The Science of Terpenes

Although landmark studies in the 1960s showed that THC is the predominant psychoactive component in cannabis, there is now ample evidence that its medicinal/psychoactive properties are modified by a class of organic compounds called terpenes. At Dr. Paul's we believe terpenes underlie many of the discrete biological effects induced by cannabis, and we are actively performing experiments to "crack the code" that will tell us how different terpene combinations elicit their unique biological responses. When you walk into a room and instantly recognize the smell of bacon, how does your brain know this? Aromatic molecules in bacon hit receptors on neurons in your nose that are wired to your brain centers that recognize these molecules and transduce signals that trigger you to think "yum" and cause your stomach to start grumbling. The mechanism of how cannabis works is roughly similar. As cannabis, or a concentrate of cannabis, is vaporized THC and terpenes become volatile, distribute very quickly through your body and engage protein receptors on neurons and immune cells in your body. While it is widely accepted that different cannabis strains induce unique biological responses (e.g. an "up" strain vs. a "couch-lock" strain), there is currently little real science to explain these effects. This is the void in knowledge that Dr. Paul's seeks to fill.

 

Terpenes in Cannabis and Their Potential Medical Benefits

β-Caryophyllene

β-Caryophyllene

Potential Medical Benefits:  Pain relief, Anti-ulcers, Anti-anxiety, Anti-depression

Flavor Profile : Cloves, Hops,  Earth

This terpene smells like the hops used to flavor beer. Scientific studies show this terpene may decrease pain, ulcers, anxiety and depression in animal models and is the only terpene known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (CB2). It produces anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. β-Caryophyllene is found in several edible plants. Among those are a variety of spices, such as black pepper, cinnamon and cloves, and herbs, such as basil, rosemary, oregano and hops.

Katsuyama et al.,2013 | Tambe et al, 1996 |Bahi et al., 2014 |Sharma et al., 2016

 
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Humulene


(aka α-Humulene/α-Caryophyllene)

 

Potential Medical Benefits:  Anti-inflammatory

Flavor Profile : Hops, woody

This terpene is found in hops, cloves, basil and cannabis sativa. Scientific studies show this terpene may decrease inflammation. 

Rogerio et al.,2009 | Fernandes et al.,2007

 
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β-Myrcene

Potential Medical Benefits:  Neuroprotective, Anti-inflammatory, Pain relief, Anti-insomnia

Flavor Profile : Cardamom

This terpene smells a bit like cardamom and cloves. Scientific studies show this terpene maybe neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and also beneficial for pain. Myrcene is a prevalent terpene and is found in most varieties of cannabis. High concentrations of myrcene have been shown to induce sedation. Myrcene is also present in thyme, hops, lemongrass, and citrus, and is used in aromatherapy.

Ciftci et al., 2014 | Souza et al., 2003 |do Vale et al., 2002 | Rao et al., 1990

 
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Linalool

Potential Medical Benefits:  Anti-anxiety, Anti-depression, Pain relief, Anti-inflammation, Anti-neurodegeneration, Anti-insomnia

Flavor Profile : Lavender, Floral

This terpene has a floral scent and is also found in lavender. Scientific studies show this terpene may decrease anxiety, depression, chronic pain, neurodegeneration and inflammation. High concentrations of linalool have been shown to induce sedation.

Xu et al., 2017 | Sabogal-Guáqueta et al.,2016 | Gastón et al., 2016 |  Souto-Maior et al., 2017 | Nascimento et al., 2014 | Wu et al., 2014 | Huo et al., 2013 | Souto-Maior et al., 2011 | Batista et al., 2010 | Linck et al., 2009|Cline et al., 2008 | Peana et al., 2004| Peana et al., 2003 | Elisabetsky et al., 1999

 

 
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Limonene

Potential Medical Benefits:  Anti-anxiety, Anti-depression, Pain relief, Anti-inflammation, Anti-cancer

Flavor Profile : Citrus

This is the terpene that smells like citrus. Scientific studies show this terpene may decrease anxiety, depression, pain, inflammation, and cancer, in animals and in some published studies in humans. 

Lima et al.,2013 | Piccinelli et al., 2015 | do Amaral et al., 2007 | Chaudhary et al, 2012 | d'Alessio et al., 2013

 
Geraniol

Geraniol

Potential Medical Benefits:  Anti-depression, Pain relief, Anti-inflammation, Anti-neurodegeneration, Anti-cancer, Anti-atherosclerosis

Flavor Profile : Rose

This terpene has a floral scent like roses. Scientific studies show this terpene may decrease depression, pain, inflammation, cancer, atherosclerosis and neurodegeneration. 

Deng et al., 2015 | Prasad et al., 2014 | Marcuzzi et al., 2008 | Ahmad et al., 2011 | Chaudhary et al., 2012 | Karamkolly et al., 2013 | Jayachandran et al., 2015

 
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α-Pinene

Potential Medical Benefits:  Pain relief,  Anti-ulcers, Anti-anxiety, Bronchodilator and Anti-cancer

Flavor Profile : Pine

This terpene is the most common naturally occurring terpenoid and has a pine scent and helps to give cannabis its distinct aroma. Scientific studies show it may decrease anxiety, pain, ulcers, inflammation and cancer.  This terpene is produced naturally by a variety of plants and whose aroma of fresh pine needles gives it its name. In addition to being found in pine trees, pinene is produced by many herbs, such as basil, parsley and dill. 

Satou et al., 2014 | Quintao et al., 2010 | Takayama et al., 2011 | Rufino et al., 2014 | Nam et al.,2014 | Matsuo et al., 2011 | Kusuhara et al., 2012 | Zhang et al., 2015

 
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p-Cymene

Potential Medical Benefits:  Anti-anxiety, Anti-inflammation, Neuroprotection

Flavor Profile : Thyme

This terpene is said to contain a musty scent and is also found naturally in thyme and cumin. Scientific studies show this terpene may decrease anxiety and is neuroprotective. This terpene may also reduce inflammation.

González-Trujano et al., 2017 | Games et al., 2016 | Chen et al., 2014 | Sammi et al., 2017 | Lotfi et al., 2015