What Are Terpenes
Cannabis Terpenes – When opening a fresh bag of cannabis, you probably note a variety of smells that come forth. It might smell like skunks, flowers, or berries. The cornucopia of aromas found in the many phenotypes of cannabis out there is numerous and varied. Terpenes are not limited to just marijuana. Terpenes are naturally presenting a wide variety of plants, and they can also be created by and synthesized by living organisms.
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons. There are thousands of terpenes isomers and terpenes. We can smell them because they are highly volatile and they easily evaporate in the air at room temperature. Just a few parts per million can go a long way in changing the smell of something. Even 1% of terpene content in cannabis buds or flowers is considered a substantial amount. At the same time, their volatility can also make them extremely difficult to preserve. The way marijuana is cured can make a huge difference in how much of a strain’s terpene profile is maintained and shows up in the final packaged product.
While we know terpenes can smell good or bad, it’s interesting to note that in small concentrations many terpenes have been shown to have useful properties, from medicines to pesticides. In larger concentrations, they can reach toxic levels. Toxicity is always a concern with any form of hydrocarbon molecules that are in high concentrations.
Much research is happening within the scientific community with regards to terpenes. Work is being done to find additional commercial value for these chemicals. Researchers are also looking for new and improved methods of synthesizing and purifying many of these chemicals on large scales, as they are frequently difficult to get in high purity and high yield.
There are multiple methodologies for measuring terpenes. Some are limited in their visibility, the number of terpenes that can be detected, or level of accuracy. Here at Greenpoint Seeds, we are going to explain the best method of terpene measuring we know of. G-FID analysis. With the G-FID method, we can detect quantities with less than 1 part per million.
G -FID stands for “gas chromatography-flame ionization detector.” Organic compounds combust at a pretty high temperature while in the headspace of the G-FID. As they combust they pass through a detector which can quantify the presence of the chemicals the machine is calibrated to detect.
Hydrocarbons typically have a response in the machine that is related to the number of carbons in the molecule.
There are several advantages to using this G-FID for terpene detection over other available terpene detection methods. A minimum sample amount is needed to quantify compounds accurately, and the process of preparing samples is relatively simple and straightforward. The separation between compounds as they are detected is excellent, making the chromatography data not only clean to read but also able to identify a broader array of terpenes. The machines themselves are also very robust and maintain accuracy with regular wear and tear of daily use.
Terpenes In Cannabis
Myrcene, specifically β-myrcene, is a monoterpene (a class of terpenes that consist of two isoprene units) and is also the most common terpene produced by cannabis (some varieties have been known to contain up to 60% of this essential oil). Its aroma has been described as earthy, musky and herbal. A higher myrcene level in cannabis (above 0.5%) results in the what is known as the “couch-lock” effect. This is classic of Indica strains. Myrcene is found in hops, oil, citrus fruits, bay leaves, eucalyptus, lemongrass and a bunch of other plants.
Myrcene has some extraordinary medicinal properties. These properties include things like lowering the resistance across the blood to brain barrier (to allow itself and other chemicals to cross the blood to brain barrier much more comfortably and quickly). In the case of cannabinoids (like THC), myrcene allows the effects of the cannabinoid to take effect immediately. Myrcene has also been proven to increase the maximum saturation level of the CB1 receptor, which allows for a more significant and overall psychoactive effect.
Myrcene is a very potent analgesic, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and antimutagenic. Mycrene blocks the action of cytochrome, aflatoxin B, and other pro-mutagenic carcinogens. The Bonamin et al study 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 be helpful in avoiding peptic ulcer disease. Its sedative and relaxing effects also make it ideal for the treatment of insomnia and pain.
Since myrcene is generally found in essential oil from citrus fruit, many claims that consuming a fresh mango around 45 minutes before consuming cannabis can result in a faster onset of psychoactivity and higher intensity. Be sure to find a ripe mango or the myrcene level will be too low to make any noticeable differences.
Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpenoid. Pinene has distinctive aromas of pine and fir trees. Two structural isomers of pinene exist in nature: α-pinene and β-pinene. Both isomers are essential components of what makes up pine resin. α-pinene is the most widely encountered terpenoid in nature. Pinene is found 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 shown anti-cancer activity. Many believe that the effects of THC may be lessened if mixed with pinene.
Limonene is a monocyclic monoterpenoid and one of two critical compounds formed from pinene. Varieties high in limonene have strong citrusy smells like lemons and limes. Strains high in limonene tend to promote a general uplift in mood and overall attitude. This terpene is the major constituent in rosemary, juniper, and peppermint.
Inhalation of limonene gets absorbed instantly and quickly appears in the bloodstream. It helps by assisting in the absorption of other terpenes through the flesh and other body tissues. It is well known that limonene suppresses the growth of many types of fungi and bacteria, making it an ideal antifungal agent for ailments such as fungus. Limonene may be beneficial in protecting against many types of cancers, and orally administered limonene is undergoing testing to be used in the treatment of breast cancer hopefully. Limonene has also been found even to help promote weight-loss.
