Terpenes in hemp are a diverse group of organic compounds (hydrocarbons) that are produced by a wide variety of plants, as well as some insects. They usually associate with a strong odor which has the purpose of protecting the plants that produce them by deterring herbivores or by attracting parasites and predators of those herbivores. Terpenes in hemp give the plant its unique smell and taste, but recently it has also started to attract scientists’ attention because of their unusual properties and therapeutic applications.
Even though this term is used interchangeably with terpenoids, there are specific differences between the two. Also known as isoprenoids, terpenoids are terpenes that have undergone a chemical modification (drying, heating, etc.) changing their oxygen content.
Both terpenes and terpenoids are the primary constituents of essential oils found in numerous types of medicinal plants and flowers. Both of these compounds are widely used in the perfume industry, as well as aromatherapy, and medicine. Vitamin A, for instance, is one such terpenoid.
Terpenes in Hemp and the Cannabis Plant
When it comes to the cannabis plant, terpenes in hemp are produced in the plant’s trichomes. These are the shiny, sticky, crystals that cover the leaves and buds. There are roughly 200 terpenes that are being produced by cannabis plants. Nevertheless, only a few of them are produced in large enough quantities.
Among these, we have sesquiterpenes, monoterpenes, and diterpenes. These help the plant repel herbivores, insects, and fungus. We humans, however, can smell these terpenes in hemp and infer the strain of the plant, as well as the possible effects that it may have on our bodies.
Common Types of Terpenes in Hemp and Their Characteristics
A 2011 study by Dr. Ethan B. Russo in the British Journal of Pharmacology, revealed that there are wide-ranging therapeutic effects to terpenes and terpenoids found in cannabis plants. Among these, the most common are:
- Myrcene –This type of terpene is common in hops, mangoes, lemongrass, tyme, as well as in cannabis plants. Myrcene was shown to have several health-beneficial properties such as a muscle relaxant, sedative, painkiller, and anti-inflammatory.
- Pinene – This is one of the most common terpenes found in plants, as well as in cannabis. It has a pine-like smell, while beta-Pinene smells more like rosemary, basil, dill, or parsley. Either way, this terpene is known for its bronchodilator properties, meaning that it can be helpful for people who have asthma. Pinene is also known for its anti-inflammatory and local antiseptic properties, as well as for improving cognitive memory.
- Limonene– As its name would suggest, this element is found in citrus but also cannabis. It has been used to improve the overall mood, relieve gastrointestinal reflux and heartburn and can kill pathogenic bacteria.
- beta-Caryophyllene – found in many leafy greens, black pepper, oregano, and cannabis. It has shown promise in treating certain ulcers, autoimmune disorders, and inflammatory conditions.
- Linalool– Commonly found in lavender and certain cannabis strains, linalool can help counter anxiety and stress. It’s also an anticonvulsant and an antidepressant. When applied as a cream or ointment, it can also heal acne or skin burns without scarring.
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