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What are terpenes?

  CBD, Hemp Farm, Terpenes, Apis Mercantile

      In the last few years, there has been a growing interest in terpenes, largely due to the growth of the cannabis industry.  If you’ve spent a little time on the web reading about marijuana or hemp-derived CBD, there’s no doubt that you’ve encountered terpenes mentioned when describing cannabis concentrates and various hemp-derived products.  Terpenes make up a large class of organic compounds produced by plants; these hydrocarbons are the primary component of essential oils and can emit a strong aroma. Terpenes have a wide variety of uses spanning several fields including food, medicine, and aromatherapy.

    While there are over 17 different plant species that impart terpenes as part of their basic structure, Cannabis sativa plants contain well over 120 identified terpene compounds.  These compounds have received more attention in recent years as research suggests they can act in a synergistic manner with cannabinoids to either help, or hinder, their interaction with cannabinoid receptors in the body. Since 1964, when Raphael Mechoulam isolated THC, most scientific research has focused on this individual cannabinoid.  Likewise, cannabis growers mostly focused on improving genetics related to THC production within the plant. However, within the last decade, a better understanding of other cannabinoids, including CBD, CBG, and CBN, as well as terpenes, have changed how we look at cannabis.

     As medical marijuana gained root in America, it became evident that some users experienced better relief from some strains of marijuana compared to others, despite containing similar levels of THC.  This is perhaps best explained by the synergistic effects of the terpenes found within the various strains. Terpenes display therapeutic effects and can affect human behavior. The compounds contribute meaningfully to the entourage-effect of cannabinoids.  The interaction between terpenes and phytocannabinoids is powerful, and many cannabis-extract users are seeking out products with a full terpene profile. Even though over 120 terpene compounds have been identified in the Cannabis sativa plant, some are more prevalent than others.  One of the more prevalent terpene, and one often discussed on cannabis forums, is myrcene.  Other commonly mentioned terpenes are pinene and humulene, which are known for their anti-inflammatory effects.

     While CBD and THC get a lot of media buzz, there are many benefits to be realized from the whole of the cannabis plant.  While very little is still known about how terpenes interact with specific phytocannabinoids, we do know their interaction is significant.  The cannabis industry is ripe with opportunity for research as the list of known applications for cannabinoids and terpenes is seemingly ever-growing.


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