What are Terpenes?

Woman smelling terpenes on a cannabis bud

Table of Contents

What are terpenes? Terpenes are a group of organic compounds found in nearly all plants and fruits. They have a distinctive smell and give plants their unique flavor and aroma profiles. The word “terpene” is derived from the Greek word “terpestos” which means “resinous oil”. The name was given to these chemical compounds due to their ability to produce resin. There are thousands of different kinds of terpenes found throughout nature and they play a powerful role.

Why Do Terpenes Exist?

Terpenes serve various biological functions. They are responsible for the distinct aromas of various plants and are often used in different types of perfumes and extracts. Some of the most common examples include ginger, peppermint, lavender, and basil. They are also present in cannabis and contribute to its unique flavor, aroma, and color. Since they are both volatile and hydrophobic, they evaporate easily and have a strong repellent effect on common pests.

Why Are Terpenes so Important in Cannabis?

Terpenes are one of the primary reasons that cannabis has such a strong aroma and flavor. In fact, there are over 100 types of terpenes that have been identified in cannabis, which is about three times more than citrus fruits. They are also responsible for the color of cannabis, and each strain will have a different color due to the presence of specific terpenes.

Additionally, terpenes have medicinal properties and have been used for thousands of years for various health issues. Some of the terpenes present in cannabis include limonene, myrcene, pinene, caryophyllene, linalool, and humulene. Limonene in particular has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, while myrcene has been shown to have sedative properties. Terpenes evaporate when heated, which is why you often smell them before you taste them. Some terpenes like pinene also act as a bronchodilator and have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

When combined with cannabinoids like THC and CBD, terpenes have a synergistic effect and contribute to the famous ENTOURAGE EFFECT. Limonene, for example, has been shown to increase the amount of THC in the bloodstream when consumed at the same time, which could lead to more intense effects.

How Are Terpenes Produced?

Terpenes are primarily produced in the plant’s epidermal and secretory cells by a process called “biosynthesis.” This process involves the conversion of carbon dioxide and other nutrients such as water and minerals into organic compounds, including the terpenes. They are then stored in specialized structures called “glands” and released when the plant is damaged or stressed, or when the flowers are broken during harvest. Terpenes are also produced by certain fungi and bacteria, which are responsible for the smell of certain cheeses and other fermented foods. For example, the smelly rotten egg smell found in some blue cheeses is caused by the presence of the bacteria responsible for the production of the terpene geosmin, which is also found in soil.

How to Test for Terpene Quality

Testing for terpene quality is a much more complex process than testing for cannabinoids like THC and CBD. While there are several companies that offer terpene testing, it is still a relatively new practice and is not yet fully standardized. The biggest challenge when testing for terpene quality, is that terpenes evaporate easily, especially when heated, so they have to be extracted and tested “neat” or in their raw form. If terpenes are extracted with a solvent like butane or hexane, they will evaporate during the process, and it will be impossible to test the quality of the original compound. It is also important to note that a solvent like hexane is extremely flammable, so the risk of explosion is high.

Conclusion

Terpenes are a large group of volatile organic compounds found in nearly all plants and fruits that have a strong impact on the human senses. They have a distinctive smell, and when combined with specific cannabinoids or other terpenes, they give each cannabis strain its unique flavor and aroma profile. Terpenes are also responsible for the color of cannabis, as well as its medicinal properties. Terpenes are primarily produced in the plant’s epidermal and secretory cells through “biosynthesis.” They are also produced by certain fungi and bacteria, which are responsible for the smell of certain cheeses and other fermented foods.

Chris

Chris

I am the owner and founder of CBD Review Lab. I started CBD Review Lab after having a positive experience with CBD and wanted to share my experience in hopes it would help others. I hope that this website is helpful to you in finding a CBD product that suits your needs. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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