Terpenes – What’s the buzz all about?
Part 1 of BK Labs Terpene Blog Series
What are terpenes in cannabis?
While cannabinoids are associated with the intensity of the Cannabis experience, terpenes can affect the quality of that experience. Terpenes are hydrocarbon-based aromatic compounds that bind to various receptors. Terpenes allow for a palatable experience by naturally enhancing desired aromas and sensations.
How are terpenes different than cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds, such as THC and CBD, that directly interact with our endocannabinoid system (ECS). They bind to each receptor within this system and produce specific effects. For example, when THC binds with CB1 receptors, it stimulates the regulation of serotonin. This is what produces the psychoactive experience from consuming cannabis.
Terpenes bind to various receptors differently and produce specific effects. For example, when absorbed through a digestive system or topically, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are activated. Typically, terpenes are not intoxicating on their own. However, some terpenes can be classified as psychoactive because they affect the brain but not the same way as THC.
Knowledge of cannabinoids and terpenes together, give a consumer a general idea of what to expect from their cannabis experience.
Where are terpenes found?
Terpenes can be found within flowers, herbs and spices, and other plants such as cannabis. These natural compounds form within the trichomes of a cannabis plant. Trichomes contain small resin glands that are responsible for releasing terpenes and cannabinoids.
In cannabis, there are approximately 200+ known terpenes. The most common terpenes are Myrcene, Limonene and Pinene. A lesser-known terpene, Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to bind directly to receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes within cannabis. Found in lemongrass, cloves and hops, this terpene produces a deeper earthy and musky scent.
Commonly found within the rinds of citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes and oranges. Limonene is best known for its strong citrusy smell.
Pinene comes in the form of A-Pinene and B-Pinene. Both result in a fresh and woodsy aroma and are usually found within pine needles, rosemary, and basil.
Found in herbs and vegetables such as cloves, cinnamon and black pepper. Caryophyllene provides a more pungent and spicy scent.
Terpenes are natural, aromatic compounds that are found in various types of plants, including cannabis.
Cannabis researchers and consumers use terpenes to classify and predict the quality of the cannabis experience. One of the earliest and most successful discoveries was in 1818 by J.J Houton de la Billardiere. Every new discovery along the way helps pave the path for a more satisfying cannabis experience. By testing for terpenes, Quality Control labs help manufacturers and consumers improve their knowledge about specific cannabis properties.
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Written by Dana Neverdousky, MT(ASCP) & Veronica Martinez: March 2023