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Medicinal Properties of Three of the Most Abundant Terpenes in Marijuana

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So you like smoking weed. That’s all well and good, but how much do you really know about it? You probably know that THC is responsible for your high. But do you know what gives cannabis its distinctive aroma? THC has nothing to do with it. When you’re at a concert and you suddenly catch a whiff of the smoke from a newly-lit joint, you’re smelling cannabis terpenes. What, you ask, are terpenes? Keep reading.

Without getting too scientific, terpenes are organic hydrocarbons that give plants and flowers their aroma and flavor. Indeed, terpenes, in one form or another, are present in virtually all plant life. But terpenes do more than produce fragrance. Let’s take a topical example: essential oil diffusers. These have become extraordinarily popular over the past few years thanks to a revived interest in aromatherapy.

Oils commonly used for this purpose include lavender, eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint, orange, and tea tree. Each of these has therapeutic properties. For instance, the essential oil of lavender is known to relieve stress and treat fungal infections and hair loss. Tea tree oil is an effective treatment for acne and other skin conditions, thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. And eucalyptus is frequently used to treat coughs and congestion.

You can thank terpenes for all that.

Terpenes in Cannabis

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Photo by Kimzy Nanney/Unsplash

Cannabis has especially high concentrations of terpenes. In conjunction with cannabinoids and other compounds, these terpenes work to heighten psychoactive effects and, perhaps more importantly, offer medicinal benefits ranging from pain and inflammation relief to treatment of epilepsy, cancer, and other serious health conditions.

There are more than 200 different terpenes in cannabis. Three of the most abundant are myrcene, linalool, and beta-caryophyllene. Each is beneficial in its own way.

Myrcene is the most abundant of all, accounting for approximately half of all cannabis terpenes. It’s also present in lemongrass, basil, hops, and mangoes. According to Science Direct, myrcene is traditionally used to treat diabetes, hypertension, and dysentery. It’s also known to reduce chronic pain and inflammation, which explains its inclusion in many cancer therapies.

Myrcene is found in many strains of cannabis including Apple Fritter, a breed with a pungent, earthy flavor and a powerful but relaxing high.

Linalool is present in lavender as well as cannabis. Famous for its floral scent (it’s a common ingredient in perfumes), linalool is great for stress-reduction. And due to its sedative properties, it has the potential to treat insomnia. Various studies have further suggested that linalool can help treat mental disorders like depression and psychosis.

Beta-caryophyllene is a widespread terpene commonly found in cloves, hops, basil, oregano, rosemary, and, of course, cannabis. While it’s known mostly for giving off a spicy smell and taste, recent studies have shown that caryophyllene can relieve pain and inflammation, particularly when combined with prescription medications. And while more research is needed, there are indications that caryophyllene can treat alcoholism.

Again, those are just three of the hundreds of terpenes found in cannabis. As the old prejudices clear away and marijuana inches nearer to mainstream acceptance, more research into the effects of cannabis terpenes is sure to follow. In the meantime, dazzle your friends with your newfound terpene expertise. (It works better when you’re all high).

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Paul Lewin

Written by Paul Lewin

Jack of all trades (and master of one or two), Paul is a content specialist at Clickstream, an English Teacher, and a wannabe proofreader. He's currently based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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