Marijuana is exciting. From the fun and anxiety that surrounded your first hit, to all the snacks you’ve gone on to consume, marijuana just seems to make things better. It’s so exciting that many states in the U.S. are experiencing what is being referred to as “The Green Rush”— a vastly growing industry creating jobs, boosting economies and instilling hope in many people. And when you dig down a bit deeper into this “Green Rush,” you’ll find the golden nugget, hidden inside the plants: terpenes.
There are a lot of factors that make marijuana what it is. Thus far research has been able to identify 483 individual chemicals and compounds in marijuana, consisting of cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes and many others. The most commonly known is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), known for the production of the “high” effect of marijuana. But there are so many more aspects of cannabis to be high on, in more ways than one.
Terpenes, sometimes incorrectly referred to as terpenoids (the difference being that terpenoids have been either modified chemically or through oxidation by drying and curing the plant, whereas terpenes contain simply hydrogen and carbon), give strains their identity: when you smell your bud, you’re smelling the terpenes. And this is the case for many other plants. The fragrance of lavender, pine and oranges are all caused by different terpenes.
There are currently about 140 known terpenes in cannabis, but they’re not always found together, and not always in the same amounts. However, they control the benefits and effect of the marijuana you happen to be consuming.
Terpenes have been known to control the amount of THC that passes through the blood-brain barrier, meaning you can use them to regulate how intensely you feel the psychoactive effects of THC. They’re also known to affect neurotransmitters in the body, like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, and alter those chemicals rate of production, deterioration and receptor availability, meaning they contain properties akin to anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.
The terpenes, either in unison with the other compounds found in cannabis or even alone, put the “medical” in “medical marijuana.” They are the ones providing the wondrous anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, anti-convulsant, gastro-protective, and many other amazing health benefits.
By furthering research into cannabis, and the compounds and benefits contained within, especially terpenes, we can further the excitement level surrounding cannabis, and help drive this industry into a bright new future, making many new, groundbreaking discoveries as we go.