With the advancing research on the cannabis plant and its therapeutic uses, more and more active components present in the plant have been found, however, their functions have not been studied enough. Several studies have shown that at the same dose of cannabinoids, the effects produced by the administration of pure cannabinoids are different from those produced by the administration of whole plant extracts. These facts lead us to the conclusion that the cannabis plant contains other active ingredients that have pharmacological action, and that act synergically and/or antagonistically with cannabinoids. The two groups found so far are terpenes and flavonoids.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic organic compounds derived from isoprene (hydrocarbon 5 carbon atoms), they are found in all kinds of vegetation and are important in numerous biotic interactions (Goodwin 1971). They exercise primary functions such as protection against various factors like high temperatures, insects or herbivore predators. They have also been found as part of chlorophyll and some carotenoid pigments.
The functions of terpenes at the plant level are varied and are responsible for highly specialised processes that allow plants to have a protection against the elements around it. Among its functions are the colouring, repellent or aromatization that facilitates the pollination of the plants.
Terpenes in cannabis
The terpenes in the cannabis plant are excreted in the resin. It is thanks to them that there are different types of plants, each with their own unique odours, because this variation is dependent on the terpenes that are present. The terpenes in the cannabis plant allow it to protect itself against high temperatures and due to the viscosity of the resin, the plant can trap insects or maintain its own humidity.
Between the terpenes we can find in big amount within the cannabis there are: Pinene, Myrcene, Limonene, Linalool and Eucalyptol. Following we can also find the Caryophyllene, which is present in every cannabis strain.
Effects of terpenes in humans
Like cannabinoids, terpenes have various effects on humans. Known as essential oils, they are currently used in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy brings together several concepts that, at a therapeutic level, have been attributed to various plants. It offers the idea that when used properly these plants can have relaxing, stimulating of aphrodisiac effects on people.
The terpenes present in the cannabis plant are responsible for the range of aromas that exist between the different varieties, however, it is estimated that they are not the only effects that can be attributed. They seem to have a link in relation to the entourage effect.
In several studies that are currently being carried out, a therapeutic potential is being found that acts synergically with the cannabinoids. That is why there is a huge difference between the effects of the pure cannabinoids and those that come from the whole plant extractions.
Listed below are the most present terpenes in the cannabis plant with their respective therapeutic properties attributed to them: