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Why do terpenes matter?
There is both anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest that, more than merely being responsible for the characteristics of taste and smell of particular cannabis strains, terpenes are also intricately linked to many of the analgesic and recreational properties that the plant and its extracts possess.
Terpenes have been used by human civilization since the Egyptian times, but only now are the compounds being fully understood. In recent years, the use of bioinformatics and molecular databases has led scientists to understand how terpenes are synthesized. In the context of medicating with cannabis, the results have been promising.1
Anecdotal evidence has suggested for years that terpenes, particularly when consumed in tangent with cannabinoids, have a significant therapeutic effect. When consumed together, the so-called entourage effect has been reported to provide patients the desired effect of the strain they’re consuming. The end result, many report, is more poignant than consuming cannabinoids alone. Similar to cannabinoids, terpenes can also be isolated and consumed directly. Though something of a new trend, the process can be completed in a similar fashion to extracting cannabinoids, and consumed using tools designed for other concentrated cannabis products. Studies have found conclusively that, in line with what recreational users who take “terp dabs” report, that consuming isolated terpenes can have significant beneficial results.2
According to one leading paper, terpenes play a variety of roles in mediating the beneficial interactions among organisms. Found in abundance in nature, terpenes help to defend plants and animals against prey and pathogens. To humans, these same characteristics can be found at play when medical cannabis – particularly a strain with a rich terpene profile – is consumed.3
As the science around these enigmatic compounds continues to develop, there have already been around 25,000 terpene structures reported. While few of those has yet been investigated from a foundational perspective, the terpenes that have been thoroughly studied to date – caryophyllene, pinene, limonene, myrcene, linalool – have shown strong promise for both medical and recreational cannabis consumers.

  1. “Plant terpenoids: applications and future potentials.” https://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1381413468_Zwenger%20and%20Basu.pdf
  2. “Terpene synthases from cannabis sativa.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371325/
  3. “The function of terpene natural products in the natural world.” https://www.nature.com/articles/nchembio.2007.5

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