or inhaled, thanks to its systemic and local anti-inflammatory characteristics.
Caryophyllene is considered an unconventional cannabinoid since it binds specifically to the CB2 receptor. The euphoric properties of some cannabinoids, notably THC, are mediated through the CB1 receptor.
However, CB2 is a pharmacological target for treating pain and inflammation, osteoporosis, and atherosclerosis, especially in peripheral body tissues.
Best terpenes for inflammation
There are simply too many terpenes to name, but let's focus on some of the more well-known ones:
This is the most common terpene and is known to intensify THC's euphoric effects. Additionally, it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Alpha-humulene-rich cannabis strains may lessen pain and inflammation since humulene has strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory qualities. In a 2009 study, scientists noted that humulene "exhibited strong anti-inflammatory capabilities when administered orally or via aerosol."
This terpene is special because it is the only compound that studies show can directly stimulate CB2 receptors, which are mostly present in the immune and central nervous systems. It is also well-known for its anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties.
The pain-relieving efficacy of limonene in rats was investigated in a 2016 study, and the findings were encouraging. It hypothesized that limonene might reduce pain by altering TRP channel activation.
Although it is not known for relieving pain, it has a broad range of beneficial properties that may affect the cause of pain. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties can play a significant role in managing pain.