TERPENES 101

Terpenes play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains. Some terpenes promote relaxation and stress-relief, while others promote focus and acuity. Below, are some basic, and not-so-basic questions regarding Terpenes and how they can potentially be used.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes (and terpenoids) are aromatic organic compounds (essential oils) found in nearly all forms of life. In plants, they are responsible for scent and color. Flowers often have the highest terpene content, which is why they have the strongest scent and often the most unique and vibrant colors. Because Terpenes are aromatic compounds, they evaporate quickly and produce a vast majority of the smells we associate with foods, perfumes, plants, personal hygiene products, cleaning solutions, and other every-day items.

Plants developed terpenes to ward off herbivores that might eat them and to attract helpful predators and pollinators. Cannabis has naturally high levels of terpenes. “Dank” flower gets its intense scent from being rich in terpenes.

Essential oils are used widely as fragrances in perfumery and traditional medicine, such as aromatherapy. Synthetic variations and derivatives of natural terpenes and terpenoids also greatly expand the variety of aromas used in perfumery and flavors used in food additives. Vitamin A is a terpenoid. Terpenes also act on many different receptors in our body, and because of this, they comprise the active ingredients in most plant essential oils.

What Are Terpenes Used For?

Terpenes are common constituents of flavorings and fragrances. Terpenes, unlike cannabinoids, are responsible for the aroma of cannabis. The FDA and other agencies have generally recognized terpenes as “safe.” Terpenes have the ability to act on receptors and neurotransmitters, and certain terpenes have been found to act as serotonin uptake inhibitors (which is similar to certain antidepressants).

Do Terpenes Get You High?

Terpenes have different properties and can affect your body in various ways. Some terpenes can increase the potency of your experience while others can mitigate it. While some terpenes may not directly influence the psychotropic aspects of cannabis, they certainly play a role in the overall experience.

Are Terpenes Legal?

Terpenes sourced from non-cannabis plants are unquestionably legal. However, the real issue is the legal status of terpenes derived from the cannabis plant. Under federal regulations, terpenes derived from marijuana are illegal because they fall within the CSA’s broad definition of “marijuana.”

What Are The Benefits Of Terpenes?

Most of us have probably heard of aromatherapy — the therapeutic practice of using aromatic compounds to improve physical and psychological well-being. Well, the aromas generated by terpenes work the same way.

When we smell the fragrances generated from terpenes, it activates receptors in our olfactory system — the membranes, neurons, and nerves that control our sense of smell. Our olfactory system then communicates with receptors in the limbic system of our brains, which includes the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, and hypothalamus. This system controls upper-level functions of our brain such as emotions, reactions, stress regulation, and memory recall. The activation of these receptors, which would have otherwise been dormant, opens the door to a wide variety of health benefits.

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