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Terpenes: Can you trade out your morning cup of coffee for a sativa?

Terpenes are a fascinating spectrum of molecules that help make up the unique aromas, flavors, and medicinal effects of the cannabis plant. Terpenes are hydrocarbons found in the sap-like glandular trichomes of the flower and produce extraordinary medicinal properties that we are still researching. Apart from THC and the major cannabinoids (such as CBD, CBN, CBG, CBC, etc.), "Terpenes, or isoprenoids, consist of the second-largest class of cannabis constituents." 1

Botanically, terpene production by the cannabis plant wards off insects and animals with volatile aromatic terpenes and controls the plant's temperature. Covering the cannabis plant (highly concentrated on the flowers) are tiny resinous structures called trichomes - the factory of terpenes. The sensational pungency you experience when you open a jar of your favorite strain comes from the resinous crystalline globules. These transparent trichome glands produce the chemically unique varieties of terpene profiles we see today, from the tasty tartness of Sour Diesel to the sweetness of Orange Tangie. Most of these terpene molecules are found throughout the entire plant kingdom. Limonene, for example, first discovered in the Cannabis plant in the 1960s, is chemically identical to the limonene found in the oil from a lemon peel: " acyclic monoterpene, myrcene, and the monocyclic monoterpene limonene, were identified in the essential oil of fresh, wild C. Sativa from Canada." 1

Medicinally, cannabis is extremely terpene diverse and will prove exponentially more beneficial as we discover which combinations work for our patient's needs. As an appreciation for cannabis grows, so does our understanding of the remarkable chemistry of terpenes. At this point, more research needs to be done on the vast network of associations our endocannabinoid system has with terpenes. The voluminous multitude of phytochemical combinations holds promising discoveries for the medicinal uses of this plant, especially the more we learn how specific terpene profiles interact with our individual chemistries and the modulating effects of cannabinoids (e.g., interfacing with serotonin receptors, oxytocin receptors, etc.)

Understanding terpene profiles of cannabis strains can help us treat symptoms more precisely. For example, terpenes can increase creativity, provide pain relief, or increase appetite. I personally enjoy the Blueberry strain as a go-to for pain relief and a heavy body high. Sour Diesel is excellent for its creative and cerebral buzz. If you want to trade out your morning cup of coffee/tea, Durban Poison is a 100% Sativa landrace strain, meaning its genetics originate from a specific region, such as South Africa. Durban is well known for its energy-boosting creative effects, allowing you to focus and stay productive throughout a busy day. The strain’s strong, distinct piney and citrusy scent mixed with a sweet taste is refreshing and uplifting. Terpenes as independent chemicals are non-psychoactive. However, once cannabis enters your bloodstream, the terpene molecules work synergistically with THC, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids to enhance the endocannabinoid system and produce the medicinal effects we cherish and have cultivated for thousands of years. Gregory M. Sondrol Cannabis Contributor Cannabis Doctors of New York 04/20/22 sources:

  1. Mohamed M. Radwan, Suman Chandra, Shahbaz Gul, and Mahmoud A. Elsohly Cannabinoids, Phenolics, Terpenes and Alkaloids of Cannabis. Molecules 2021, 26, 2774 Journal, Molecules

  2. Cox-Georgian, Destinney et al. "Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Terpenes." Medicinal Plants: From Farm to Pharmacy 333–359. 12 Nov. 2019, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-31269-5_15

  3. Carla C.C.R. de Carvalho, M. Manuela R. da Fonseca, Biotransformation of terpenes, Biotechnology Advances Volume 24, Issue 2 2006

Cannabis Doctors of New York are at the forefront of cannabis research and encourage the industry to become more terpene-aware. New products that are terpene savvy will help provide more specific recommendations for our patients. Our goal is to provide our patients with first-class guidance when navigating this new world of medicinal cannabis. Our experts are here to answer all of your questions.

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