Terpenes are the essential oils of the marijuana plant that give it such unique smells and flavors. Terpenes play a vital role not only in recognition of specific strains or types but also work in conjunction with cannabinoids to elevate the potential effects of its usage. Terpenes are not unique only to cannabis and are found in numerous other plants throughout nature.
Humulene can be found throughout nature in plants such as pine trees, citrus, ginger, and sunflowers. Also found in hops, humulene gives off the woody, smoky aroma of sage or even beer. A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found humulene to have “marked anti-inflammatory properties.” This characteristic makes it ideal for patients suffering from chronic inflammation, such as fibromyalgia. In addition, a 2007 study found that humulene works with caryophyllene against cancer cells, an example of the entourage effect.
Found in many plants, such as sage, cumin, lilacs, rosemary, apples, and conifers, terpinolene gives off a smoky, woody aroma. Terpinolene has many medical benefits, especially when paired with other terpenes and cannabinoids. Research has shown it to be an antioxidant, potentially preventing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation. Often referred to as “bad cholesterol,” LDL is a major contributor to heart diseases. The terpene has even been shown to decrease cell growth in some forms of cancer.
Limonene is a common yet powerful terpene that emits a citrus aroma. Not surprisingly, lemons, limes, and tangerines all contain limonene. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, this terpene is known to be increasingly effective for patients with diseases like fibromyalgia. In addition, multiple studies, like those published in the Journal of Cancer Prevention Research, have shown limonene to exhibit anticancer properties.
Ocimene has a sweet, woody and sometimes fruity aroma. It is found in a variety of plants, including parsley, mint, pepper, orchids, basil, and mangoes. The terpene has shown great promise in treating a variety of medical conditions. A study on citrus flower essential oils concluded that ocimene has anti-inflammatory effects.
Pinene was named for its pine or fir aroma. It is found throughout nature in pine wood, rosemary, balsamic resin, and certain citrus fruits, and has been used for centuries to treat everything from sore throats to cancer. Studies have shown that pinene can help stop the spread of cancerous cells, as well as induce powerful anti-inflammatory properties, further pointing to medical cannabis as a viable option for relief from cancers as well as inflammatory conditions.
Also known as beta-caryophyllene or BCP, caryophyllene is one of the primary terpenes found in cannabis. Responsible for black pepper's bite, caryophyllene is known for its spicy taste and aroma. A variety of other plants, including cloves, cinnamon, hops, rosemary and basil, also contain caryophyllene. Caryophyllene binds with one of the body's main cannabinoid receptors, which is how a 2012 study found the terpene to be an impressive anti-inflammatory with “tremendous therapeutic potential in a multitude of diseases.” When it comes to pain relief, a 2014 study found caryophyllene reduced inflammation and neuropathic pain, concluding it may be highly effective in treating chronic pain.
Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis. It is also seen in mangos, hops, thyme, lemongrass and other plants. Strains abundant in myrcene produce marijuana's telltale earthy and clove-like aroma. A study in the British Journal of Pharmacology found myrcene to have medical efficacy that only cannabinoids were thought to be capable of. The study also reported that myrcene works well in combination with certain cannabinoids—a synergy called the entourage effect in which terpenes and cannabinoids can enhance or buffer one another. For example, the study found myrcene can decrease inflammation, reduce pain, and even fight cancer when paired with CBD. It can also stop cancer in combination with the cannabinoid CBG.
Hundreds of plant species produce linalool, including mint, lavender, cinnamon, and rosewood, giving off a floral and somewhat spicy aroma. While linalool is considered one of the minor terpenes, its medical benefits shouldn't be overlooked. One study published in the Journal of Phytomedicine showed linalool to have impressive anti-inflammatory properties. Linalool relieves a number of other symptoms and conditions, including seizures, inflammation, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.