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What you need to know about terpenes in cannabis

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Terpenes: their health benefits and how they work with THC and CBD.

Most of us are familiar with THC and CBD in cannabis. It’s the THC that makes you feel high and CBD that can mellow you out and even help with pain relief. As cannabis becomes legal in more countries, more research is going into the benefits and uses of cannabis. Increasingly, the focus is on terpenes. Turns out, terpenes play an important role in cannabis, working alongside THC and CBD.

Terpenes 101

Simply put, terpenes are the oils that give cannabis its smell and flavours. You’ve probably heard all those funky names like Pineapple Express or Purple Kush and Sour Diesel. Each strain of cannabis has a different terpene and that helps determine the smell and taste. So the three main components of cannabis are THC (the high), CBD (the mellow) and terpenes (smell and taste.) 

Terpenes work with the other parts of cannabis to produce different effects, from relaxation to being much more alert. It is estimated that there are at least 100 different types of terpenes and they are impacted by soil type, fertilizer, amount of light and even time of day. Terpenes aren’t just found in cannabis: they’re also found in other plants and spices, and even trees. It’s terpenes that give pine trees their distinct scent — as well as spices like basil and oregano.

What are the effects of terpenes?

The effects of terpenes on a cannabis strain vary. Some counteract the THC to reduce the alertness level and high, working in tandem with CBD’s. Others will enhance the THC for a greater high.

What are the health benefits of terpenes?

There hasn’t been a lot of scientific research into terpenes in cannabis yet, but there is a fair bit understood about terpenes in general. Terpenes are what contribute to aromatherapy scents that induce a feeling of calmness or reduce anxiety — and are sometimes used in meditation. Research has shown that aroma therapy combined with other forms of therapy can be helpful for mental wellbeing. Some research indicates bronchial benefits that help with breathing and some have antimicrobial benefits. Other benefits seem to be:

  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Reducing epileptic seizures
  • Reducing the effects of other types of seizures
  • Cannabis with high myrcene (such as found in nectarines) terpenes are associated with a sleepy affect.
  • Limonene, a terpene found in high concentrations in citrus fruits, is said to reduce depression
  • Alpha-pinene, the terpene found in pine trees, has an uplifting effect

Terpenes and wellness

If you’re looking at cannabis as part of your overall wellness routine, you’ll want to consider terpenes alongside THC and CBD concentrations. If you’re managing chronic pain, you might want a higher level of terpenes and CBD and much less THC. If you’re looking for more energy, you’ll want less CBD and more THC — and a terpene like limonene.

It all depends on how you feel cannabis can fit in with your wellness routines, which are based on your desired outcomes. If cannabis is new to you, seek guidance from someone who is experienced, do your research. Be sure to identify the right time and place to try out different strains of cannabis in a safe and comfortable space.

Note: As with all health-related substances, speak to your health care provider before beginning any new program or regime.

Author: Giles Crouch is part of the Optimyz senior management team and is a prolific writer. He’s been featured in Wired magazine, Canadian Philanthropic magazine and is regularly interviewed by news media on the impacts of technology and society. He occasionally contributes to Optimyz and can also be found writing on Medium.


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