In recent years, most of the research into hemp’s restorative benefits has focused on cannabinoids like CBD. While these unique compounds show great promise, there’s another group of hemp chemical compounds that has potential benefits: terpenes. Known for their strong aromatic qualities, terpenes are what give different hemp strains their unique flavor profiles. Besides giving hemp a sweet taste and smell, many researchers believe terpenes could play an instrumental role in the future of cannabis applications.
To better understand the growing field of terpene research, let’s take a brief look at the biology of these compounds. After exploring terpenes in general, we’ll examine the qualities and potential benefits of some of the most common terpenes found in hemp.
Scientifically, terpenes are classified as hydrocarbons with the following molecular structure: (C5H8)n. Most researchers now believe plants produce these terpenes both to ward off insect invaders and to attract pollinating bugs. Besides cannabis, terpenes can be found in the oils and resins of most spices, herbs, and fruits.
As the hemp plant matures into the flowering phase, most farmers notice the distinctive smell of their strain’s terpenes seeping out of the hair-like trichomes. Since there are well over 100 different kinds of terpenes that could appear in the hemp plant, it’s impossible to describe a standard “terpene scent.” Despite this fact, there are standardized measures which scientists use to classify these compounds.
For convenience, most researchers categorize terpenes into one of these four broad flavor profiles: sweet, sour, spicy, or bitter. Whichever of these flavors the terpene resembles the most will determine where it goes on a scientist’s chart. In reality, the aromas of most terpenes have complicated nuances that mix all four of these major flavors.
Changes in terpene varieties and content have been found to dramatically alter the physiological effects that hemp has on a user. For instance, some terpenes are good for energizing the body, but others could be used as a sedative. Terpenes also appear to enhance the benefits of cannabinoids like CBD via the endocannabinoid system.
It’s important to note that terpenes need to be heated to a certain point to transform into an activated form. For this reason, consumers must know the exact boiling point for the terpenes and cannabinoids present in their variety of hemp. Without this knowledge, you won’t derive the full restorative benefit of these terpenes.
Below you will find the most common terpenes in the hemp plant. The list is not exhaustive, but it covers the compounds that are most prevalent.
Often associated with the scent of mangoes, myrcene is one of the most abundant terpenes in the cannabis plant. Besides its tropical and fruity notes, many people have described this terpene as having an earthy and citrusy aroma. That’s understandable considering myrcene can also be found in many similar-smelling herbs like lemongrass and thyme.
Current research suggests the amount of myrcene in a hemp strain has a profound effect on the plant’s physiological impact on the user. Basically, the formula goes as follows: more myrcene in a cannabis strain equals a higher chance of sedative qualities. For this reason, most of the scientific research into myrcene has investigated its ability to combat insomnia.
Myrcene’s proper vaporizing temperature is 332°F.
Another terpene well known for its sedating effects is linalool. Unsurprisingly, this floral terpene is most often associated with the herb lavender. Even if you don’t know much about herbs, you might’ve heard about using lavender essential oil as a natural sleep aid. Well, the same applies to hemp strains with high amounts of linalool.
In addition to helping people get a good night’s sleep, recent studies suggest linalool could be used as a potent mood booster. One study out of the University of Tokyo found that linalool significantly decreased anxiety levels in lab rats exposed to stress. If this is true, linalool could be implemented as an anxiolytic agent.
The established boiling point for linalool is 388°F.
In contrast to linalool, a-pinene is best known for its energizing effects on the body and mind.
As you might’ve guessed from the name, a-pinene has a piney scent and is naturally found in (surprise) pine trees. Besides rosemary, other herbs that have high traces of a-pinene include dill and basil.
The boiling point for a-pinene is set at 311°F.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that “citrusy” is the first word most people use to describe limonene. This is, after all, the most pronounced terpene in all citrus fruits like limes, grapefruits, and lemons. You might also catch a few faint whiffs of limonene when smelling a fresh batch of peppermint or juniper.
Limonene is one of the best terpenes out there for people who are struggling with fatigue. Just sniffing a bit of limonene has been shown to boost the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain. Limonene may also possess anti-nausea properties.
To activate limonene, users must heat their vaporizer to no higher than 348°F
Beer lovers will have no trouble identifying the smell of cannabis strains with high concentrations of humulene. This malty terpene is found in hops flowers, which are an essential component in brewing everyone’s favorite frothy beverage. Besides hops, humulene is also present in slightly citrusy herbs like coriander.
Studies have revealed humulene also has strong antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. For these reasons, many are hopeful that this terpene could soon be used as an adjunct to autoimmune treatments, although it has yet to be approved for any form of medicinal use in the United States.
At 222°F, humulene has a relatively low boiling point compared with other terpenes on this list.
If you need a little spice in your life then beta-caryophyllene is the terpene for you. Most commonly found in black pepper and cinnamon, this terpene has a very spicy aroma with woody undertones.
Most of the restorative properties found in hot chili peppers can also be ascribed to cannabis with beta-caryophyllene. These hemp strains are particularly good at reducing inflammation.
There has also been some research that suggests beta-caryophyllene may reduce abdominal swelling in patients with digestive diseases and it might even improve brain function. As with other terpenes, this hypothesis has not been proven and b-Caryophyllene is not approved by the FDA for medicinal use.
Beta-caryophyllene has a relatively low boiling point at 266°F.
We’re only starting to understand the many potential benefits of the hundreds of terpenes found in hemp. Besides understanding each terpene in isolation, researchers are interested in how these terpenes interact with each other and with cannabinoids to produce different restorative effects.
Now that it’s easier for scientists to get their hands on many high-quality hemp strains, research into this vital aspect of medicinal cannabis will undoubtedly pick up steam in the near future. The increasing popularity of terpene research is an important aspect to consider when investing in the hemp industry, as prices will inevitably be affected by terpene content.
If you are interested in getting started with CBD hemp cultivation or securing hemp futures contracts for your farm, reach out to us! Here at Industrial Hemp Farms, we offer a wide assortment of CBD distillates and isolates, as well as wholesale CBD hemp flowers and clones. We’d love to give you a tour of our facilities in Colorado Springs and discuss about your business.