There would be no debate that cannabis is the most exciting, beneficial and financially worthwhile new product sector in existence today. While popular cannabinoids like CBD and THC get most of the headlines, scientists and experienced cannabists alike, know that the real engine driving the health and lifestyle benefits of both hemp and marijuana are terpenes. Even infrequent cannabis users understand that there are thousands of different strains of marijuana and that the main variation between strains is the quantity and ratio of the specific terpenes present in the flower of that strain. It is the terpenes that define whether a given strain will lock you to the couch for a night of groggy snacking or get you euphoric and moving to the beat of your own drummer. But terpenes do more than just direct functionality. They can improve or block the effectiveness of cannabinoids, including THC. When used properly, they can redirect feelings of paranoia that some experience with marijuana use into excitement or redirect “the munchies” into appetite suppression. Incredible? Yes, but true.
While there is no agreed upon number of terpenes that exist in cannabis, whether hemp or marijuana, the general scientific consensus is that there are between 140 and 200 individual terpenes possible in cannabis. While that is an impressive array; it pales in comparison to all of nature where scientists have isolated over 80,000 different terpenes. Virtually all these terpenes are plant based, and therefore related on one level or another, so there are often great synergies among cannabis terpenes as well as between cannabis terpenes and terpenes from other plants. This makes sense as each terpene found in cannabis is normally present in a huge number of other plants in nature including quite common ones like fruits and vegetables. For example, cannabis research will tell you that if you suffer from chronic inflammation and have daily pain, you should research and take cannabis products high in the terpene beta caryophyllene. Beta caryophyllene is also prevalent in many plants in nature including green vegetables like broccoli. Recall your Mom drilling into you about finishing your vegetables and now her advice might take on new relevance. Clearly, Mom was cooler than you thought!
Terpenes are so incredibly powerful that there is an entire science governing them and their effects on health and behavior. That science is called Olfaction. Perhaps you never heard of it but it’s a very sophisticated and researched science. In fact, there have been Nobel Science Prizes won for olfaction research. Olfaction is present at the very start of life – it guides the sperm finding an egg during conception. And it is present all through life, as our olfactory system is the second most complex system in the body, far more advanced than say eyesight or even reproduction. In fact, it has the second highest number of genes associated with it, right behind the immune system and ahead of, well, everything else.