Cannabis Terpenes – When opening a fresh bag of cannabis, you might notice a variety of aromas such as skunk, wildflower, or berry. The cornucopia of fragrances found in various cannabis phenotypes can be remarkably diverse. However, terpenes are not limited to just cannabis. Terpenes develop naturally in a wide variety of plants and other living organisms.
Terpenes are highly volatile compounds, which means they evaporate quickly at room temperature. A Change of just a few parts per million can alter the smell of a plant. Unfortunately, their volatility makes terpenes extremely difficult to preserve. Fortunately, by curing cannabis flowers, growers can effectively preserve these organic hydrocarbons.
We know that terpenes emit potent odors; however, it’s interesting to note that, in small concentrations, terpenes may have many valuable properties, as well. Beneficial terpene applications range from medicines to pesticides. Unfortunately, high levels of certain terpenes may result in toxicity, which is often a concern with high concentrations of any hydrocarbon molecule.
Measuring Cannabis Terpenes
There are multiple methodologies for measuring cannabis terpenes. Some are limited in their visibility, the number of terpenes that can be detected, or the level of accuracy. Here at Greenpoint Seeds, we believe the best method to measure terpenes is the gas chromatography-flame ionization detector (GC-FID) analysis. Using the GC-FID method, we can detect quantities of compounds less than one part per million.
Organic compounds combust at high temperatures while in the headspace of the GC-FID. As they burn, they pass through a detector, which quantifies the presence of any chemicals the machine can detect. Hydrocarbons typically produce a response in the machine related to the number of carbons in the molecule.
There are several advantages to using GC-FID for terpene detection over other available terpene detection methods. A minimum sample amount is necessary to quantify compounds accurately, and the process of preparing samples is relatively straightforward. The separation between compounds makes them easy to detect, thus ensuring that the chromatography data is both easy to read and easily identifiable amongst a broad array of terpenes. The machines themselves are also very robust and can maintain accuracy despite the regular wear and tear of daily use.
Myrcene (specifically β-myrcene) is a monoterpene. Monoterpenes represent a class of terpenes that consist of two isoprene units. Myrcene is also the most common cannabis terpene, with some strains containing up to 60 percent of this essential oil. Its aroma is commonly described as being earthy, musky, and herbal. A myrcene level above 0.5 percent often contributes to the “couch-lock” sensation commonly associated with cannabis use. Typically, this effect is equated to that of an Indica strain, though the real culprit is myrcene and not psychoactive cannabinoids. In addition to cannabis, myrcene is present in hops, citrus fruits, bay leaves, eucalyptus, lemongrass, among other sources.
Interestingly, myrcene has a variety of potential therapeutic properties, as well. One such feature is its ability to lower resistance across the blood-brain barrier. This characteristic allows itself and other chemicals to cross from the blood to the brain much more efficiently. Myrcene also promotes more efficient absorption of cannabinoids. Moreover, it may increase the maximum saturation level of CB1 receptors, which allows for a more profound psychoactive effect.
Myrcene is a very potent analgesic, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and antimutagenic. Additionally, it blocks the action of cytochrome, aflatoxin B, and other pro-mutagenic carcinogens. In one study, Bonamin et al. focused on the role of β-myrcene in preventing peptic ulcer disease. The investigation revealed that β-myrcene acts as an inhibitor of gastric and duodenal ulcers, suggesting it may help prevent peptic ulcer disease. Its sedating and relaxing effects also make it ideal for the treatment of insomnia and pain.
Citrus fruits such as mango often contain high levels of myrcene. As such, many cannabis users claim that eating a fresh mango around 45 minutes before consuming cannabis can result in a faster, more intense high. Be sure to find a ripe mango, or its myrcene level may be too low to make any noticeable impact.
Pinene is one of the most common cannabis terpenes. It is a bicyclic monoterpenoid with a distinct aroma of pine and fir tree. Two structural isomers of pinene exist in nature: α-pinene and β-pinene. Both isomers are essential components of pine resin. α-pinene is the most widely encountered terpenoid in nature. Pinene is also present in many other conifers and non-coniferous plants. It is found mostly in balsamic resin, pine woods, and some citrus fruits. The two isomers of pinene constitute the main component of wood oil.
Pinene is used in the medical field as an expectorant, anti-inflammatory, and local antiseptic. α-pinene is a natural compound isolated from the oil of pine needles and has displayed potential anti-cancer properties. Many believe that the effects of psychoactive cannabinoids may be diminished if mixed with pinene.
