Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
What are Terpenoids?
Terpenes, monoterpenes, or terpenoids are compounds found within all plant life as well as some insect life and are used by the organism for numerous functions ranging from pest protection to healthy development. There are over 200 terpenes present in cannabis, but the list of terpenes needed for the average cannabis consumer’s knowledge is largely limited to 10 terpenes colloquially known as primary terpenes; although many sources will expand or limit that pool depending on their knowledge and topic of focus.
Terpene Western Cultured Flavor Wheel
These particular terpenes: caryophyllene, geraniol, humulene, limonene, linalool, myrcene, ocimene, pinene, terpineol, and terpinolene, have many possible medically significant traits and may help with disorders and disease from epilepsy to cancer. Research has only really just begun to explore these compounds and particularly how they interact with cannabinoids to form the “Entourage Effect.”
Terpenes in Marijuana Plants Photo by Alex Person on Unsplash
Terpenes and the “Entourage Effect”
Largely, until recently, individuals interested in the use of cannabis for either medicinal or recreational purposes have been aware of compounds in cannabis called cannabinoids which produce a variety of effects including the psychoactive component of cannabis known as THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). However, recently there has been a push to begin studying terpenes and how they interact with cannabis which has led to the hypothesis and coined term the “Entourage Effect.” This term is used to loosely describe the symbiosis that occurs between terpenoids and cannabinoids to produce many of the specific physiological and psychoactive effects that have largely been attributed to growing classifications such as Cannabis sativa forma indica (colloquially Indica) and Cannabis sativa (Colloquially Sativa).
Terpenes and the CBD trichome caps of the cannabis flower
Despite the interesting effects of terpenes in relation to recreationally sought after psychoactive effects, probably some of the most exciting examples of the “Entourage Effect” are shown in how terpenes play a massive role in the medicinal benefits of cannabis. A study done in 2009 by the Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Science at The University of Tokyo found that in rats, the terpene linalool interrupted the shift in the bodies white blood cells caused by stress. This effect prevented the rats from going through the stress-induced changes that would otherwise have exhibited. The authors of this study speculated that this could be, in part, due to linalool’s mediating effect on the body’s parasympathetic response (The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” stimulation in the human body), specifically its ability to elicit the response. This is a large part of why linalool is now being considered to have fantastic applications as both an antianxiety and antidepressant terpene.
Most of the primary terpenes have some sort of medically significant effect either on their own or when paired with specific cannabinoids during the “Entourage Effect”. It is worthwhile to mention that, as we discover and document more of the effects of terpenes and how they interact with cannabis, that we also understand that an individual’s body chemistry will interact with terpenes and cannabinoids differently from others, and as such, it is always urged to follow the directions of one’s primary care physician. However, as we learn more about the wonderful medical significance of terpenes, we can explore a more holistic approach towards the medicine we know as well as developing their use for conditions that, as of yet, are unavailable or limited in treatment.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Prior to terpenes becoming the focal point of cannabis’ medicinal side, they have been associated with the specific smells and tastes of cannabis as a whole, as well as defining aromatic characteristics from strain to strain. This is no more evident than with the terpene limonene which produces the unique citruseque portfolio of a lot of lemon, orange, or grapefruit style strains. In this same manner, most if not all of the primary terpenes have a distinct effect on either the taste or smell of the flower. These, when paired together, produce the wide array of “flavors” we find in cannabis today. This has been especially exacerbated by selective breeding in growers to try and produce a more aromatic phenotype.
Know Your Terpenes
It is generally encouraged that those who consume cannabis regularly document what strains, tastes, and smells they have come to enjoy in their cannabis as connecting these to their respective terpenes can provide a window into all of the various benefits, both medical and recreational, that terpenes provide. Once you have figured out which terpenes are right for you, that knowledge will transcend cannabis and become a part of your daily life as you figure out which other plants carry the same primary terpenes found in your cannabis. As more and more research is done into terpenes, we will discover new benefits of these amazing compounds that will prove instrumental in how we progress, both in the field of cannabis and beyond.
Want to know more about terpenes? We’ve got you covered. Visit us at one of our dispensary locations to speak to one of our expert budtenders or visit our Kush21 online menus for our Seatac, Pullman or Vashon locations for the best cannabis selection near you. Contact us for more details!
Russo, Ethan B. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects” British journal of pharmacology vol. 163,7 (2011): 1344-64).
Nakamura, A., Fujiwara, S., Matsumoto, I., & Abe, K. (2009). Stress Repression in Restrained Rats by (R)-(−)-Linalool Inhalation and Gene Expression Profiling of Their Whole Blood Cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.