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Similar to a pine tree, rose, plants, herbs, and fruits that emit odors, the cannabis (marijuana) plant secretes a fragrant oil through it’s resin glands called a terpene or terpenoid (the dried, cured, or chemically modified form). These excretions function to protect the flowers from predators and produce resin. The plant’s production of terpenes increases with light exposure and they are highly concentrated in the female cannabis plant before deterioration begins.

There are about 120 terpenes in the cannabis plant providing each strain with a unique aroma and flavor profile. Thank terpenes for that waft of blissful blueberry fragrance that comes from the container as you open it to enjoy your Blueberry flower. Or that distinct fuel taste of your Sour Diesel. Their beneficial qualities go beyond providing a unique odor to each strain. Terpenes are also responsible for their own particular physiological effects.

Day vs Night

Terpenes help to identify each strain of cannabis, its associated effect, and whether it should be used during daytime or at night. For example, strains that have a musk or clove smell result in a sedative or relaxed feeling. Myrcene, the most abundant terpene in cannabis, is responsible for this. While the terpene pinene, which emits a pine aroma, promotes mental alertness and memory retention. Likewise, if you’re looking to improve your mood and reduce stress, the equally prolific limonene is your go to terpene. Super Lemon Haze, O.G. Kush, Sour Diesel, Durban Poison, and Jack the Ripper 

Terpenes and the Entourage Effect

They aid in the plant’s medicinal applications by helping cannabinoids enter the bloodstream and by increasing serotonin levels. This phenomenon, known as the entourage effect, helps to promote the medicinal qualities of the cannabis plant. Together they improve absorption, minimize side effects, and provide better relief from symptoms than each would accomplish if taken separately.

In fact, science has demonstrated that terpenes serve as an inhibitor to the intoxicating effects of THC. In turn they promote therapeutic properties and enable the development of medicinal cannabis oil that treats pain, fungal and bacterial infections, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, and cancer, sans the “high” typically associated with THC.

A wide variety of cannabis strains and associated terpenes has driven cannabis growers and seed companies to develop a “flavor wheel”. This graphic matrix identifies terpenes, cannabis strains, and associated effects. It allows patients to easily choose the right strain for their particular needs. Cannabis industry professionals use the flavor wheel to categorize terpenes and collect data. New and highly-effective cannabis strains will eventually be born from that data.

Israel Leads Cannabis Research

The first person to identify and isolate the THC molecule was Israel’s top researcher, Raphael Mechoulam in the 1960’s. Since then, researchers in Israel have been leading the investigation into cannabis terpenes. They’ve pioneered studies into cannabis as an alternative to chemotherapy for certain types of cancer. This will eliminate the side effects generally associated with the traditional therapy. In pursuit of this goal, they have engineered machinery that makes it possible to identify the exact composition of compounds i.e., cannabinoids and terpenes, in every single strain being grown in Israel.

Israelis have been focussed on developing the technology to genetically engineer, grow, and produce cannabis for public consumption for decades. As global thought leaders on the subject, Israel can partner with the US as cannabis becomes legal and the market opens up.  In fact, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration even accepts Israeli research standards for clinical trials here in the US. 

Deep Inside the Terpene

Terpenes are a busy compound whose main purpose is to protect the plant from predators and disease. For people, terpenes are more than a way to classify different strains of cannabis. They introduce us to the plant with a pungent odor that wakes up our senses and increases our serotonin levels, helping us form a relationship with the plant.

Terpenes help cannabinoids absorb into the bloodstream and inhibit the psychoactive effects of THC. They further promote an endless number of medicinal properties of the cannabis plant. Without terpenes, the cannabis plant would be less than impressive, but with terpenes it becomes the flora of unlimited possibilities.

Terpenes are fascinating to scientists because they can be isolated and manipulated to manifest the best medicinal strains. Even with decades of published findings, cannabis researchers have barely scratched the surface of knowledge associated with the 120 known terpenes of the cannabis plant. There may be medical secrets locked away deep inside the terpenes still waiting to be discovered.