“Terpene” is a term I think most patients hear and roll right over. My first encounter with the word was at PūrLife (3821 Menaul NE Ste F). Indy, my budtender, was dropping it all through our conversation. “Terp” this and “terp” that. I pretended I knew what he was talking about, but I didn't. I immediately looked it up when I got in my car.
Terpenes are a class of organic compounds found in many plants and even some insects. They often have a strong odor and are thought to be produced to attract pollinators and to protect against predation by attracting predators that feed on herbivores.
In cannabis, the terpene oils are produced in the same glands that make THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. They are the cause behind the wide variety of scents associated with the plant. When you smell the distinctive odor of a particular strain, you're smelling its terpenes.
Cannabis has over 100 different known terpenes. Like cannabinoids, the different terpene types have different physical and psychoactive effects. Although certain strains will have the potential to carry certain terpenes, and are therefore associated with these compounds, factors like climate, age and growing method affect their production. The only way to get a specific strain's terpene profile is to have it lab tested. To my knowledge, none of the local dispensaries provide this profile at the moment. Luckily, you can use your nose to smell it out for the most part. Here's a quick rundown of some of the more commonly found cannabis terpenes:
Medical uses: Antifungal, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, dissolves gallstones, may treat gastrointestinal complications, heartburn, depression.
Aroma: Peppery, spicy, earthy.
Psychoactive effects: Treats anxiety, stress and depression.
Medical uses: Gastroprotective, anti-inflammatory; good for arthritis, ulcers, autoimmune disorders, sleep aid, gastrointestinal complications.
Aroma: Floral, citrus, sweet.
Psychoactive effects: Sedation.
Medical uses: Anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, antidepressant.
Aroma: Earthy, hoppy.
Psychoactive effects: Relaxing.
Medical uses: Anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, relieves pain, appetite suppressant.
Aroma: Pine, cedar, citrus.
Psychoactive effects: Focus, relaxation.
Medical uses: Anti-inflammatory, known to dry fluids, promotes bone growth, insecticide.
There are plenty more, of course, but we only have so much space here. With only around 100 identified across the various cannabis strains (and possibly upward of 200), research into cannabis terpenes has only barely begun. It's an exciting new field of study that's bound to improve the medical use of cannabis. The more we learn about specific cannabinoids and terpenes and how they are beneficial in the fight against specific illnesses, the more likely a patient will be able to hone in on their symptoms like a sniper with a laser scope.