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What are terpenes and how do they work in cannabis?

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

Cannabis is known and loved for its potent aromas — but did you know that these same phytochemicals may also promote wellness? In fact, the scent and flavour profiles of any given cannabis strain can give us an idea of what effects may be expected from it.

The complex molecules that give cannabis its signature notes are called terpenes.

Most people will know terpenes from essential oils, which can be extracted from a variety of botanical sources for therapeutic use. The same terpenes active in cannabis can be found in other plants like herbs, flowers and citrus fruits, which have long been studied for their potential health benefits.

Terpenes are responsible for the medicinal properties of countless plants used in traditional healing, including:

  • tea tree, an powerful antimicrobial used to treat infection

  • thyme, an effective antibacterial and antifungal

  • sage, used widely in dementia medications to enhance memory

How do terpenes affect the body?

Terpenes bind to special receptors throughout the body, including the brain, central nervous system and peripheral organs. From there, they get metabolized in processes like cell signalling, hormone regulation and blood circulation.

Thanks to their small size, terpene molecules can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream through inhalation, topical or transdermal application and sublingually.

Menthol is a well-known terpene in other plant sources often used to promote blood flow and reduce inflammation. It’s found in aromatherapy nasal inhalers as a decongestant and in topical creams for pain relief. This ease of use contributes to the popularity and therapeutic potential of terpenes, making them a crucial topic of research.

Natural plant medicine has been used across the globe for millennia, but scientists are only now beginning to understand the complex chemistry behind these ancient therapies. Countless anecdotal evidence has been recorded over time measuring the specific terpene effects on various ailments, supported throughout recent years with ample clinical research.

The same terpenes found in these medicines and many others can play an additional role to boost the effects of cannabinoids — this is known as the entourage effect.

In cannabis, terpenes are what separate indica from sativa strains, contributing to their complex full-body effects. Each terpene and cannabinoid plays its own part in the cannabis experience, but research suggests that they also lead to varying outcomes in different combinations.

Indica is reported to promote relaxation, along with its most prominent terpenes:

  • caryophyllene, also found in cinnamon and cloves

  • humulene, also found in sage and ginseng

  • myrcene, also found in tropical fruits like mango

Sativa is more commonly reported to stimulate creativity and boost energy levels, with prominent terpenes including:

  • limonene, also found in citrus fruits

  • pinene, also found in conifer trees, basil and eucalyptus

  • terpinolene, also found in nutmeg and cumin

What the research says on terpenes

Studies into the effects of botanical terpenes offer the best glimpse into the therapeutic potential of these crucial plant molecules.

Research into the ways cannabis-derived terpenes affect functions in the human body is still a new venture, particularly when it comes to their interaction with cannabinoids. Studies into the effects of botanical terpenes offer the best glimpse into the therapeutic potential of these crucial plant molecules. As the most abundant phytochemical found in nature, terpenes sourced from a wide variety of therapeutic plants have been examined for their health effects.

Evidence for the entourage effect suggests that each of the complex phytochemicals found in the cannabis plant work synergistically when metabolized by the human body. This may be the reason why sativa and indica strains with similar cannabinoid contents can sometimes produce widely different effects on the user.

Together, cannabinoids and terpenes make up the DNA of every cannabis product, contributing to the various effects you might encounter, from relaxation to boosted productivity.

How we use them

Terpenes are a key ingredient throughout the Kinloch Wellness product line. Each of our industry-leading formulas contains a unique blend of CBD, CBG, CBN and terpenes scientifically formulated for wellness-minded users.

We use proprietary blends of botanically-derived terpenes to infuse distinctive scent and flavour profiles that complement the cannabinoid effects of each Kinloch Wellness product, as reported by Strainprint® data.

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