Terpenes – the other healer
One of the biggest benefits to the legalization and regulation of cannabis is testing. Rigorous lab testing in the legal industry helps ensure the cannabis being sold is clean and free from dangerous chemicals and pesticides, insect and rodent filth, as well as, bacteria and molds. In addition, strains are tested for THC potency and alternate cannabinoid content. Through all of this research and testing, scientists and consumers alike, are starting to learn that there is more to the medicinal benefits of cannabis than just the cannabinoid content. Testing for terpenes is also on the rise in the cannabis industry, and so is our knowledge of how these aromatic components, which are commonly found in the essential oils of many different varieties plant matter, herbs and spices, may have more impact than originally thought.
So, what exactly are terpenes, where do they come from, and what potential do they have as natural medicines?
Terpenes and Essential Oils
Although essential oils have been used since the beginning of time, science is starting to uncover the secrets to their healing properties, and recent advancements in technology have allowed science to understand why these natural, plant-based tonics actually worked in ancient, ayurvedic remedies. The evidence continues to mount as scientific studies and anecdotal stories are being shared all over the world. As technology continues to make it easier to isolate specific compounds and extract them individually, modern medicines may see decline as people seek out natural remedies with less side effects than typically offered by their pharmaceutical counterparts.
Terpenes are one of the main components found in the essential oils of many different varieties of plants, and they are even produced by some insects to ward off predators. Terpenes are one of nature’s building blocks in nearly every living being. In fact, many of the same terpenes that give lemons, pine trees, and mangos their wonderful aromas are also found in high quantities within the cannabis plant. Thanks to technology and science, the use and knowledge of the therapeutic benefits of essential oils is increasing and so is the awareness of terpene-rich, plant-based healers.
Six of the most common terpenes found in cannabis:
Limonene – ever open a jar of fresh Super Lemon Haze and smell? It should smell like you’ve stuck your face into a bucket of freshly sliced lemons and oranges. That refreshingly, classic citrus smell is created by limonene. Limonene is one of the most common terpenes found in nature, found in citrus rinds, juniper, and even peppermint, its therapeutic benefits have been studied for years. There is clinical evidence that limonene could be beneficial in the treatment of gastric reflux, gallstone treatments, and even as a cancer preventative, as this study, published in the Alternative Medicine Review, 2007, by Dr. Jidong Sun, concludes,
“D-limonene has well-established chemopreventive activity against many types of cancers. Evidence from a phase I clinical trial shows a partial response in a patient with breast cancer and stable disease for more than six months in three patients with colorectal cancer.”
Pinene – as its name suggests, pinene is most commonly found in the resins of pine trees and conifers. This terpene is what gives Christmas trees, as well as, some cannabis strains, their piney odor. Pinene is also found in herbs like sage and rosemary. Used for centuries in Eastern cultures, pinene can be useful as an antiseptic, an anti-inflammatory, and even as a bronchodilator for asthma patients. Similar to cannabidiol, or CBD, pinene is also believed to reduce the cerebral effects of THC.
Myrcene – on the flipside, to enhance the effects of THC, look no further than this terpene commonly found in cloves and mangos. Myrcene is known to be sedating and relaxing and can contribute to the “couch-lock” effect of many indica cannabis strains. A review in the British Journal of Pharmacology lists dozens of medical benefits from myrcene, as well as, discusses the entourage effect with the other terpenes and cannabinoids found in cannabis.
Linalool – found in hundreds of plants including mint, cinnamon, lavender, and rosewood, linalool is another common terpene found in certain cannabis strains. Having a floral and/or spicy aroma, this terpene is known to be calming and sedating and is often used as a sleep aid. One study done in India, shows the spice coriander, which contains nearly 70% of the terpene linalool, as having dozens of potential medicinal benefits.
Caryophyllene – another terpene with widespread medical benefits, caryophyllene is known to have many uses, including to relieve pain, reduce anxiety, reduce inflammation, and even act as an antibacterial agent. In the same study referenced above for myrcene, scientist published findings in the British Journal of Pharmacology showing potential for this terpene to help in the treatment of addiction to other drugs. Found in many spices, like oregano, basil, cloves, and black pepper, caryophyllene has no detectable psychoactive or physical effects, yet could contribute to relieving millions from chronic conditions.
Humulene – yet another terpene which is found to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and analgesic; Humulene is found not only in cannabis, but also within coriander and hops, which is a cousin to cannabis. As far back as 2007, researchers were learning about the entourage effect of terpenes and their anti-cancer properties, especially in caryophyllene and humulene. Although there is a lack of official studies, humulene is also widely used as an anorectic, or appetite suppressant, with a similar effect to the THCV cannabinoid, also found in certain strains cannabis.
With the proliferation of medical marijuana throughout the United States, and the potential for federal legalization and regulation, it is safe to assume research initiatives will increase over the next several years, and we will learn more and more about how extracts from the cannabis plant can treat multiple illnesses. Diseases like fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, and cancer are claiming the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people each year in the United States, yet successful treatments have been found in a plentiful, easy to grow, renewable resource. Now is the time to lift the restrictions, find the cures, and save lives… one little terpene at a time.