What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants and some animals. They’re responsible for the aromas, flavors, and even colors associated with various types of cannabis. In terms of cannabis, terpenes are what make certain strains smell or taste different from others and are thought to play a synergistic role with cannabinoids to create an entourage effect.

Terpenes are common ingredients in topicals and cosmetics, not only for their aroma but also for functional benefits such as anti-inflammation, wound healing and antioxidant properties.

More than 50,000 unique terpenes have been identified to date, and in the cannabis plant alone, scientists have mapped around 250. The exact number changes as more terpenes are identified through additional studies.

Terpenes make up between five and ten percent of the total oils that are produced in the trichrome glands. Although they are constantly being produced, they’re easily vaporized by heat and daylight throughout the day, making the morning an ideal time to harvest. Once terpenes have undergone oxidation through drying and curing, they become terpenoids.

Whether you consume cannabis through smoking, vaping, edibles, or a topical, the terpenes interact with the plant molecules and affect the efficacy of cannabinoids within our endocannabinoid system. This interaction with the ECS begins by entering the bloodstream in a process called the entourage effect. … When terpenes work with cannabinoids like CBD and THC, they form a synergy that creates stronger and better effects than both would achieve on their own.

While this theory is subject to further study it works like this. If it takes you three hours to paint a room, it would make sense that a partner would cut the time in half to an hour and a half. The way the entourage effect works is that one additional partner actually cuts the time to paint the room to one hour. The synergistic relationship speeds up the process greater than the effect of each individual.

Safety in this industry is absolutely paramount. Terpenes are commonly used in the manufacturing of essential oils, natural flavorings and beauty products and are extensively used in fragrances and aromatherapy. Terpenes, in the amounts found in cannabis and cannabis extracts, are believed to be safe and well tolerated with minimal or mild side effects such as sedation. All the terpenoids discussed here are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food additives. Additionally, they are non-sensitizing to skin when fresh, but they may cause allergic reactions. Terpenes are not associated with physical dependence (withdrawal) or tolerance nor are they associated with abuse or addiction. However, one should never consume or swallow concentrated terpenes or essential oils without appropriate dilution. If you’re at all unsure about the safety of a compound, do not orally consume it without consulting a medical professional.

Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a drug or other substance which enters the blood circulation when introduced into the body via inhalation, through the skin or through ingestion. For example, the bioavailability of a substance introduced directly into the vein by injection is, by definition, 100%. The bioavailability of the terpenes in cannabis is not well studied yet but they are generally considered to have high bioavailability with inhalation and oral ingestion. Some monoterpenoids including alpha- and beta-pinene, camphor, 3-carene, myrcene and limonene, may even have high bioavailability through the skin. Because terpenes are usually lipophilic (fat soluble), they are generally absorbed well from the gut and they will pass into the brain through the blood brain barrier.

When consumed, terpenes readily enter the blood but in general are metabolized and cleared from the blood quickly, within a few hours, and accumulation is unlikely. The majority of terpenes are metabolized in the liver and exhaled as CO2 or, mostly, eliminated by the kidneys

Different transportation methods are predominantly broken down into categories that include inhaling, edible, or topicals. While no single transportation method can claim to be the best overall, each can work more effectively than the other depending on the nature of the medical condition. Isolated muscle and joint pain may be best treated through a topical. Whereas chronic conditions including but not limited to pain, anxiety, sleep, appetite, depression, and addiction may best be treated through smoking and edibles. Smoking has the highest bioavailability because it goes directly into your bloodstream from the lungs. Whereas edibles will lose proteins when they are broken down in the digestive system. Edibles however have this unique ability to permeate the entire body which is why edibles with THC give you more of a body-high.

Terpenes were once thought to deliver nothing more than an enticing aroma to thousands of plants, from cannabis to conifers and lavender to lilacs. From an evolutionary perspective, terpenes help to protect plants from pests and predators with their intense fragrance, acting as a reserve siren song. Within the past couple of decades, however, researchers have learned that terpenes offer medical benefits to all mammals that rival those of their chemical cousins the cannabinoids.

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