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Understanding the Understated Compounds in Cannabis: A Close Look at Terpenes

March 4, 2019
Understanding the Understated Compounds in Cannabis: A Close Look at Terpenes

-        What are terpenes? What does the research say about them? What are the most important things to know?

Plants existed on this planet long before mammals did. However, plants couldn’t exist without animals. Interestingly, plants have developed a complex relationship with the world around them; and, though they can be subtle, they’ve developed unique ways of impacting their environment to improve their outcomes. Because they appear sedentary and unconscious, it’s easy to regard plants as passive, non-creative, and docile. However, upon close examination, we’ll discover that’s far from the truth.

More specifically, let’s take a look at the chemical genius that plants employ to influence their environment. Obviously, with hundreds of compounds in cannabis, it would be difficult to cover them all in one article. So, let’s take a close look at an important class of compounds within the cannabis plant: its terpenes.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are a class of organic hydrocarbons that number well over 100 in cannabis. However, they aren’t found solely in cannabis plants. Terpenes are a common plant compound found all across the world. So, why are these hydrocarbons so ubiquitous in the plant world? The answer is: for a variety of reasons.

To get a better understanding of what terpenes are, let’s take a close look at what terpenes do in nature. Then, we’ll look at what terpenes do for humans and some of the key things to remember about them.

What Does the Research Say About Terpenes in Nature?

As we get a better understanding of the chemical nature of plants, it becomes clear that plants are not the docile, innocent, passive creatures they appear to be. In fact, it seems they are keenly aware of their surroundings and have manufactured their own chemicals to appropriately respond to stressors of all kinds.

For example, every creature on earth is born with an innate desire to procreate. Since flowers, trees, and bushes can’t pick up their roots to find a new mate, they require their environment’s assistance. For example, wind can whisk seeds away from their parent and spread the population further. However, plants can’t always rely on wind. That’s partly what they use terpenes for.


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