Terpenes are the chemical compounds that give cannabis its unique scent. Although most people associate terpenes with cannabis, these compounds are actually found in all plants as well as fruits, herbs, and roots like ginger. Research indicates that terpenes may offer certain health benefits.
So what’s the difference between terpenes derived from cannabis and non-cannabis terpenes? Non-cannabis terpenes come from other plants, or they’re synthesized in a lab, while cannabis terpenes are exclusive to the cannabis plant. It’s estimated that there are over 200 types of cannabis terpenes, while non-cannabis terpenes are even more numerous.
If you’re using medicinal cannabis to treat a health condition, understanding terpenes may be able to help you make better choices about which products you use. In this blog, learn about different types of terpenes and what makes them unique.
Some cannabis users confuse terpenes with cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the compounds within the cannabis plant, such as THC and CBD, which provide active benefits to the patient. Terpenes, on the other hand, may play a role in helping yet are primarily responsible for the taste and smell of cannabis.
Because cannabis terpenes are exclusive to cannabis plants, they are not fully legal. You can only use cannabis terpenes in states where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use, or states like Maryland which offer medicinal cannabis.
As the name suggests, non-cannabis terpenes are terpenes which are derived from any other plant source. These terpenes are also known as botanicals. They are often found in essential oils such as lavender and citrus peels. Botanical terpenes are frequently used for fragrances and in aromatherapy.
Non-cannabis terpenes are fully legal in all states. Common non-cannabis terpenes include:
- Limonene - a terpene found in the rind of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons.
- Pinene - a botanical terpene that gives pine needs their unique scent, which can also be found in aromatic herbs like rosemary and basil.
- Linalool - found in lavender, which is known for its calming effect.
- Myrcene - a terpene derived from hops, lemongrass, and thyme among other sources.
- Beta-caryophyllene - derived from natural sources like cloves and black pepper.
- Humulene - found in hops, cloves, and ginger, which may help with allergies.
As the name implies, synthetic terpenes are not sourced from plants. Instead, they are created in a lab using chemical ingredients. Because they are made artificially, synthetic terpenes can mimic the terpenes found in cannabis as well as other botanical terpenes. Although synthetic terpenes are generally safe, the long-term effects of synthetic terpenes and their chemical residues are currently unknown.
Possible benefits of terpenes
Some cannabis patients deride terpenes due to their odor and taste, especially medical patients who wish to be more discreet about using cannabis. Many cannabis products, including vape pens and cannabis distillate, are marketed as “terpene free” or “low terpene” for that very reason.
Although terpenes contain no THC or CBD, they may have other health benefits for cannabis users. Our sense of smell and taste is tied to brain health, so the aroma associated with terpenes may assist with memory or other brain functions. Additionally, many non-cannabis terpenes are beneficial for reducing stress.
Terpenes, from all sources, may also have the following benefits:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Anti-microbial properties
- Reduce allergy symptoms
- Reduce insomnia and assist with better quality sleep
- Anxiety relief
- Improve mood
Researchers also believe that certain terpenes may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, although studies are still ongoing.
Cannabis terpenes vs. botanical terpenes
So which kind of terpene is the best? Remember, the key difference between cannabis terpenes and botanical terpenes is that cannabis terpenes come from the cannabis plant, whereas botanical terpenes come from other plants. However, there are certain unique features associated with both types.
Cannabis terpenes alone won’t produce the mental effects commonly associated with cannabis, however the taste and smell may enhance some patients’ cannabis experience. Just be aware of your local laws. Cannabis terpenes may be illegal in your state. Cannabis terpenes are also more expensive than botanical terpenes due to the cost of cannabis cultivation.
Botanical terpenes are derived from a wide variety of plants, fruits, and herbs. As a result, the smell of botanical terpenes has greater variation than the smell of cannabis terpenes. You’ll find botanical terpenes in lavender, citrus, or spicy aromatics like clove and ginger. They’re also easier to find and less expensive because they are legal in all states. You’ll find botanical terpenes in essential oils in many health stores, online, or find them in ingredients from your own garden!
The right terpenes for you
When using cannabis for medicinal reasons, understanding terpenes can help you make better decisions about your care. At CULTA, we’re here to assist. Our patient coordination team can help you find the best cannabis products for your health needs and lifestyle. From THC to CBD to terpenes, we have everything you need. Visit us at our Baltimore dispensary today to learn more about terpenes.