Plants use limonene as a naturally occurring insecticide to ward off insect and other predators. Limonene was primarily used in foods and perfume up 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 that can be found in many plants such as cloves, cinnamon leaves, and black pepper. It can also be found in minor quantities in lavender. Caryophyllene’s aroma has been described as woody, peppery and spicy and is currently the only terpene known of to interact with the endocannabinoid system (CB2) successfully. Studies and research shows that β–caryophyllene holds promise in different types of cancer treatment plans. Furthermore, β–caryophyllene was identified as a macrocyclic antiinflammatory cannabinoid in marijuana.
There is a pain study out there which demonstrates 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 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.
Linalool is a non-cyclic monoterpenoid. It has been described as having floral and lavender aromas and undertones. Anything high in linalool promotes calming and relaxing effects.
Linalool has been used for centuries as a useful sleep aid. Linalool also lessens the anxious and paranoid emotions provoked by pure THC. 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 limonene may be helpful in reducing the harm caused by inhaling cannabis smoke.
Linalool is an immune system booster, and it directly activates immune cells through specific receptors and pathways. The Sabogal-Guáqueta et al study suggests linalool may reverse the histopathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease. Which in return 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. It is used in a variety of bath and body products worldwide. The vapors of linalool have been shown to be an effective insecticide against many types of flies, fleas, and cockroaches.
Linalool has been successfully isolated in several hundred different plants. The Lamiaceae plant and herb family includes mints and other scented herbs. The Lauraceae plant family, which contains laurels, cinnamon, and rosewood, is also a readily available source. The Rutaceae family, which includes citrus plants, is another viable source. Birch trees and several different plant species that are found in tropical and boreal climate zones also produce linalool. Although technically not plants, 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 and is found in the oil derived from Monterey cypress. Its most substantial use in the United States is in soaps and perfumes. 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 can be used as a central nervous system depressant to induce drowsiness, sleep or to reduce mental excitement or anxiety.
Camphene is a plant-derived monoterpene which emits pungent odors of fir needles and damp woodlands. Camphene has been studied a lot lately because it could play a critical role in cardiovascular disease.
Camphene is used a lot as a minor component in many other essential oils. These other essential oils include camphor oil, citronella oil, and ginger oil. Camphene is used as a food additive for flavoring. Its also used in the preparation of many different types of fragrances. It is produced using catalytic isomerization of the more common α-pinene terpene.
α-Terpineol, terpinen-4-ol, and 4-terpineol are three closely related monoterpenoids. Terpineols aroma has been compared to flower blossoms and lilac. Terpineol is often found in cannabis with high pinene levels. This, unfortunately, masks the smells of terpineol.
Terpineol (specifically α-terpineol) is known to have great 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. Geraniol 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 described as pepperminty, with a slight scent of citrus. Phellandrene is believed to have exceptional medicinal values. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat digestive disorders. It is one of the primary compounds in turmeric leaf oil, which is used to prevent and treat systemic fungal infections.
Phellandrene is the easiest terpene for labs to identify. When a solution of phellandrene in a solvent is treated 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.
Phellandrene was initially discovered in the oils of eucalyptus. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that it was constituted and shown that phellandrene from eucalyptus oil contained two isomeric phellandrenes (usually referred to as α-phellandrene and β-phellandrene), and on oxidation with potassium permanganate gave distinct acids, concluding that the acids had been derived from two different isomeric phellandrenes. Before that, phellandrene used to be mistaken for pinene or limonene. Today, we are aware that many essential oils have phellandrene present. It is, however, a somewhat uncertain terpene and can only be detected in the oils of some species like Eucalypts (at certain times of year).
Phellandrene can be found in many different herbs and spices. These include 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 are composed almost wholly of phellandrene. The principal constituent in oil of ginger is phellandrene. α-phellandrene is absorbed through the skin, which makes it attractive for use in perfumes. It is also used as a flavoring for food products.
Delta-3-carene is a bicyclic monoterpene that comes with a sweet but pungent odor. It is found naturally in many beneficial essential oils. These oils include cypress oil, juniper berry oil, and fir needle oils. In larger concentrations, delta-3-carene can work as a central nervous system depressant in some cases. It can be used to dry out excess bodily fluids, such as tears, mucus, and sweat.
Carene is non-toxic but may irritate when inhaled. It is said that high concentrations of delta-3-carene in some strains could be responsible for coughing, itchy throat, and eye afflictions when smoking cannabis.
Carene is a significant component of turpentine and is used as a flavoring agent in many different types of products.
Humulene is a sesquiterpene also known as α-humulene and α–caryophyllene; an isomer of β–caryophyllene. Humulene is found in many sativa strains and hops. Humulene is what gives beer its ‘hoppy’ aroma.
Humulene is considered to be anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anorectic (suppresses appetite). It has commonly been blended with β–caryophyllene and used as a meaningful remedy for all kinds of inflammation. Humulene has also been used for generations in Traditional Chinese medicine. It aids in weight loss by acting as an appetite suppressant.
Pulegone is a monocyclic monoterpenoid (which is only a minor component of cannabis). Higher concentrations of pulegone are found in rosemary.
It has been known to alleviate the side effects of short-term memory loss sometimes associated with higher levels of THC.
Pulegone has a peppermint aroma and is used 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 should be further explored as 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.