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What Are Terpenes – A Comprehensive Guide

Terpenes are fragrant plant chemicals that exist naturally. Most notably, they can be discovered in cannabis, where some believe they may increase the herb's therapeutic advantages.

Terpenes Comprehensive Guide

Here is a complete explanation of what terpenes are and how they affect your experience.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are a class of ions of hydrocarbons with a C5H8 molecular structure that are widespread in nature and thought to have descended from the simpler isoprene.

The word often refers to the oxygenated derivatives of these hydrocarbons known as terpenoids. Terpenes are a large class of fragrant unsaturated hydrocarbons found in many plants' essential oils.

Terpenes Comprehensive Guide

They are especially abundant in the oils of citrus and conifers trees. They are cyclic molecules with the formula C5H8.

Many plants contain aromatic compounds known as terpenes, but cannabis has become more popular with them due to the high concentrations found in the plant.

Aromatic compounds give many plants their signature scent; some examples include pine, cannabis, lavender, and even the peel of a freshly squeezed orange. There are hundreds of different varieties of terpenes, and they're the chemical reason why plants like black pepper and lavender have different scents.

These molecules not only make plants smell nice, but they also protect them from predators and draw in pollinators.

Arrangement of Terpenoids According to Type

Terpenoids, sometimes known as isoprenoids, are a large and diverse collection of naturally occurring chemical compounds generated from isoprene, a molecular structure with 5 carbons, and terpenes isoprene polymers.

Terpenoids are also known as isoprenoids. The standard formula for most natural hydrocarbons that are terpenes is (C5H8)n. They can be put into different groups based on the number of n or carbon units they have.

Terpenes Comprehensive Guide

Every category can be broken down into subclasses based on the system's number of rings.

  • Acyclic Terpenoids: Open structure
  • Monocyclic Terpenoids: 1 ring in the structure
  • Bicyclic Terpenoids: 2 rings in the structure.
  • Tricyclic Terpenoids: 3 rings in the structure.
  • Tetracyclic Terpenoids: 4 rings in the structure.

General Terpenoids Characteristics

Most terpenoids are odorless, volatile-with-steam liquids and colorless in nature, lighter than water. Some of them, like camphor, are solids.

All of them can dissolve in an organic solvent but not water. They are optically active for the most part.

They have a double bond and can be either open-chain or cyclic. This causes them to react additively with H2, halogens, acids, etc. Several other items also have antibacterial qualities.

They are dehydrogenated and undergo polymerization.

They readily react with almost any oxidizing substance. Isoprene is a byproduct of the heat breakdown of the vast majority of terpenoids.

Terpenes' Role

Terpenes have a significant role in determining how a particular cannabis strain smells and tastes. When combined with THC and other cannabis plant factors, they may potentially produce psychedelic effects.

Research on the plant's more than 400 terpenes is still in its early stages, making it difficult to draw any definite conclusions at this time.

Sesquiterpenes and simple-mono are the primary constituents of essential oils that are derived from the fluid and tissues of particular plants and trees.

Triterpenoids and diterpenoids do not burn well in the heat. They are made from trees and plants that contain glue and gums. Tetraterpenoids are a subclass of compounds known as carotenoids.

Terpenes Comprehensive Guide

Some Common Terpenes

Caryophyllene is what gives black pepper its distinctively peppery aroma. It's usually found in hops, cloves and rosemary.

A Recent animal study indicated that it had pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory qualities in rats, but it's not sure whether this research applies to humans.

Myrcene is the most common terpene present in lemon grass and cannabis, parsley, bay leaves, cardamom, basil and thyme.

Several animal studies show it has relaxing properties, but this is not strong evidence, and the high doses will have strong effects.

Linalool is known as the main terpene in lavender. It is also known as the plant's floral scent.

Human and animal research shows that linalool has relaxing, anxiety-reducing, mood-stabilizing, antidepressant, sedative and pain-relieving properties.

Limonene is typically found in lemon rind, cannabis and other citrus fruits. Its anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, wound-healing, and antibacterial properties have been observed in preclinical research.

According to Experts

"Terpenes are not unique to cannabis, however, cannabis happens to produce hundreds of different terpenes and tends to produce an abundant amount, hence the strong aroma," says Jeff Chen, MD, founder of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative.

"Different varieties or "strains" of cannabis have different terpene compositions that can alter the herb's smell and subtly change its effects," says Stacia Woodcock, PharmD, clinical cannabis pharmacist, and dispensary manager at Curaleaf.

Terpenes Comprehensive Guide

Final Verdict

Terpenes are the fragrant chemicals accountable for the smell of plants. They are rich in cannabis and many other green plants, herbs and fruit.

Terpenes play a huge role in the survival and health of a plant.

Humans can have several benefits by smelling essential oils, consuming terpene-rich plants, or going out to areas with high terpene levels.

Researchers are still studying these terpenes compounds to understand their possible healing and medical uses.

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