When choosing a strain of cannabis for medicinal effects, it’s important to look at the whole plant, not just whether it’s an Indica or Sativa. One of the most important aspects of a strain profile are the terpenes, which are what shape the smell and effect of cannabis.
Shifting a focus to terpenes results in a whole-plant approach, which translates to a whole-person approach when it comes to health benefits. When you look at all individual components of a strain, you have what is known as the Entourage Effect. This term is applied when multiple compounds like CBD, THCV, and terpenes work in a synergistic way to maximize healing benefits.
Terpenes are found in other plants as well but have only recently become a focus of the cannabis culture. Terpenes play a vital role in protecting a plant from fungus, bacteria, insects, and other environmental stressors. Found in other odoriferous plants like rosemary, basil, and mint, terpenes ward off predators and attract pollinators.
While cannabinoids have therapeutic benefits, terpenes provide a large variety of positive effects, and can be influenced by elements like climate and fertilizer. Because they are non-psychoactive, the FDA does not restrict them. Terpenes act as serotonin uptake inhibitors, enhance norepinephrine activity, and increase dopamine activity, so they can mimic the benefits of antidepressants and other mood enhancement medications.
Some of the most popular terpenes include:
- Citrus, sweet aroma
- Also found in fruit rinds and the resin glands in flowers
- Benefits include: Stress relief, mood elevation, antifungal and antibacterial properties, possible gastric relief, can boost weight loss, and is used to treat bronchitis
- Sharp, piney scent
- Also found in orange peels, pine needles, basil, and parsley
- Benefits include: Anti-inflammatory elements that help with conditions like Crohn’s Disease, promotes mental focus and increases energy, pain relief properties, has been found to counter short-term memory loss, helps lung and respiratory function, fights paranoia and cancer growth
- Spicy, musky scent
- Also found in hops, ylang ylang, mangoes, lemongrass and thyme
- Benefits include: Effective analgesic, muscle relaxant, promotes sleep and relaxation, strong antibiotic, antimutagenic, anti-inflammatory, and combats against cell mutations that cause cancer
- Delicate, flowery scent
- Also found in lavender and coriander
- Benefits include: Fights depression, Anti-epileptic, anti-anxiety, powerful stress reliever, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and pain relief
- Sweet, woodsy aroma
- Found naturally in mint, parsley, kumquats, mangoes, orchids, and basil
- Benefits include: Decongestant, antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral, and antibacterial
- Spicy, strong scent
- Typically found in black pepper, cloves, basil, hops, and rosemary
- Benefits include: Strong anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-anxiety and antidepressant, prevents oxidation that can cause cell damage, and reduces alcohol cravings
- Subtle, earthy aroma
- Can be found in hops, cloves, and coriander
- Benefits include: Promotes weight loss, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and inhibits growth of cancer cells
Research has shown the possibility of manipulating strains to produce more of certain terpenes and some companies will boast the terpene makeup of certain strains. Cannabis chefs are also using terpenes to elevate infused meals and make them more beneficial for medicinal use.
While more research is needed, the Entourage Effect is important to consider when approaching your medicinal needs. There are many terpenes available in cannabis plants and understanding how they work with other cannabinoids can only be beneficial. Analyzing the whole plant only further proves how much more we have to learn about cannabis’ medical benefits.
Diana-Ashley Krach is a freelance writer, journalist, and content creator whose work can be found on Everyday Feminism, Ravishly, and Playboy. She is the co-host and creator of Your Highness Podcast and founder of Good Vibes Marketing Agency. You can find her on Twitter or on her website.