What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are a class of compounds that naturally occur in plants. They are the cause of the fragrance and taste we perceive when we eat or smell a plant and its parts. Despite their divrerse structure all terpenes are made of isopren(C5H8) and the number of these units can classify them into monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes…They are found in a lot of plants an their main role is that of protection against herbivores and attraction of pollinators seed dispersers.
More than 200 terpens have been found in the cannabis plant and although they are usually found in small percentages, their role is of great importance. This is especially evident in the treatment of patients with cannabis and its extracts.
The Entourage Effect
The so called entourage effect is the term used to describe enhancement of efficacy derived from combining phytocannabinoids and other plant-derived molecules, especially terpenes and flavonoids. Isolated or synthetic cannabinoids are not as effective and have more unwanted side effects when used to treat patients compared to plant material or whole plant extracts.
Terpenes modulate the bio-availability, absorption, side effects, psychotropic effects and some have an affinity to cannabinoid receptors.
The most common found terpens in cannabis are limonene, β-myrcene, α-pinene, linalool, β-caryophyllene, caryophyllene oxide, nerolidol, and phytol.
Different chemovars (strains) of cannabis have different ratios of these compounds and these ratios determine first of all the smell and taste of the herb and second its effects on the perception of the effect they have on the body and their effectiveness.
When selecting a chemovar for a treatment of disease it is extremely important that the patient smells the product and then chooses the one that has the most pleasant smell for him. This is highly a personal choice but it has a profound effect on the effectiveness of the treatment.
In other words if a patient does not like the smell of a certain chemovar it is likely to be less effective that a smell that he likes without even looking at the ratios of cannabinoids.
This a new area of study but is is becoming more and more clear that terpens have a profound effect on our bodies even at very low doses.