What is a terpene?
Terpenes are aromatic in nature and are what give each strain of marijuana it’s unique smell. They are not only in marijuana but for our purposes, that is a good example. However, terpenes are everywhere! They are what makes life an explosion to our sense of smell. Ever stop to smell a rose? What you are smelling is a scented molecule, better known as a terpene or profile of terpenes that give it that unique scent. Each terpene (ie: Pinene, Myrcene, Limonene, etc.) has been studied to determine its’ usefulness in the body. Stated simply, terpenes are the essential oils of the flowers and spices that surround us.
In addition to their aroma, terpenes, when inhaled, applied to the skin, or consumed affect how we feel. The effect that we feel from the same terpene will vary depending on the mode of delivery (ie: inhaled, eaten or applied to the skin). Each of us has to figure out the best way to use our desired terpene or terpene profile.
To better understand terpenes, I’ll provide some examples of the common terpenes in marijuana that are also in various trees, plants, flowers and spices. Pine trees contain Pinene as well as a few other plants, flowers and trees. Linalool, found in Lavender, has a calming effect. Limonene has a citrusy or spicy aroma and is present in citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons.
It’s not always a high concentration of just one terpene that will help but a terpene profile with a variety of different terpenes in different concentrations that does the trick. You may want a profile that is high in Myrcene. You try a strain that is high in Myrcene (ie: GRAPE APE) and it helps but not enough so next, you may want to try a strain that is high in Beta Caryophyllene (ie: Zittles). The second strain has the perfect mix of terpenes to help your body in reducing the pain and inflammation you normally experience.
Why are terpenes useful?
Our body utilizes different terpenes in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Some terpenes, like Myrcene and Linalool, are sedating so they help with relaxation and sleep. Other terpenes are useful for pain, like Myrcene, Linalool, Beta Caryophyllene and Humulene. That’s right, a single terpene can provide more than one benefit! A single marijuana strain contains a variety of terpenes in different percentages, this variety is known as a terpene profile. The benefits of a terpene profile is that each terpene performs a different function in the body and works with cannabinoids (from the cannabis plant) to provide a desired effect. The coined term for the process is known as the ‘Entourage Effect’. Simply stated, All of the components (terpenes & cannabinoids) working together provide the body with a greater benefit than only 1 component (Myrcene) working by itself. The sum of all the components working together is greater than any single component working on it’s own.
What ails you?
Are you having problems sleeping? A strain that is high in Myrcene may be just the thing. Myrcene tends to have a fruity scent. So anything that smells like grapes or if it smells sweet, it is more than likely high in Myrcene. Mangos and hops contain high amounts of Myrcene. If you are looking for terpenes to help with pain, you may want to stick with strains that are high in Myrcene, Linalool or B-Carylophyllene. Finding the right strain or profile of terpenes will be an experimentation process. Each strain will have a different percentage and array of terpenes. While one terpene may affect you a certain way, when you add another terpene to the mix, they play off of each other and the effect it has on you changes.
Did you know?
Did you know that when you walk into a dispensary, looking to choose a strain of marijuana, let your nose do the work. You may notice that some strains smell really good while others may put you off a little. Your sense of smell is very powerful when it comes to terpenes. The strain that smells “really good”, contains the terpenes that your body needs or craves. What you prefer may differ from on point in time to another point in time. It all depends on your health and what your body may need at that particular point in time.
Another tidbit that I’ve learned along the way… when smoking or vaping, exhale through the nose. This allows the terpenes to absorb into the bloodstream through the mucous membranes in the nasal cavity. You not only absorb the terpenes through the capillaries in the lungs but through the nose as well.
Isolated terpenes are very potent! Watch for “high potency” labels with your terpenes. They have to be diluted. They can be diluted with any other oils (ie: coconut oil, most carrier oils, PG, PEG). Terpenes can be homogenized with the diluent by agitating the solution or you can speed up the process by applying a very low heat. Terpenes are not water soluble so you will need to use an emulsifying agent (i.e.: sunflower lecithin) if you are adding it to a water soluble solution.
It is safe to ingest terpenes if they are “food grade or GRAS”. Even when ingesting, the terpenes need to be diluted. When starting with a diluted terpene solution, it’s recommended that you start with a very low dose (1 drop) and slowly increase your dose from there.