Cannabis plants emit a very characteristic scent. Responsible for this are scent molecules, the terpenes. But terpenes can do much more than smell good - they also have a therapeutic effect.
Around 140 of the many chemical components in cannabis belong to the group of organic hydrocarbons - the so-called terpenes. Like cannabinoids, terpenes are mainly found in the exuded resin of the plant.
The combination of the various terpenes defines the scent of each plant. Cannabis is special in that each variety has a unique profile of terpenes. Research suggests that terpenes also have medicinal properties that are independent of cannabinoids.
Terpenes are nanoparticle-sized aromatic molecules. That's why they can cross the blood-brain barrier - a layer that separates the brain from the blood to prevent toxic substances from entering the brain. This means that they enter the central nervous system and act there. The molecules in pharmaceutical compounds, on the other hand, are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Overview of cannabis terpenes
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbon compounds. They are called isoprenes because their structure is built on recurring isoprene chains (C5H8). Isoprene chains are divided into the following groups:
They consist of two isoprene chains with 5 carbon molecules each (C10H16). In the cannabis plant, the monoterpenes limonene, myrcene, pinene, terpinolene and linalool are found.
They are composed of three isoprene chains and accordingly have 15 carbon molecules. Caryophyllene and humulene are sequiterpenes.
These terpenes with 30 carbon molecules are mainly found in the roots, fibers and seeds of industrial hemp. The production of terpenes is stimulated by light radiation.
Functions of the cannabis terpenes
The aromatic constituents are particularly highly concentrated in the flowers of female, unfertilized plants. The amount and composition of a plant's terpenes depends on its genetics and growing conditions.
The fragrances protect the plant from parasites, harmful insects, bacteria and fungi. At the same time, they attract pollinating insects. Each plant has a unique terpene combination - but it is similar in plants of the same variety. The revolutionary thing about the mode of action of aromatic substances is, on the one hand, that they can cross the blood-brain barrier. On the other hand, the terpenes canabis plants genetically evolve more and more, so that even adaptable (eating) enemies lose out.
The properties of terpenes
While the effects and properties of cannabinoids (especially THC and CBD) are already well researched, this is not the case with terpenes. Some studies have shown that terpenes contribute to the so-called "entourage effect."
That is, they enhance the therapeutic effects of other constituents, especially cannabinoids. For example, neuroscientist Ethan Russo proved that terpenes mitigate the adverse effects of THC, thus favoring the therapeutic efficacy of the cannabinoid. Russo hypothesizes that the interaction of cannabinoids and terpenes may enhance the healing properties of cannabis.
More than just fragrances
Like THC, terpenes interact with receptors in the endocannabinoid system to influence overall effects. Some terpenes alter the amount of THC that penetrates the blood-brain barrier. Terpenes are considered to have an impact on how cannabis affects our bodies, and there are even studies that show that these compounds can also affect dopamine and serotonin levels.
Here's how terpenes can work
- Myrcene: e.g. narcotic, sedative effect
- Limonene: promotes astuteness and concentration
- Beta-caryophyllene: has neuroprotective properties and is therefore suitable for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease
- Further research is needed to find out more about therapeutic properties of these hitherto neglected components of the cannabis plant - both on their own and in combination with cannabinoids.
The information and data that have served as the basis for the preparation of this article have been obtained from professional articles, trade journals or studies. Medropharm is not authorized to make any healing and/or efficacy promises related to their cannabis products.
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