What are the potential health benefits of terpenes?

The cannabinoids – CBD, THC, CBG, and others – tend to steal the spotlight when it comes to the potential health benefits of the versatile cannabis plant.

However, cannabinoids aren’t the only potent medicinal compounds in cannabis; terpenes, as well, possess powerful potential healing properties – acting on their own and in tandem with other cannabis compounds to deliver numerous potential health benefits.

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Let’s explore what terpenes are and what potential health benefits the science says they offer.

What are terpenes?

There’s a lot to say about what terpenes are and their role in the larger ecosystem. Medical News Today offers a brief definition:

“Terpenes are highly aromatic compounds that determine the smell of many plants and herbs, such as rosemary and lavender, as well as some animals.”

Terpenes’ purposes vary: in some contexts, they attract pollinators (like bees), and in others they serve to fend off potential threats like unwanted pests.

Recent research breakthroughs have determined that terpenes contribute to about half of various cannabis strains’ unique and “skunky” overall aromas, with volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) making up the difference. So you can thank terpenes for at least a large part of the scent from your favorite cannabis strain.

What terpenes are present in the cannabis plant?

Several terpenes are commonly found in cannabis. Here is a handful of the most well-studied and prolific cannabis terpenes (but by no means an exhaustive list):

  • Pinene
  • Limonene
  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Linalool
  • Camphene
  • Terpinene
  • Humulene

What potential health benefits do terpenes offer?

Terpenes have an extensive range of potential health benefits, backed by years of clinical research:

“Terpenes/terpenoids have a wide range of biological and pharmacological activities, for instance, antifungal, antiviral, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycemic, antiparasitic, antioxidant, and antimicrobial.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of these potential health benefits.

Terpenes for pain relief

Of the many healthcare applications of cannabis, chronic pain relief is perhaps the most common benefit that patients seek. CBD and other cannabinoids play a central role in pain relief, but so do terpenes.

Here’s how terpenes provide pain relief:

“The research team… focused on four Cannabis terpenes: alpha-humulene, geraniol, linalool and beta-pinene. They evaluated each terpene alone and in combination with WIN55,212-2, a synthetic cannabinoid agonist that stimulates the body’s natural cannabinoid receptors…

When a cannabinoid such as THC enters the body, it binds to one of two cannabinoid receptors — CB1R, which is the most abundant, or CB2R. The receptor then activates neurons that affect physiological processes and behavior. In laboratory experiments, researchers found that all four terpenes activated the CB1R, just like THC.”

In addition to acting on cannabinoid receptors themselves, terpenes also amplify the pain-relieving effects of cannabinoids via the “entourage effect” (more on that later):

“Researchers have found that terpenes mimic cannabinoids and produce similar pain-relieving effects, which are amplified when the two are used together.”

Terpenes as anti-inflammatory agents

Medical science has now established firmly the fact that chronic inflammation is tied to nearly every known disease process in animals:

“Recent research has revealed that certain social, environmental and lifestyle factors can promote systemic chronic inflammation (SCI) that can, in turn, lead to several diseases that collectively represent the leading causes of disability and mortality worldwide, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders.”

Terpenes tamp down inflammation by limiting the activity of special immune system cells called cytokines:

“Terpenes and terpenoids possess a strong potential as alternative treatments for inflammatory diseases… these involve several molecular targets that include pro-inflammatory cytokines, transcription factors, autophagy machinery, ROS, membrane receptors, and other inflammatory mediators. Therefore, unlike some current drugs, terpenes can simultaneously act through different cell signaling pathways and exert a pleiotropic effect on inflammatory disorders; thus, terpenes could be more effective than existing medications.”

(If “cytokine” rings a bell, perhaps that’s due to the much-publicized “cytokine storm” seen in severe COVID-19 patients – indicating a potential prophylactic or preventative role for terpenes in combating COVID-19.)

Terpenes for anxiety relief

Terpenes contribute to the proven potential anti-anxiety effects of CBD. One terpene in particular, pinene, has significant clinical documentation regarding its anxiolytic properties:

“Mice inhaled α-pinene or water vapor (negative control) for 90 min/day for 1 day, 3 days, or 5 days, and they were then submitted to the elevated plus maze test for 10 min. We used gas chromatography with flame ionization detection to quantify concentrations of α-pinene in the brain and liver. There was significant anxiolytic-like activity, which remained constant for the 5 days’ inhalation of α-pinene.”

What is the terpene-mediated ‘entourage effect’?

If you follow CBD news, you might be familiar with the much-lauded terpene-mediated “entourage effect” that we referenced earlier:

“‘Cannabis’ is not a single compound product but is known for its complicated molecular profile, producing a plethora of phytocannabinoids alongside a vast array of terpenes. Thus, the ‘entourage effect’ is the suggested positive contribution derived from the addition of terpenes to cannabinoids.”

In laymen’s/laywomen’s terms, terpene supercharges the physiological activities of CBD and the other cannabinoids to produce more profound potential health benefits.

The entourage effect is one of the biggest benefits that most patients prefer “full-spectrum” CBD products, meaning that the solution contains all of the naturally-occurring compounds in the cannabis plant, including terpenes. Full-spectrum is different from “CBD isolate” in that it’s chock full of terpenes, whereas isolate is pure CBD.

“Broad-spectrum” CBD products, a designation that simply indicates that the psychoactive compound THC has been removed, also contain terpenes.

Above: Cured Aura – 10mg Broad Spectrum CBD

Contact Georgia Hemp Company to learn more about terpenes

At Georgia Hemp Company, we closely follow the latest research into cannabis and its constituent parts. That’s the price we pay to keep our customers informed on the various amazing potential health benefits the plant has to offer. Scientists regularly discover new therapeutic applications for these magical plant compounds, and we’re here to share them with our customers who might benefit most.If you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers (or, if we don’t, we’ll find them). Contact Georgia Hemp Company to learn more about terpenes, or any component of the cannabis plant with proven therapeutic applications.

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