Cannabinoids & Terpenes: What Are They & Why They Matter

Posted on September 12th, 2021 to Education

When you study the cannabis plant, you’ll find that telltale effects can be attributed to certain chemical compounds and constituents of the plant. Two of the primary compounds found in cannabis are cannabinoids and terpenes. Let’s take a closer look.

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that are found naturally in plants that are part of the cannabis family. Researchers have found that the cannabis plant is one of the most diverse when it comes to chemical composition—containing at least 480 identifiable compounds, with at least 100 of them classified as cannabinoids.

What are the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis?

Of all cannabinoids, the one with the most noteworthy reputation is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or delta-9 THC. This form of THC, while not the only one, is the primary cannabinoid associated with that trademark intoxicating effect of cannabis. A few other noteworthy cannabinoids found in cannabis include:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)

While there are plenty of other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, it is the aforementioned compounds that have received the most scientific attention. These cannabinoids also tend to be most abundant. However, new cannabinoids are tested and developed often. One other popular cannabinoid not mentioned above is Delta-8 THC, which is actually a derivative of CBD—but that’s worthy of a whole separate post!

How do cannabinoids affect the body?

One of the most interesting things about cannabinoids is the way in which they each interact uniquely with the human body. The human body houses the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a vast collection of receptors and enzymes, as well as chemical compounds known as endogenous cannabinoids which are produced by our own body. When you introduce cannabinoids from cannabis to your body’s ECS, they act on the receptors of the ECS similarly to those produced by the body. THC binds directly to certain receptor found in the brain, allowing it to attribute a psychoactive effect, while a compound like CBD interacts with a different set of receptors, giving it an entirely different feeling and effect.

Did you know?

Scientists actually had no idea that the endocannabinoid system even existed until about 1988, when they initially discovered the CB1 receptor. And the reason they discovered this internal receptor system? WEED! They were testing how rats respond to THC in a lab and noticed specialized receptor sites being lit up from THC. Learn more.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are a completely different compound found in cannabis, and they are also found in TONS of other plants throughout nature. If you have ever smelled earthy pine when you enter a forest or the fresh pop of citrus when you peel an orange, you have experienced terpenes. The most notable terpenes? Pinene is what makes pine needles smell like…pine. Limonene is what gives lemons their citrus-y aroma. Myrcene adds a unique sweet tang to Mangoes, and so on. Just like they are responsible for smells and flavors in fruits and other plants, terpenes are also responsible for giving different cannabis strains their unique aromatic and flavor qualities.

What are some of the terpenes found in cannabis?

Even though terpenes are not only found in cannabis, the cannabis family of plants contains some of the most robust and diverse collections of terpenes. Some terpenes that you will find most often include:

  • Myrcene – Sweet, herbal, earthy
  • Limonene – Citrus, tang
  • Pinene – Pine-like, fresh
  • Caryophyllene – Spicy or peppery
  • Linalool – Floral
  • Terpinolene – Fruity

How do terpenes affect the body?

Terpenes do not directly interact with the ECS, but they may support the actions of cannabinoids. Some terpenes are well-known for their therapeutic potential and may interact with the body in different ways. For example, limonene is thought to deter stress, support healthy digestion, and even be good for the heart. More peer-reviews research is necessary, however, before we can make definitive claims for how terpenes impact our bodies.

Experience Terpenes and Cannabinoids for Yourself

Every cannabis strain can have a different concentration of cannabinoids and terpenes, which is why it is so fun to explore the effects of different strains. To get access to a full collection of strains to try, be sure to check out our menu at Collective.