Terpenes dictate the flavor, aroma, and effects of plants. But exactly HOW do terpenes affect your body? Read on for all the details!
Whether or not you’re a cannabis consumer, your body has most likely already been affected by terpenes. Has lavender ever made you sleepy? Does citrusy orange juice help wake you up? A big part of those effects come from terpenes! Admittedly, cannabis consumers are probably well aware that different terpenes make you feel differently—but HOW do terpenes affect your body?
We know that myrcene has sedative properties, but HOW does it make people feel calm and relaxed? Products with hefty doses of beta-caryophyllene likely have analgesic properties, but HOW does that isolate help relieve pain?
Read on and discover how terpenes make your body feel experience various effects.
Reading Time - 10 min
How Do Terpenes Affect Your Body?
Since there’s a LOT of information we’ll be covering, here are some of the different topics you can expect to find. Feel free to skip around or to slowly savor each new piece of information at your own pace.
- What Are Terpenes?
- How Do Terpenes Affect Us?
- How Do Terpenes Reduce Inflammation?
- How Do Terpenes Reduce Pain?
- How Do Terpenes Reduce Anxiety?
- How Do Terpenes Promote Sleep?
- How Do Terpenes Promote Focus?
- How Do Terpenes Promote Creativity?
You’re not alone if you’re wondering what are terpenes and why do they matter. If you’ve ever used essential oils, then you’ve ALMOST used terpenes. Essential oils are extracted from plants and, for quite some time, were considered the “essence” of a plant. However, plants actually contain several different terpenes. So an essential oil will contain several different terpenes too.
In the most basic sense, terpenes are organic hydrocarbons. It helps to think of them as the building blocks of scent and flavor. Terpenes are why roses smell like roses, why pine trees smell like pine trees, and why cannabis smells like…ok, you get the picture. While botanical and cannabis terpenes are essentially the same, those that are extracted from cannabis are called cannabis terpenes while terpenes extracted from other plants are referred to as botanical terpenes. It’s important to remember, however, that terpenes can’t get you high. While they may make you feel good, only psychoactive cannabinoids can get you high.
So, why might you want to extract terpenes from plants? What are terpenes used for? Mainly, to infuse products with flavor, aroma, and even effects. But why not just use the plants themselves?
First, it’s important to know that terpenes are sensitive. Yes, you can use actual plant matter to infuse your products with flavor and aroma. However, things like soil quality, weather patterns, and even farming practices can influence how certain terpenes are expressed. So getting consistent terpene profiles from plants is tricky.
Second, things like heat and rough handling can damage and/or destroy terpenes. So, the manufacturing process can have a negative impact on terpenes. That’s why extracting terpenes and adding them back into products later is so useful! With expertly extracted terpenes, manufacturers can create terpene-infused:
- Food & Beverages
- Personal Care Products
- Skincare Products
- Candles and Aromatherapy
- Cones, Wraps, and Blunts
- And MORE
Perhaps the most exciting part about infusing products with terpenes is that they promote various effects as well.
You might have heard someone say that certain terpenes are uplifting, relaxing, or that they even enhance focus. But HOW do terpenes have these effects on us? Remember when we said that terpenes are hydrocarbons? Let’s start there.
Terpenes are made up of isoprene molecules each containing five carbon atoms with double bonds. Monoterpenes simply have two isoprene molecules, sesquiterpenes have three, etc. Depending on their structure, some are cyclic while others are acyclic.
In nature, these chemicals are used by plants to repel dangerous animals while attracting beneficial ones (like bees for flower pollination). When WE interact with these plants (or when we consume products with added terpenes), any terpenes interact with US too.
Originally, it was believed that terpenes influenced our moods because our sense of smell is tied to parts of our brains that also control emotion. While that makes a lot of sense, the mechanisms involved are a bit more complicated than that.
So, how exactly do terpenes affect your body? Different terpenes interact with specific brain receptors to have different effects. Some terpenes even affect multiple parts of your brain and nervous system at the same time. That’s why some terpenes have such a long list of effects. Plus, since everyone is slightly different, certain effects might be more pronounced in some people.
Some common terpene effects include:
- Enhanced Focus
Complex combinations of terpene isolates (called terpene profiles or blends) help promote more specific experiences. That’s why certain cannabis strains make you want to clean your whole house, while others make you want to drool on the couch. It all depends on the various terpenes present in the terpene profile.
So, how do terpenes accomplish specific effects?
How Do Terpenes Reduce Inflammation?
Each terpene isolate has its own unique mechanism for potentially reducing inflammation, but here are a few examples:
- Alpha-bisabolol can help reduce skin inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines. That means it reduces a particular type of protein in the skin that sometimes promotes inflammation. It also has a “strong binding affinity to the active site of the pro-inflammatory proteins.”
- Alpha-Pinene, on the other hand, reduces inflammation by suppressing “mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) pathway…”
- Some terpenes have multiple mechanisms for reducing inflammation. If we look at alpha-pinene again, it can also help reduce arthritis-related inflammation by influencing chondrocytes (the cells that maintain the matrix inside cartilage).
How Do Terpenes Reduce Pain?
