Riddle me this: what do Mangos, Newport cigarettes, and that friend who is always posting about essential oils have in common?
If your high school friends were as nerdy as mine, you may have answered that they all help you get higher. While none of these sources can actually cause an increase in psycho-activity, there is some science behind the claim, thanks to a wonderful group of compounds known as terpenes.
Terpenes are fragrance molecules produced by plants – the same molecules that are bottled and sold as essential oils. The Cannabis plant produces over 120 terpenes, varying from strain to strain. As the plant grows, the terpenes help protect it from environmental factors such as excessive heat and sunlight, and predators. They do so by releasing their oils into the air, forming a protective cloud around the flower. Terpenes are important in understanding why different strains are able to produce different effects.
Terpenes have long been renowned for their medicinal properties, such as the use of peppermint or lavender to calm, or citrus notes for stimulating effects. Similarly, the terpenes found in cannabis provide medicinal benefits in addition to the cannabinoids they are produced with.
Mangos contain the most popular Cannabis terpene, Mycrene. Mycrene is known to relieve pain, relax muscles, and fight inflammation. Limonene is the second most abundant terpene found in Cannabis, and has been clinically studied as a replacement for antidepressants. Limonene has also been shown to affect breast cancer proteins.
Let’s take a step back and revisit that friend who is always raving about their newest essential oil addition. It’s clear from both the widely available research, and the increasing popularity of oils, that terpenes provide amazing medicinal effects. So why not just stick with terpenes derived from non-Cannabis sources? Hint: this is where it gets interesting.
When terpenes and cannabinoids work together, they produce what is known as the entourage effect. The entourage effect describes the process in which each chemical component of Cannabis affects how each other is processed and used by the body.
For example, we discussed in the Cannabinoid section how THC and CBD are more powerful when taken together than individually. Similarly, when the terpene Pinene is abundant in Cannabis medicine, it works to reduce the short-term memory impairment that can be caused by THC. The abovementioned terpenes, Mycrene and Limonene, have been shown to alter the permeability of cell membranes, in turn affecting the amount of THC that cell can absorb. A mango won’t increase your high, but its terpenes will increase your ability to absorb THC, resulting in the effect of an increased high.
The synergistic qualities of terpenes and cannabinoids are why, as a company, we focus our products around whole plant medicine versus what will produce the most intense psychoactive effects. Every product is formulated using multiple strains, as well as material ranging from straight off the plant for acidic compounds, to dried and heated material for activated compounds. This process ensures a wide variety of terpenes and cannabinoids for ultimate plant healing.
Suggested Readings: Featured Chart + Entourage Effect with Specific Conditions, British Journal of Pharmacoly: Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects