Terpene Tour: Myrcene
What is it that distinguishes a tangy bag of Lemon Skunk from a distinctive pouch of Blue Cheese? At first the smell is instantly noticeable and would appear to be the only differentiating factor if not for varying things like size and colouration. But the smell and taste of each strain are in fact much more than that.
The flavour and aroma of each family of marijuana is down to the terpenes, terpenoids and flavanoids exclusive to its genealogy. The contrast between different families, in turns of smell and taste, is down to each ones unique chemical make-up, of which terpenes play a large role.
But terpenes, terpenoids and flavonoids aren’t just the reason your weed smells and tastes the way it does, they also tell when studied, the effects the marijuana is likely to have when burned with THC. It is these little ingredients that play the main part in the Blue Cheese’s relaxing high, while similar but different versions of the chemicals in Lemon Skunk change its effect from a relaxing one to an uplifting one.
So now we know how they affect what you’re smoking but what actually are they?
SO WHAT ARE TERPENES?
Terpenes and Terpenoids are naturally occurring hydrocarbons found in the make-up of a variety of plants and animals. Normally manufactured in plants for the purpose of repelling insects, they also act in marijuana plants as building blocks that help in the production of vitamins, resins, hormones and cannabinoids. Through the specially adapted cells within the trichomes of the plant, the tiny terpenes are produced and carpet the flowers and leaves of the plant with a microscopic iridescence. It is this iridescent barrier that produces thick, pungent oils when the plant is under threat as a means of repelling pests and trapping potential predators in the viscous solution. But it can also be used as a self-cooling system. When the plant senses high temperatures, it produces a larger amount of terpenes, which will in turn evaporate under the heat of the sun, stimulating airflows that reduce transpiration and prevent the plant from losing copious amounts of water. This proves to be so effective a defensive mechanism that over 20,000 variations of terpenes have been documented in nature so far.
As said earlier, it is terpenes, terpenoids (and flavanoids) that create the smell of a specific plant and produce its effects but;
HOW ARE TERPENES DIFFERENT FROM TERPENOIDS?
Terpenes are basic hydrocarbons, whereas terpenoids have extra functional groups that are often made up of a wide range of chemical elements. Despite this clear distinction, the words terpenes and terpenoids are often used interchangeably, much to the ire of the scientists discerning these miniscule chemicals and their differences.
So how do these terpenes affect you? Well, by getting to know the varieties better, you will be better able to guess the effects each strain will have on you, just by smelling it.
Myrcene is one of the more common terpenes found in cannabis and tends to have an earthy, lightly spicy flavour. It can often be over 60 percent of the terpene volume found in a plant and has been found to actually aid the construction of other varieties of terpenes within the plant.
The amount of Myrcene within a cannabis plant is the deciding factor in whether the plant is of the indica or sativa strain (over 0.5 percent myrcene for indica and anything less for sativa). Myrcene isn’t restricted to your weed though and can be found in mangoes, lemon grass, bay leaves and other plants.
The smell is pungent and slightly metallic, Myrcene is the cause of the “green hop aroma” that is produced by dry-hopped beers, so it’s no wonder that in high concentrations it can emit a very strong odour. It’s this active ingredient, Myrcene that acts as a mild sedative in hops and has been utilised in herbal remedies combating sleeping disorders. Studies have appeared to confirm myrcene’s sedative, motoric and muscle relaxant qualities. In laboratory tests on mice, the Myrcene had a calming effect and seemed to alter the blood-brain barrier, which resulted in increased penetration of cannabinoid effects to the brain. Not only that, but evidence appears to show that the Myrcene allows the effects of marijuana to take effect more quickly and increase the maximum saturation level of the CB1 receptor, meaning the high is more intense and mentally stimulating. Some sources have also claimed that Myrcene is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and analgesic with a great deal of health benefits like, preventing peptic ulcer disease and warding off joint pain and insomnia. Some studies even said Myrcene seemed to help fight the growth of cancer cells, suppress muscle spasms and tranquilise certain psychotic disorders.
THE OTHER TERPENES
Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpenoid with a strong smell of pine needles. Pinene is used medicinally as a way of fighting inflammation and as an antiseptic. It has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine as method of fighting cancers for years and the pine needle oil has appeared to show anti-cancer activity. Pinene is an important component of pine resin and is among the most commonly found terpenes in nature, being often found in conifers, balsamic resin and citrus fruits.
Linalool is a linear monoterpene with gentle aromas of flowers and lavender. It has been used in medicine for hundreds of years as a way of calming patients and inducing a good night’s sleep. Its effects are also thought to be useful in fighting psychosis and anxiety. Additionally, some studies suggest that it can reduce inflammation of the lungs and can promote cognitive function. Linalool has been found in hundreds of different kinds of plants, like mints, laurels, cinnamons and birch trees.
Eucalyptol is a monoterpene and a cyclic ester that is almost the entire ingredient in essential oil of eucalyptus. It has a strong piercing smell akin to menthol. In plants the terpene is used to repel insects and pests. It has been used in medicine as a way of treating asthma and sinus problems as well as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. It can be found in the Eucalyptus tree native to Australia.
Caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene and is in fact the particular smell that most police sniffer dogs are trained to recognise. It has an earthy, spicy smell and has been used in the treatment of dermatitis in animals. It is additionally thought to possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects and studies suggested it could be useful in the treatment of patients with arthritis and sufferers of chronic pain. The terpene can be naturally found in cloves, black pepper and cinnamon leaves.
Limonene is a cyclic carbohydrate and a main factor in essential oils of lemons and other citrus fruits. Its smell is sweetly sour and sharp. It is the second most commonly found terpene in nature and is often used by people as a food flavouring. In medicine, it has been found to fight the bacterium that causes acne and studies said that the dispersal of limonene in a closed environment helped fight the effects of depression. In addition to and perhaps because of this, it is often used in cosmetics, cleaning products and household fragrances. Limonene can, perhaps predictably, be found specifically in lemons but also other high citrus fruits such as oranges and limes.
Carene is a bicyclic monoterpene and has a strong but sweet aroma. It’s often used in cypress oil and juniper berry oil and can, in high concentrations, be a central nervous system depressant. In medicine people utilise the terpene to remove superfluous bodily fluids such as the excess sweat or tears produced in a fever. Carene can be naturally found in lemons, limes, bell peppers, grapefruits and pine extract.
Written by: Guest Writer
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