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The Science of Terpenes

  • 2 min read

Did you know that terpenes are used in a number of everyday applications? From that lemon-scented cleaning spray to the touch of lavender in your perfume, terpenes are already in a lot of products we use on a daily basis. Most recently, terpenes have received some attention for their existence in the cannabis sativa plant, but the truth is that terpenes exist in many different plants. TerpWell uses the extracts of various terpenes in our blends. 

Explaining terpenes 

Terpenes are the most vast and diverse group of naturally occurring compounds responsible for the fragrance, taste, look, and more specifically, the pigment of plants. Plants naturally develop terpenes to ward off hungry herbivores and to attract helpful predators and pollinators. 

If we want to get technical, terpenes are secondary metabolites, an end product of metabolism in small molecules, which provide the plant with its organoleptic characteristics (aroma and flavour) and comprises most of the essential oil produced by aromatic plantssuch as cannabis, lavender, and pine.

And what does this mean for those of us who lack a degree in biochemistry? In layman’s terms, terpenes make plants smell the way they do. This videocompares terpenes in cannabis aromas to those in a glass of wine. Just as notes in wine (or nuances) account for the aroma and flavour, terpenes are responsible for the unique aroma of each cannabis cultivar. Terpenes and wine notes are similar in this way--they are both integral constituents that play an important supporting role in the overall experience of the given product.  

Cannabis and terpenes

Even though terpenes are found in several types of plants, they are commonly associated with the cannabis sativa plant, which has been popular in recent media with the legalization of adult-use, or recreational, cannabis in Canada. As mentioned in this video, there are some reports of there being roughly 120 terpenes identified in cannabis, though their application is largely unknown. 

According to Medical News Today, there is a large amount of medical research on isolated terpenes themselves, but now this research is making its way into medical use. Terpenes are also gaining popularity as new research emerges on their importance in differentiating between cannabis cultivars themselves. The interest comes from the speculation that terpenes may differentiate the effects of various cannabis products–we are only beginning to discover their versatility and potential uses. 

TerpWell is working to explore how our terpene formulations can help individuals manage their symptoms, both with and without the use of cannabis as a medicine.