Cannabis is made up of hundreds of phytochemicals, all of which work in unison to deliver the effects that users come to know and love.
The most abundant phytochemicals in nature are terpenes, responsible for deterring pests and attracting pollinators in maturing plants. Even off the stem, terpenes provide benefits to consumers additional to the understood effects of cannabis.
When analyzing those plants most effective in traditional botanical treatments, scientists find high levels of key terpenes that appear also in cannabis. For example:
Linalool, which gives off a floral scent, can be found in lavender, birch and rose. It acts on serotonin receptors to provide antidepressant, anti-anxiety and stress relieving benefits, making it popular in aromatherapy.
Pinene, with its sharp, refreshing pine scent, can be found not only in coniferous trees, but also eucalyptus, orange rinds and dill. Nicknamed a “miracle gift of nature,” researchers study it for its benefits to brain, gut and immune health.
Within cannabis, terpenes like linalool and pinene act in synergy with cannabinoids— this is known as the entourage effect. Cannabinoids consumed along with terpenes are thought to metabolize differently, impacting their activity throughout the body.
Evidence for this effect is examined in studies comparing purified cannabinoids to full spectrum extracts, which demonstrate the latter to be more potent in clinical use. However, these terpenes aren’t known to act on the same receptors as cannabinoids, so how exactly terpenes contribute to the entourage effect remains an important area for development in clinical research.