Terpenoids and Terpenes

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that form part of the natural defense system for plants. They also act as attractors to pollinators. They are the major constituents of the plant’s essential oil and are responsible for the distinct smell and flavour of each cannabis strain. Terpenes have demonstrated therapeutic potential in preclinical research for their anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic or neuroprotective properties, but the use of terpenes in clinical trials (in humans) is limited. There is considerable debate surrounding the role of terpenes in relation to the pharmacological effects of cannabis, but for those that emphasise their importance. They play a vital role in the so called “entourage effect” and may enhance the therapeutic activity of cannabinoids.

Myrcene is the most abundant of the terpenoids found in cannabis and is a significant component of the plant’s essential oil. It is found in high concentrations in thyme, hops and lemongrass.

Limonene is one of the most common terpenes found in nature. Found in citrus rinds it is a major constituent of several citrus oils. It has a pleasant lemon-like aroma and is widely used in perfumes and to flavour foods and beverages.

Ocimene has a sweet, herbaceous and woodsy aroma and is found in a variety of plants as diverse as basil, bay, hops, mangoes and orchids.

Pinene is the common name for two monoterpenoids, α-pinene, β-pinene. It is found in the oil and resin of pine and other coniferous trees, which gives it its name, but is also the most widely found terpene in nature and forms part of the chemical communication system in insects.

Linalool is a monoterpene alcohol that is a major component of many essential oils (e.g. lavender, rose, basil and neroli). It makes up a significant proportion of cannabis essential oil (<6%).

ß- Caryophyllene is one of the most abundant terpenoids found in the cannabis plant, and is also a component of many spice and food plants, including black pepper, cloves, rosemary and hops. It binds to the CB2 receptor, making it a phytocannabinoid, and has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in preclinical studies.

Humulene is the characteristic terpene of hops, but it is also found in cannabis, sage, and ginseng. Humulene, also known as α-caryophyllene, has demonstrated both topical and systemic anti-inflammatory properties and is an effective analgesic when taken topically, orally, or by aerosol.

Terpinolene is a monoterpene found in cannabis, that is common to Pine species, mint, juniper, but richest in parsnip oil.

Terpineol is a monoterpene alcohol that refers to a combination of its isomers (alpha, beta, gamma, delta and terpinen-4-ol), with alpha terpineol being the major constituent. Alpha terpineol and terpinen-4-ol are the most common naturally occurring terpineols and are the best studied. Alpha terpineol has a lilac aroma and is a common ingredient in perfumes and cosmetics. It is found in lilac and lime blossom, pine and eucalyptus trees and is a component of various essential oils including, oregano oil, orange leaf oil, pine oil and tea tree oil.