Cannabis plants, like all complex living organisms, are made up of a variety of compounds. Each of those unique compounds has its own role within the plant and contributes to a wider variety of functions. Terpenes and terpenoids are compounds found in cannabis plants and are secreted through resin glands from the plant’s flower.
If you’ve ever encountered a cannabis plant or used hemp oil before, then you’re familiar with the unmistakable fragrance their flowers emit. You can thank terpenes and terpenoids for this powerful, long-lasting aroma, as they are essential oils of the cannabis plant. Essential oils are oils derived naturally from a plant and maintain the flower’s fragrance long after the rest of the plant is gone. However, terpenes and terpenoids play a much more significant role in the use of cannabis than simply providing an enticing smell for users.
What are terpenes and terpenoids?
The terms terpenes and terpenoids are typically used interchangeably, but there are some slight differences in their design. Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons, which means they have been formed through the plant’s natural processes. Terpenoids have been formed by drying and curing the plant’s buds, a process called oxidation. This means terpenoids have extra oxidized atoms that terpenes don’t have. Most people refer to terpenes as “wet” and terpenoids as “dry” for this reason.
Although terpenes give cannabis plants their distinct piney or skunky odor, they are actually present in many other plant species, including fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. They are a normal part of the human diet and are therefore considered safe to consume by the FDA.
So how can terpenes and terpenoids help me?
Cannabis plants also possess a variety of compounds called cannabinoids. In marijuana, the main cannabinoid compound is THC, and in hemp plants, the main cannabinoid compound is CBD. Cannabinoids in plants interact with cannabinoids naturally formed in the human body, called endocannabinoids, to regulate important systems within the body and maintain homeostasis.
However, most researchers believe these cannabinoids don’t act alone. Through a phenomenon called the “entourage effect,” the benefits of these compounds is strengthened. Research suggests that terpenes and terpenoids interact with CBD and THC through the entourage effect to amplify their impact on the endocannabinoid system, thus having a stronger effect on other physiological functions. Physiological functions impacted by cannabinoids include neural systems, the central nervous system, and the immune system, thus providing healthful effects on both mentally and physically.