Posted on December 14 2018
When you first start using medical marijuana, you might think it all to be the same. This is entirely untrue, though, and the hundreds of different strains all have slightly differing effects. While any THC-abundant strain of marijuana will definitely get you high, there’s more to the plant than the single psychoactive cannabinoid.
Of course, the cannabis plant has been synonymous with getting “high” for some time, but more recent evidence has allowed us to break the recreational threshold to learn more about cannabis’ potential medicinal properties. This research has helped identify over 400 compounds to date, all found inside nearly any strain of the cannabis plant.
Of these compounds, many are similar to all other plants (like chlorophyll). However, cannabis has compounds called cannabinoids, which researchers have become particularly interested in. THC and CBD are two of the most concentrated cannabinoids found in the plant, which may explain why we have access to more research on these two than any other. Nevertheless, other cannabinoids are being researched too, and scientists are working hard to expose each one’s medical potential. However, when it comes to getting a truly personal experience, cannabinoids are only part of the equation. If you want to really buckle down to create a truly personalized cannabis experience (that could help you better manage some health ailments), you’ll want to take a long, hard look at terpenes.
What Are Terpenes?
While most of the attention is put on the cannabinoids (hence the rising popularity of CBD products) one other type of compound deserves recognition: terpenes. Terpenes are essential oils found in all plants. There are many terpenes found in the cannabis plant, and the types of terpenes and concentration vary by strain. Terpenes are the key to the major differences between the benefits of full-spectrum products (all terpenes included) and isolates (like Alpha Extract pure CBD oil). In fact, there are major differences in full spectrum products and isolates, which you can read about here.
Terpenes are mostly responsible for the aroma related to a cannabis plant. The reason that high-quality strains of marijuana may have a particularly potent smell is that they contain a large number of terpenes. Terpenes aren’t just for making plants smell nice, though. Researchers believe that terpenes actually have effects that increase your cannabis “high.” Other studies suggest that some terpenes might have medicinal benefits of their own.
In fact, many researchers believe that these terpenes are the most important factor in determining how a particular strain will affect you. This means that understanding terpenes and using the knowledge to choose your cannabis strain will help you tailor your cannabis experience to fit you best. For instance, some terpenes are known to promote sleep, while others might be useful for increasing your ability to focus. There are many terpenes found in the plants (and some insects) all over the world, but there are some that are particularly prevalent in cannabis. Here are the ones we know a bit about:
Myrcene is easily the most prevalent terpene found int he cannabis plant. For some strains, myrcene makes up almost ¾ of their terpene profile. It smells sort of earthy, spicy, and fruity, often resembling the smell of clove or nutmeg.
Many strains that contain high levels of myrcene are Indica and produce sedative-like effects. Studies show that myrcene may be useful for reducing inflammation and pain, and it may also increase the absorption rate of THC by decreasing the resistance of the blood-brain barrier. Mangoes are high in myrcene, which may explain the reports that eating a mango before smoking will boost your euphoric effects.
Limonene is easily the second most common terpene found in cannabis in general. However, there are some strains that have no limonene at all. This terpene has some pretty interesting potential effects, and studies show that it may be beneficial to improving mood and improving weight loss efforts. Limonene may also help topical products penetrate the skin more easily, resulting in faster acting relief.
It's actually the main terpene that gives lemons their aroma, so you can expect in to smell sweet and citrusy. Limonene has a distinct flavor as well and is often used as a natural flavoring for candies, drinks, and other edible products.
This terpene is often found in spicy herbs, like black pepper and cloves, and produces a spicy aroma. Beta-caryophyllene may mind easily with CB-2 receptors, which may be why it can be found in many topical products. In fact, it was one of the first terpenes recognized to be able to interact with the Endocannabinoid system, and can potentially reduce inflammation and pain for most people.
Science Direct reports that it has many potential uses and that it may be beneficial for patients with “colitis, osteoarthritis, diabetes, cerebral ischemia, anxiety and depression, liver fibrosis, and Alzheimer-like disease types.” Researchers are particularly interested in caryophyllene, and more research should be expected.
Alpha-bisabolol is the most common terpene found in chamomile. It can bind with the CBD-2 receptors in the body, and because of this, it is known to have great effects on the skin. Many cosmetic companies use it in anti-inflammatory and anti-aging skin care products, and research shows that it is a powerful antibacterial supplement. Some studies show that it also has analgesic properties, which may be useful for treating pain due to skin irritations. Alpha-bisabolol has a pleasant, floral aroma that is slightly sweet in nature.
The most common use for linalool (also found in common herbs like coriander and mint) is to induce sedative-like effects. Strains high in linalool are likely to produce the “couch locked” effects and may be best for combating some sleep disorders. The use of linalool to treat chronic sleep disorder has never been studied, but it may very well help you fall asleep faster at night. One study verified linalool’s ability to help induce sleep while also calming sleep-related anxiety.
Yoda OG is a strain with a, particularly high linalool content.
Eucalyptol is the main terpene found in the eucalyptus plant and can also be found in many strains of cannabis. The terpene is often used as a flavoring in mouthwash and some other mint products and has some healthful properties that make it beneficial for topical use. Because it is known to be a powerful antimicrobial supplement, it may be useful for combating topical bacteria and fungus growth.
It is also often the main ingredient found in topical products used to combat muscular soreness and cramps. Eucalyptol is often added to cough medicine to help suppress a cough and may benefit the upper respiratory area.
Humulene is one of the main terpenes found in hops and has a similar woody, earthy aroma. The terpene is also commonly found in many strains of cannabis and research shows that it may have a slew of health benefits. Humulene may be beneficial for suppressing appetite to aid weight loss goals. It also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. One study shows humulene to have synergistic effects with beta-caryophyllene that may make it helpful in healing wounds.
Delta 3 Carene
This aromatic terpene smells a lot like rosemary and can be found in a range of plants like bell pepper, cedar, pine, and cypress. Many health benefits have been researched, and although more research is needed, Delta-3-Carene might have many potential benefits. It may help to increase bone density to treat patients with bone-related disorders, and may even help heal broken bones. Some research suggests that Delta-3-Carene helps stimulate memory and avoid memory impairment associated with some strains of cannabis. Researchers are looking at the effects of this terpene on Dementia, but more research is needed to confirm its benefit.
Camphene may mix with vitamin C to become a powerful antioxidant that makes it beneficial both for internal and external use. The terpene smells like earth and evergreen and often results in a very musky smelling strain. Many companies use it in the formulas for skin care products meant to treat dry skin, eczema, or psoriasis. One study suggests that camphene is a great supplement for lowering cholesterol levels.
How to Choose the Best Strain
In order to use a strains terpene profile to choose the best strain for you, you’ll need to first identify your needs. Of course, there are many more terpenes than we have listed, but these are the most popular and make for a great place to start. Your doctor may be able to help you choose the best strain for you, but trial and error offers another alternative route.
For instance, if you use cannabis to help you sleep at night, you may benefit from a strain high in linalool. If you want a strain that may help you combat the munchies, a strain high in humulene may be of use. Of course, each strain’s terpene profile will produce different effects, so try different strains to see how they make you feel before making up your mind.