It can be tricky to determine the exact mechanism behind pain relief. Sometimes, reducing inflammation can reduce pain, and sometimes being less stressed can make you less sensitive to pain. However, some terpenes really can act as analgesics to reduce pain in several ways:
- Beta-Caryophyllene directly interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS). Studies show this terpene may help provide reduce pain relating to the nervous system. Plus, beta-caryophyllene helps provide topical pain relief in creams and ointments because it acts as a local anesthetic.
- Linalool has several different properties that induce a sense of calm and comfort. Research suggests that its effect on brain cells influences certain functions that dull both muscle contractions and arousal.
- One study showed decreased pain perception in mice when they were injected with myrcene. What’s even more interesting is that it inhibited pain for both the Central Nervous System and in peripheral analgesia.
READ NEXT → The Five Best Terpenes for Pain Relief
How Do Terpenes Reduce Anxiety?
There’s a long history of humans relying on plants for their calming and relaxing properties. Lavender, in particular, has been used for thousands of years to reduce stress and promote a sense of wellbeing. Turns out, a big part of those effects are from isolates like Linalool! But how exactly do terpenes reduce anxiety:
- One study analyzing Beta-Caryophyllene effects on mice found that it was efficient at calming feelings of anxiety and heavy stress. Beta-Caryophyllene can directly interact with CB2 receptors to promote these feelings.
- A study found that D-Limonene is incredibly effective as a treatment agent against high levels of stress, which of course can lead to ongoing anxiety. “These studies show that d-limonene exerts, through its metabolite POH, a significant anti-stress action measurable by behavioral and physiologic parameters under the influence of the nervous system,” said the NLM in the report summary.
- The US National Library of Medicine released data from a study back in 2010 that documented the effects of Linalool in treating anxiety on mice. “Inhaled linalool showed anxiolytic properties in the light/dark test, increased social interaction and decreased aggressive behavior,” the report found. “These results strengthen the suggestion that inhaling linalool rich essential oils can be useful as a mean to attain relaxation and counteract anxiety.”
READ NEXT → Best Terpenes for Anxiety
How Do Terpenes Promote Sleep?
While it might be difficult to determine the exact reason why someone might be having trouble sleeping, it’s fairly easy to know when you’ve had a bad night’s rest. Perhaps you had trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or perhaps you regularly wake up feeling exhausted.
Luckily, certain terpenes have powerful sedative effects that promote sleep. Myrcene, in particular, is believed to be behind the sedative effects of certain Indica strains.
- In a study performed on mice, myrcene increased sleep duration by around 2.6 times.
- Additionally, in that same study, D-Limonene and Citral were also assessed. “Limonene was also effective at the highest dose, and although citral did not increase the onset of sleep, it increased the duration of sleep, which is indicative of a potentiation of sleeping time. Citral (100 and 200 mg/kg body wt.) increased 2.3 and 3.5 times, respectively, the barbiturate sleeping time in mice. Similar effects were observed for myrcene and limonene at the highest dose (200 mg/kg body wt.) which increased the sleeping time around 2.6 times.”
How Do Terpenes Promote Focus?
Today, reaching for a cup of coffee is common for anyone looking to increase their energy. But does that mean someone will also become more focused? Not necessarily! However, certain terpenes DO have mechanisms that may allow them to promote focus:
- The British Journal of Pharmacology says Pinene is able to inhibit acetylcholinesterase. When this happens, the molecules that transmit information get extra protection. That’s why many cannabis users report more feelings of alertness and creativity when they consume pinene-heavy strains.
- Beta-caryophyllene helps improve cognition by reducing neuroinflammation and boosting antioxidants. It’s able to activate a special pathway (NRF2) and boost glutathione levels that protect against glutamate-induced oxidative stress. That’s a really fancy way of saying that too much glutamate can continually activate certain receptors which leads to fatigue. By boosting glutathione (an antioxidant), beta-caryophyllene basically helps your receptors function more efficiently.
How Do Terpenes Promote Creativity?
The concept of creativity may evoke images of artists and performers, but it’s so much more than that. Creativity helps us look at the world in novel ways, see patterns and connections, and come up with solutions when problems seem insurmountable.
While some people tap into creativity more easily than others, now terpenes may help promote creativity for everyone. Admittedly, creativity is a complex phenomenon that requires several isolates working together. It’s the combination of energy, focus, and relaxation that allows creative ideas to flow. For example, here’s a blend that’s been said to promote creativity.
- The dominant terpenes of XJ-13 are terpinolene, beta-caryophyllene, and limonene. Beta-caryophyllene is one of the few terpenes that binds directly to endocannabinoid receptors, so blends with this terpene tend to have quite a kick. Limonene and terpinolene provide energy, beta-caryophyllene boosts focus, and they all work together to create euphoric cerebral effects that stimulate creativity and promote conversation.
READ NEXT → 5 Best Terpene Blends to Promote Creativity
Abstrax Tech | Leaders in the Terpene Industry
We hope this inspired you to keep learning about terpenes and to start working on your own products too! If you’re ready to get creative and start concocting your own terpene infused products, be sure to check out our different isolates and premium blends. And, of course, if you’re interested in creating cannabis products with terpenes, be sure to check out the blends for our Native Series.
We’re genuinely fascinated by terpenes and enjoy being at the forefront of terpene science. Be sure to follow us for all the latest updates and feel free to tag us in all your Abstrax Terpene adventures!
Are you craving more info on terpenes? Keep learning with some of these other Abstrax articles!