Put simply, terpenes are the oils that give cannabis flowers and plants their often pungent odor. Terpenes originate from the same parts of the cannabis plant as THC, CBD and other cannabinoids.
Terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid system in a similar way to cannabinoids. When inhaled or ingested the terpenes act as an assistant to cannabinoids as they work to penetrate the blood/brain barrier. Myrcene, a clove odored terpene, is known to increase levels of consumption and absorption of THC and other cannabinoids.
Over 200 different terpenes and terpenoids have so far been identified in the cannabis plant, although they’re not unique to cannabis. They exist throughout the botanical world and are found in many other plants, herbs, and fruits. Common in the human diet, terpenes are recognized as safe to consume by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Like cannabinoids, terpenes bind to receptors in the brain to stimulate various effects and affect the chemical output of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Among the wide-ranging effects of terpenes that researchers have so far discovered include:
Aiding with sleep
Evidence also suggests that terpenes work with cannabinoids like CBD and THC to enhance their natural balancing properties in what’s referred to as an “entourage effect.”
The entourage effect, introduced in 1998 by Israeli researchers Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam, maintains that all the natural constituents found in cannabis – terpenes, cannabinoids, and natural other compounds – work together synergistically to magnify their beneficial properties. The theory suggests that isolated cannabis compounds aren’t as effective as when all the natural constituents work together harmoniously.
As more people become aware of terpenes and their effects, dispensaries are beginning to cater to customer’s curiosity. Next time you head to the dispensary, ask your budtender to discuss the terpenes found in their strains.