You may have never heard the term “terpene” before, but I promise you that you have experienced a terpene or two in your life… because terpenes give scent to everything. That’s right. If you can smell it, there is at least one type of terpene molecule meeting up with your olfactory senses.
The aroma of an excellent meal cooking…. terpenes. Those essential oils that uplift or relax or cleanse… terpenes. The fragrance in your shampoo and hygiene products… terpenes. Terpenes are already well known, used, and appreciated in our culture so what makes them the leading edge of medical cannabis?
Let me explain. As scientists have discovered, phyto-cannabinoids will interact with the Endo Cannabinoid System to help establish and maintain homeostasis in every cell, tissue, and system in the body (see: The Endo Cannabinoid System Stands for AMAZING.) The blend and ratio of cannabinoids all matter in terms of getting a targeted action. And the best way to assure successful targeting? Terpenes.
Different terpenes have different effects on brain chemicals and the mind’s interpretation of that biochemical interaction. For example, Linalool–a terpene often associated with lavender–is relaxing and relieves anxiety. It is a great terpene as a sleep aid and for night time pain and will help “target” the phyto-cannabinoids to that end. Limonene is a terpene that is in all citrus. It’s uplifting and relieves stress without any sedative qualities, making it great for targeting day time stress. Scientists are discovering that the right ratio of phyto-cannabinoids blended with specific terpenes to help focus the action of the cannabinoids enhances the efficacy of medical cannabis by a substantial amount.
Terpenes are delicate. Heat, light, and airflow will cause them to break down. If you are consumer of medical cannabis, do some research regarding how the cannabis medicines are grown and processed to ensure the inclusion of terpenes. The best terpene development comes from cannabis plants grown organically in soil, whether indoor or outdoor. Hydroponically grown cannabis develops the lowest levels of terpenes. Plants grown with artificial fertilizers and pesticides develop terpenes–just at a lower rate of quantity and potency than organically grown.
If you are using a tincture or processed product, be aware that CO2 extraction removes all terpenes. (They can be added back into the recipe from other phyto sources.) Butane and alcohol extractions remove some terpenes and leave their own residue in the product as well. Oil infusions, developed at a low enough temperature to keep terpenes intact may be the most effective way to get whole plant synergy known as the Entourage Effect. Processing medical cannabis allows for a more concentrated form of the cannabinoids, and the most effective processing honors the whole plant ratios, including terpenes, according to the experts.
The leading edge will continue to evolve just as our understanding of how cannabinoids and terpenes work synergistically continues to enhance the medicinal uses of cannabis. Do you use medical cannabis? How does it work for you? I’d love to hear in the comments below.