For those who count themselves among the cannabis culture, many understand THC, trichomes, and even cannabinoids like CBD. But what about terpenes? Or is that terpenoids? What are these sibling resins within the cannabis flower and what function do they play? Terpenes, which are aromatic compounds, are hydrocarbons that are produced by a wide range of plants, not just cannabis. Terpenoids are simply terpenes that have been chemically altered. They are most noted for producing the pungent smell that characterizes marijuana, both when it is growing and after it has been harvested.
Terpenes and terpenoids, however, play a larger role than the mere production of odor. Like amino acids, they are powerful building blocks within the plant's physiology that aid in the production of vitamins, hormones, pigments, resins, and - yes, that most cherished part of the herb - cannabinoids. Cannabis plants release more terpenes when temperatures are higher. Cannabis plants can produce more than 120 terpenes. Like cannabinoids, terpenes are produced in the trichomes and constitute roughly 10 to 20 percent of the total resin in the trichome. It is estimated that 10 to 30 percent of smoke resin produced by marijuana comes from terpenes and terpenoids.
Terpenes also play a therapeutic role in medicinal applications of cannabis. They bind to both neurological and cannabinoid receptors in the body and brain and sometimes regulate the permeability of cell membranes. This allows terpenes to do things like control the amount of THC that a cell in the body can ingest. Thus, a strain with the right mix of cannabinoids and terpenes could result in a finely tuned medicine for a particular disease or ailment. The most common terpene in cannabis is Myrcene, which is also found in high amounts in mangos, hops, and lemon grass. It delivers a variety of therapeutic benefits, including antimicrobial, antiseptic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogen. Myrcene also helps more THC to reach brain cells. As the most common terpene, most cannabis users will be very familiar with its smell: Earthy, green vegetable-like, and sometimes carrying hints of citrus or fruit.