Cannabis Terpenes, Part 1: Introduction to Terpenes


As cannabis becomes more mainstream, more accepted as a medicine and more utilized worldwide, the plants’ botany and chemical makeup are being researched and dissected. This three part series will introduce you to terpenes and how they work in the cannabis plant and human endocannabinoid receptor system.

Cannabis sativa l , the Latin name for the cannabis plant, produces a resin that supports the medicinal and psychoactive properties within the plan. This resin is a sticky and thick-textured substance that contain a variety of terpenes and cannabinoid metabolites.

Terpenes, in part, influence a cannabis strains’ flavor and aroma. There have been over 150 different types of terpenes discovered and as science focuses more on the cannabis plant, there will likely be more research studies.

Each of those 150 terpenes exhibits different characteristics and effects. The terpenes dictate how the particular strain of cannabis effects a patient. This is because of the way different terpenes modulate the effects of the thc due to the synergistic entourage effect of therapeutic terpenes and major/minor cannabinoids.

The images above illustrate Cannabis inflorescence and stalked glandular trichomes.

Figure 1:  A) Apical inflorescence from the strain Purple Kush, eight weeks post onset of flowering. B) Floret cluster from the strain Lemon Skunk, five weeks post onset of flowering. C) Stalked glandular trichomes on the surface of strain Finola pistillate flowers. Scanning electron microscopy and image credit for C) Image credit to Samuel Livingston, UBC, Department of Botany.

Schematic of terpene and cannabinoid biosynthesis in cannabis. Photos courtesy of Plant Science.


Terpenes in Cannabis sativa – From plant genome to humans, Plant Science, Volume 284, July 2019, Pages 67-72

Up next, Cannabis Terpenes, Part 2: Hundreds of Terpenes

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