If you’re up on your cannabis science, you probably already know about cannabinoids: powerful marijuana compounds that can address so much—from anxiety to pain to insomnia. You’re also likely familiar with the two most famous cannabinoids: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
While most of the material out there about marijuana talks about cannabinoids, the plant also contains other chemicals that researchers now think may be just as important in terms of cannabis’s medicinal power: terpenes.
Terpenes are oils produced by the resin glands of many different plants, herbs, fruits, vegetables and cannabis. Terpenes are what give plants their distinct aromas and tastes. They’re also the main ingredient in essential oils and one terpene, linalool, is widely used to scent shampoos, soaps and lotions.
Terpenes are even found in everyday household items. Do you have lemon-scented cleaning products at home? The lemon smell is probably due to a terpene called limonene.
Scientists now think that terpenes in marijuana have medicinal applications on their own and that they work with cannabinoids to boost their positive effects. For example, linalool is shown to help with anxiety, stress and seizures. Meanwhile limonene targets depression, bacterial infections and lack of appetite.
So, what exactly are terpenes? Why are they important? What health conditions can certain terpenes address? What cannabis strains have which terpenes? Here are our three of our most popular questions about terpenes and marijuana. These Q&As come from our [Answers] page where anyone can post a cannabis question, and knowledgeable members of our community give well-informed answers to help you make the best decisions when it comes to taking cannabis to improve your health.
Q: What are terpenes? Do they matter?
Q: What is the difference between cannabinoids and terpenes?
I hear people talk about cannabinoids and I know a little bit about CBD and THC, mainly the difference between them. But what is the difference between terpenes and cannabinoids and why should I care? My budtender has never mentioned terpenes to me when I buy flower from him.
Answer: @mark Cannabinoids and terpenes are found in every strain of marijuana and it’s these synergistic elements that create the entourage effect. This means we know that when cannabinoids work in conjunction with terpenes that the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. Some argue that when you divorce one element from the rest, that the medicine becomes less effective. No doubt, cannabinoids seem to have a much higher profile in the dialogue surrounding cannabis. This is due to the fact that cannabinoids are more known to create a certain effect such as CBD is a known anti- inflammatory or THC can often treat insomnia by helping you sleep.
Terpenes, however, are connected to the overall aroma and the individual flavors you may taste when you smoke. It’s due to this that terpenes are more often discussed when we are talking about flower, rather than, say, a sublingual spray. Terpenes come from the oils on the cannabis plant and each one yields a different flavor which is why some may be minty and yet others taste like citrus.
The synergy that happens between cannabinoids and terpenes relate back to the endocannabinoid system in our body. This is the system that is literally built to receive cannabinoids. So, for instance when you inhale THC this binds to unique receptors in your brain stimulating a certain effect. Likewise, terpenes have their own effect. A well-known terpene limonene is known to create a happier mood and decrease a feeling of depression (for some).
The bottom line is that both are important even though terpenes may be lesser known and not talked about as much. Cannabinoids and terpenes work hand in hand it seems. If you are really interested in knowing what terpenes are in your flower most lab test will reveal this.
Q: What is linalool and is it something I should look for in the cannabis that I buy?
Answer: @RyanG Linalool is the terpene that’s responsible for having the fragrant lavender and rose scent. It has lots of medical benefits such as alleviating insomnia, reducing anxiety, and it has anti-seizure properties. Linalool is also a powerful analgesic, “it works with cannabinoid compounds, particularly CBD, to modulate pain signals in the brain and reduce the body’s stress responses when pain occurs.” (See article below)
Linalool can be very beneficial for someone that suffers from anxiety, insomnia, seizures, along with many other illnesses. While not all dispensaries/delivery services display the full testing details of their flower inventory, there are some that will show lab results that include terpenes. But, if your local dispensary/delivery services don’t do that, you’ll want to look in to strains that have a lavender or rose like aroma. That’s an indication that linalool may be present for that particular strain.
For more information on linalool, check out this awesome article by @jeanmckinney: https://www.hellomd.com/health-wellness/5ab482e6f24d1300077ccb99/know-your-cannabis-terpenes-linalool
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it's 100% online, private and efficient.