HAPA Medical web site, 2019
Terpenes form the main component of a plant’s essential oils and account for its characteristic smell and taste. Terpenes also appear to be important for the precise regulation of cannabis pharmacology by e.g. modulating GABAergic neurotransmission. Preliminary results indicate that cannabis terpenes could play a significantly greater therapeutic role as initially presumed, however more research is still required. Here is an overview of the most commonly-occurring terpenes in cannabis and their postulated medicinal effects.
Terpenes form the main component of a plant’s essential oils, and over 8,000 different terpenes have been identified to date. They account for the characteristic aroma, taste and the diversity of different flavours in various types of cannabis and wine. Terpenes appear to be important for the precise regulation of cannabis pharmacology.1 It is well-known outside of cannabis research that e.g. the aroma of limonene (a terpene that occurs in cannabis and citrus fruit) is mood-enhancing and pinene (a terpene that occurs in cannabis and conifers) has antiseptic properties.
The medical relevance of terpenes in cannabis
Research regarding the efficacy of terpenes and the role they play in the human organism as well as their synergetic effects with phytocannabinoids is still in its infancy. However, preliminary results indicate that cannabis terpenes do indeed play a significantly greater therapeutic role as initially presumed.2 The interaction of terpenes and cannabinoids, i.e. all active contents of the cannabis plant (“entourage effect”), has not yet been sufficiently let alone dose-dependently researched. What is certain however is that cannabinoid isolates work differently than the full spectrum of the entire bud / plant. This can also explain the different effects various cannabis genetics have: Cannabis varieties and extracts that demonstrate a similar concentration of CBD and THC can nevertheless show different effects due to their variant cannabinoid and terpene profiles – something that could be exploited for differential therapy.
The medically-relevant contribution that terpenes make to the entourage effect lies in a grey area, where almost none of the anecdotal claims have been confirmed in dose-dependent clinical studies. However, scientific hypotheses on the possible effect mechanisms for the anxiety-reducing and sedative effects of some terpenes do exist; most of these involve the GABAa receptor.3,4-17
|Terpene (group)||Occurs in, e.g.||Aroma||Possible medicinal benefits|
|Carophyllene||Black pepper, Cloves, Cinnamon||Spicy, Citrus||Antioxidant / protects from aging, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-coagulant, Supports immune function, Protects the kidneys (especially when damage has been caused by chemotherapy medication), Analgesic, Protects the digestive tract|
|Humulene||Basik||Earthy, Herbal||Antibacterial, Anti-inflammatory, Anti-carcinogenic|
|Limonene||Citrus, Juniper, Peppermint||Citrus, Fresh spice||Anxiety-relieving, Antibacterial, Antidepressive, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Anticarcinogenic, Stress-relieving, Appetite inhibiting, Counters acid-reflux (heartburn), Protects cells|
|Linalool||Lavender, Mint||Flowers, Lavender, Citrus, Fresh spice||Anaesthetic/ numbing, Anxiety-relieving, Anti-inflammatory, Promotes memory, Supports immune function, Relieves cramps, Analgesic, Restores pulmonary function after infections|
|Myrcene||Hops, Eucalyptus, Mango||Flowers, Spicy, Earthy||Antibiotic, Anti-mutagenic, Antioxidant / protects from aging, Calming, Relaxing, Anti-inflammatory, Muscle relaxant, Promotes sleep, Analgesic|
|Ocimene||Thyme, Blue Alfalfa||Wood, Citrus, Tropical fruits||Decongestant, Antifungal, Antiseptic, Antiviral, Bactericidal, antibacterial, Anti-inflammatory|
|Pinene||Pine trees, Rosemary, Parsley||Pine, Earth||Antibacterial, Antiseptic, Anti-inflammatory, Promotes memory, Anticarcinogenic, Supports concentration, Dilates the bronchial tubes (bronchodilator), Counters the THC effect|
|Terpineol||Mugwort||Lilac, Citrus, Wood||Antibacterial, Antifungal, Anti-microbial, Antiviral, Calming & promotes sleep, Supports immune function|
|Terpinolene||Coriander||Pine, Herbs, Aniseed, Lime||Antibacterial, Antioxidant / protects from aging, Calming, Anti-carcinogenic, Strengthens stomach, Analgesic, Promotes digestion|