Limonene is a monocyclic monoterpenoid and one of two critical compounds formed from pinene. Strains high in limonene often have strong citrusy smells redolent of lemon and lime. Cultivars with high limonene content tend to promote a general uplift in mood and overall attitude. This terpene is the major constituent of rosemary, juniper, and peppermint.
When inhaled, limonene is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps by assisting in the absorption of other terpenes through the flesh and other body tissues. Limonene also suppresses the growth of many types of fungi and bacteria, making it an ideal antifungal agent. Limonene may also help protect against many types of cancers. Currently, orally administered limonene is undergoing testing for the treatment of breast cancer. Limonene may also help promote weight loss, among a multitude of other benefits.
Plants use limonene as a naturally occurring insecticide to ward off insects and other pests. Limonene was primarily used in foods and perfume until a couple of decades ago when it became better known as the main ingredient in a famous citrus cleaner. It has very low toxicity, and adverse effects are rarely associated with it.
Caryophyllene – Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene in many plants such as cloves, cinnamon leaves, and black pepper. Lavender also contains caryophyllene in minor quantities. Caryophyllene’s aroma is woody, peppery, and spicy and is the only terpene that successfully interacts with the endocannabinoid system (CB2). Studies indicate that β–caryophyllene holds promise in different types of cancer treatment plans. β–caryophyllene is a macrocyclic anti-inflammatory cannabinoid in cannabis.
Pain studies demonstrate that other phytocannabinoids in combination with caryophyllene, especially cannabidiol (CBD) and β-caryophyllene (delivered by the oral route), appear to be promising candidates for the treatment of chronic pain due because of their low amount of adverse effects.
The Jeena, Liju, et al. study investigated the chemical composition of essential oil isolated from black pepper, of which caryophyllene is the main constituent, and studied its pharmacological properties. Black pepper oil was found to possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antinociceptive properties. This suggests that high-caryophyllene strains may be useful in treating many medical issues such as arthritis and neuropathy pain.
Beta-caryophyllene is used primarily in bubble gum and is one of the most common cannabis terpenes for sweet, sugary flavor.
Linalool has been used for centuries as a useful sleep aid. Linalool also lessens the anxious and paranoid emotions provoked by psychoactive cannabinoids. This makes it helpful in the treatment of both psychosis and anxiety. Studies also suggest that linalool boosts the immune system, can significantly reduce lung inflammation, and can restore cognitive and emotional function. This makes linalool helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
As shown by the Ma, J., Xu et al. study, linalool may significantly reduce lung inflammation caused by cigarette smoke by blocking the carcinogenesis induced by benz[α]anthracene, a component of the tar generated by the combustion of tobacco. This finding indicates that limonene may help reduce the harm caused by inhaling cannabis smoke.
Linalool is an immune system booster that directly activates immune cells. The Sabogal-Guáqueta et al. study suggests linalool may reverse the histopathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease. Hence, it could restore cognitive and emotional functions via an anti-inflammatory type of effect.
The EPA has approved using linalool as a pesticide, scent, and flavoring agent. Many bath and body products include linalool as an ingredient. Moreover, the vapors of linalool are effective insecticides against many types of flies, fleas, and cockroaches.
Linalool has been successfully isolated in several hundred different plants, including many mints and other scented herbs. The Lauraceae plant family (which contains laurels, cinnamon, and rosewood) is a readily available source of linalool. The Rutaceae family, which includes citrus plants, is another viable source. Birch trees and several different plant species in tropical and boreal climate zones also produce linalool. Some fungi produce linalool, as well. Linalool is a critical precursor in the formation of Vitamin E.
Terpinolene is a standard component of sage and rosemary. It is a common ingredient in Monterey Cypress Oil, as well. Its most common use in the United States is in soaps and perfumes. Additionally, it doubles as an excellent insect repellent. Terpinolene has a piney aroma with slight hints of herbal and floral bouquets. It tends to taste sweet with hints of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons.
Terpinolene is a central nervous system depressant that induces drowsiness and sleep, and reduces mental excitement.
Camphene is a plant-derived monoterpene that emits pungent odors of fir needles and damp woodlands. It has been studied a lot lately because it could play a critical role in cardiovascular disease.
Camphene is a minor component in many other essential oils, including camphor oil, citronella oil, and ginger oil. Camphene also acts as a food additive for flavoring. Many entities also use Its also used camphene in many different types of fragrances. Camphene develops through catalytic isomerization of the more common α-pinene terpene.
