Terpenes of cannabis, what are they?
Terpenes are substances that determine the fragrance in cannabis plants. Without the terpenes, the Cheese would not have that characteristic smell of rancid cheese and the Dinamed CBD would not give us its citrus scent. Terpenes are often eclipsed by cannabinoids and their effects, mainly THC and, more recently, CBD. So, why not explore the possibilities of these substances that among other things can also be bought separately on the market? What are terpenes and which properties do they have? Let's find out together!
Among the many chemical compounds present in the marijuana plant, about 140 belong to this group of organic hydrocarbons known as "terpenes". Terpenes are easily evaporable volatile molecules that reach the nose and help us identify the type of plant we are dealing with. In fact, terpenes are not found exclusively in cannabis plants, but are part of many other species of the plant kingdom.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are organic compounds formed of carbon and hydrogen atoms. The terpenes present in the chemical composition of cannabis are synthesized by the secreting cells of the glandular trichomes and their production increases with the exposure to light. Just like cannabinoids, they accumulate mainly in exuded resin.
What is the function of cannabis terpenes?
These fragrant compounds are found in higher concentrations in flowers of female cannabis
plants that have not been pollinated and play a decisive role protecting against possible threats such as bacteria, fungi, insects or any other factor of environmental stress.
The quantity and composition of the terpenes of each plant changes according to genetics and growing conditions. As we have just mentioned, these aromatic compounds are used by plants to repel predators, but also to attract pollinating insects. The factors affecting the production of terpenes are various: climate, ripening time, fertilizers, substrate and even the time of day when the crop is harvested.
Although the terpene composition of each plant is unique, the smell of plants of the same variety tends to be very similar and serves to identify the stock. This is due to the fact that the combination of terpenes in individuals of the same genetics is very similar, which is why it is possible to distinguish a Cheese from a Critical + or an Original Amnesia through the sense of smell.
Terpenes as precursors of cannabinoids.
Apparently, terpenes are involved in the cannabinoid production process, since the latter are made up of blocks of terpenes and phenol groups. Under standard cultivation conditions, a correlation was found between the level of terpenes and cannabinoids, which could be explained by the fact that both mono-terpenes and sesquiterpenes are synthesized in the same glandular trichomes of cannabinoids.
How do you extract terpene oil or marijuana essential oil?
To extract essential oil of cannabis is sufficient to use a steam distillation process. Through this method the vapor passes through the plant material and brings with it the essential oil of the plant. Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes are water-soluble, which is why by distilling cannabis with water vapor you are sure to obtain only terpenes, and not cannabinoids (which are fat-soluble), and consequently the resulting essential oil has not psychoactive effect.
What are the applications of essential terpene oil?
The process described above allows the terpenes to be extracted from all the cannabis strains we know today. These extractions are "delicacies" marketed in small doses at a high price, to obtain a minuscule amount of oil it takes very large volumes of cannabis. Among the various applications, we find:
- Aromatherapy: essential oil can be added to creams, lotions and massage oils.
- Being able to enjoy the aroma of cannabis without the psychoactive effects characteristic of the plant by adding oil in liquids for electronic cigarettes.
- Dabs: often, during the process of cannabis extraction, many terpenes are lost, and with them the taste of marijuana. A perfect solution in these cases can be the essential oil.
But the list does not end here. And if we take into account that this type of oil does not produce any psychoactive effect and that it has been classified as a safe substance by the FDA and other agencies, the possibilities are endless.