by Diana on 12/09/2013 | Medicinal

Terpenes – Part 2

Some terpenes can affect the “grey matter”, since they block the neuronal receptors they modify the permeability of the neuron cell membranes. These terpenes can also have an impact on the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two of the main neurotransmitters responsible for altering a person’s mood and activity. When terpenes are mixed, each affects the brain in its own way. Some complement each another and others cancel each other out. Therefore, every combination is unique in terms of psycho activity.


Some terpenes can affect the “grey matter”, since they block the neuronal receptors they modify the permeability of the neuron cell membranes. These terpenes can also have an impact on the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two of the main neurotransmitters responsible for altering a person’s mood and activity. When terpenes are mixed, each affects the brain in its own way. Some complement each another and others cancel each other out. Therefore, every combination is unique in terms of psycho activity.

Types of Terpenes

The terpenes most commonly found in cannabis are:

Myrcene. The terpene found in largest quantities in marijuana is myrcene. However, this is not the case for hemp. It is also found in large quantities in hops and, to a lesser extent, in lemongrass. With its green and vegetative notes, its fragrance can be described as similar to lemons, mint or ripe mango. It has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. It is thought that it works in synergy with THC; In other words, the combination of the two is stronger than THC on its own.

Limonene. Limonene takes its name from the lemon, as it is mainly found in the rind of lemons and other citrus fruits, but also in marijuana and many other flowers. Thus, some strains of cannabis are classified as ‘citrus’. This terpene is released into the air, producing the familiar aroma when one of these fruits is peeled. Limonene has antibacterial, fungicidal and anti-cancer properties (it inhabits the Ras cancer gene cascade, which favours tumour growth) Plants use limonene to repel predators; On the other hand, in humans its molecular structure facilitates its entry into the brain, stimulating alertness, lucidity and attention.

Caryophyllene. This is a component of many essential oils, especially clove oil. Caryophyllene is one of the chemical compounds that give black pepper its spicy flavour. It is generally used industrially to enhance the flavour of tobacco. In a study carried out by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, beta-caryophyllene was shown to bind selectively to the Cannabinoid receptor CB2, and to exert significant cannabimimetic anti-inflammatory effects. This is because it inhibits the function of calcium and potassium and reduces the pressure exerted by the heart muscles.

(Sensi Seeds published an article on the origin and discovery of the Cannabinoids receptors CB1 and CB2 and the subsequent scientific progress. You can read it here)

Pinene. This terpene is responsible for the typical smell associated with pine trees and their resins. It is also the main component of turpentine and is present in the essential oils of other plants such as rosemary, sage and eucalyptus. Pinene is used as an expectorant and antiseptic, although its most striking function is the destruction of a component that inhibits the connection between neurones, thus improving the memory. It is present in the Skunk strains and gives them their typical strong smell, in addition to producing a rapid effect due to its expectorant properties (it allows air – and hence smoke – to reach the lungs more easily).

(The original Skunk hybrids fused traditional cultivars from Central and South America, Afghanistan and Thailand.  The Sensi Seed Bank has many Skunk varieties, ed)

Borneol. This smells very much like camphor and can in fact be easily converted into it during combustion if the cannabis is smoked. This terpene has calming sedative properties and can help treat stress. It is also a psychoactive substance. All Silver Haze varieties share this unmistakable aroma, which is due the presence of both borneol and camphor.

(Silver Haze strain from Sensi Seeds has been one of the Cannabis Cup winners, ed)

Terpenes in Cannabis

Summary

Terpenes alone constitute a huge line of research, from medical, chemical and genetic points of view. The chemical synthesis pathways of terpenes in plants have already been elucidated. Therefore, it is quite possible that in the near future we shall find products on the market that are aimed at improving their production. Many more terpenes have been found to occur naturally in marijuana other than those mentioned in this article. Thus, cultivators and users have a long way to go before they develop ‘à la carte’ strains in the future. I am referring to strains in which the cannabinoid and terpene contents are known, having been established through standard growing methods. Therefore, if necessary, any doctor could prescribe a given strain or recommend it be grown under standardised conditions. (To learn more about the possible medicinal uses of cannabis and how to choose a strain click here, ed)

Personally, I think this would be a logical way to standardise the use and production of medicinal cannabis. To date, many doctors have advised their patients to consume marijuana off the record, given that the Spanish Government prohibits its use and, even if it could be prescribed legally, not all strains would have the same effect or strength. Therefore, a very extensive catalogue would be required, in order to recommend a specific strain to the user.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. In the next chapter, I shall try to explain aspects related to the mineral nutrition of plants.

Best wishes and happy smoking!

Author: Manel

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