α-Terpineol, terpinen-4-ol, and 4-terpineol are three closely related monoterpenoids. Terpineol’s aroma compares to flower blossoms and lilac. Cannabis varieties with high pinene levels often contain high levels of terpineol, as well. Unfortunately, this may mask the sweet, floral aroma of terpineol.
Terpineol (specifically α-terpineol) has excellent calming and relaxing effects. Terpineol also exhibits antibiotic inhibitors and antioxidant antimalarial properties.
Geraniol produces a lovely and delightful smell that is similar to a bouquet of roses. It is a popular choice for a lot of bath and body product ingredients. It is also well-known to be an extremely effective mosquito repellant. In the medical industry, geraniol shows promise in the help and treatment of neuropathy.
Phellandrene is pepperminty, with a slight scent of citrus. It also has exceptional medicinal values; Traditional Chinese Medicine used phellandrene to treat digestive disorders. Notably, it is one of the primary compounds in turmeric leaf oil, which helps treat systemic fungal infections.
Phellandrene is one of the easiest cannabis terpenes for labs to identify. When lab technicians treat a solution of phellandrene in a solvent with a concentrated solution of sodium nitrate and then with a few tiny drops of glacial acetic acid, large crystals of phellandrene nitrate form quickly.
The first discovery of phellandrene was in the oils of eucalyptus. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that scientists learned that phellandrene from eucalyptus oil. In doing, they noticed that it contains two isomeric phellandrenes ( α-phellandrene and β-phellandrene). Upon oxidation with potassium, permanganate produced distinct acids. Consequently, researchers concluded that the acids come from two different isomeric phellandrenes. Before that, many mistook phellandrene for pinene or limonene. Today, we are aware that many essential oils have phellandrene present. It is, however, a somewhat uncertain terpene and only comes from some species like Eucalypts (and only during certain times of the year).
Many herbs and spices contain phellandrene, including cinnamon, garlic, dill, ginger, and parsley. Many plants produce β-phellandrene as a constituent of their essential oils, including lavender and grand fir. The recognizable odors of some essential oils depend almost entirely upon the presence of phellandrene. Oil of pepper and dill oil contain incredibly high levels of phellandrene. It is the principal constituent in the oil of ginger and absorbs easily through the skin. As such, it is attractive for use in perfumes, flavoring for food products.
Delta-3-carene is a bicyclic monoterpene that comes with a sweet but pungent odor. Many beneficial essential oils contain carene, including cypress oil, juniper berry oil, and fir needle oils. Moreover, in larger concentrations, delta-3-carene can work as a central nervous system depressant in some cases. Additionally, many people also use it to dry out excess bodily fluids, such as tears, mucus, and sweat.
Carene is among the non-toxic cannabis terpenes but may irritate when inhaled. High concentrations of delta-3-carene may cause coughing, itchy throat, and eye afflictions when smoking cannabis.
Carene is a significant component of turpentine and a flavoring agent in many different types of products.
Humulene is a sesquiterpene called α-humulene and α–caryophyllene; an isomer of β–caryophyllene. Humulene is in many Sativa strains and gives beer its ‘hoppy’ aroma. Importantly, it is an anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anorectic (suppresses appetite). It is commonly blended with β–caryophyllene and used as a meaningful remedy for all kinds of inflammation. Traditional Chinese Medicine incorporated humulene into therapeutic practices as a means of weight loss via appetite suppression.
Pulegone is a monocyclic monoterpenoid (a minor component of cannabis) with higher concentrations in rosemary plants.
Notably, it may alleviate the side effects of short-term memory loss sometimes associated with higher levels of psychoactive cannabinoids. As such, it is one of the most valuable cannabis terpenes available today.
Pulegone’s peppermint aroma is useful as an extremely potent insecticide.
Sabinene is a bicyclic monoterpene. Its aromas remind us of the holidays (oranges, spices, pines). An ongoing study by Valente et al. suggests that sabinene may be a natural source of new antioxidant and anti-inflammatory drugs for the development of food supplements, nutraceuticals, or plant-based medicines.
Sabinene is a terpene that occurs in many different plants. Some of these include the Norway spruce, basil, black pepper, and Myristica fragrans (the Spice Islands of Indonesia). The seeds of the Myristica fragrans are the world’s leading source of nutmeg. Sabinene exists as (+)- and (–)-enantiomers.
Final Thoughts About Cannabis Terpenes
Cannabis holds an abundance of terpenes, but it is not their only source. In fact, hundreds of terpenes develop in both plants and animals, and for a variety of purposes. The cannabis terpenes you discover in our premium cannabis seeds will require preservation if you hope to reap their benefits for months — or even years — to come.