- Terpenes are natural compounds that can have powerful therapeutic effects, including pain relief, improved sleep and reduced anxiety.
You may not have heard of terpenes, but you have definitely experienced them.
Terpenes are a large class of organic compounds produced by plants. They are the scent bearing constituents of essential oils. When you stop to smell the delightful aroma of a rose or lavender you are smelling terpenes! Touted as Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet, these little understood compounds are the subject of increasing interest by researchers in regards to their potential therapeutic and medicinal applications. Cannabis is particularly rich in terpenes, which is one of the reasons it has been used medicinally for over 2000 years! Here are 5 ways terpenes can optimise your health.
1.Mood-lifting and calming
Stress, anxiety, depression and general mood disorders are rife within our society and something many of us will experience at some stage. Mood is largely regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and an unbalanced ECS may lead to conditions of low mood and anxiety. This means, your unexplained low mood may be caused by a chemical imbalance in your body. Like medicinal cannabis, terpenes can act on the ECS to help it restore balance. Terpenes that may help manage anxiety include Beta-caryophyllene, Limonene, Linalool and Myrcene.
Inflammation is the body’s natural defense against further damage from pathogens, injury or irritants. However, over-active inflammation is the cause of many diseases, ranging from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome. These conditions can be severely debilitating and tend to gradually worsen with age. Although many inflammation agents exist now (such as common aspirin), the challenge is finding a medicine that does not affect other responses of the body or have any unwanted side-effects. This is where terpenes come in. For example, Alpha-Pinene is a powerful inhibitor of the NF-kB system, which produces the body’s inflammatory response (Zhou et al. 2004). Beta-caryophyllene is gastro-protective terpene (Lee, 2013) and ideal for reducing inflammation in the intestines (such as that causing Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Myrcene is a sedative, muscle relaxant, and anti-inflammatory compound. Myrcene not only shows promise in attenuating NF-kB over-expression, but also generally stimulates the body to relax thus “quieting” irritation.
Lavender essential oil is commonly used for its calming effect to assist with sleep. Lavender, of course, gets its scent from a complex blend of terpenes. Many terpenes have a mild sedative or calming effect, which can help with anxiety or sleep problems. The best terpenes for sleep include myrcene, terpinolene, terpineol, phytol, pinene, linalool, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene. If your sleeplessness is due to anxiety or pain, the calming and anti-inflammatory effects of terpene blends can assist with these issues too, allowing sleep to come naturally.
4. Pain management
Chronic pain is extremely debilitating and can lead to other conditions such as depression. Unfortunately, pain is commonly managed using prescription medications, which are largely opioid based, highly addictive, and come with a long list of side-effects. The anti-inflammatory effect of terpenes, particularly Beta-caryophyllene, is the reason why many people are turning away from prescription medication and using terpenes instead. Beta-caryophyllene is the first identified terpene to activate the CB receptors of the Endocannabinoid System. CB2 receptors are located in the immune tissues throughout the body, but there will be an increased amount in the brain following an injury or if the body is fighting a disease. When the CB2 receptors are activated they are able to reduce inflammation, which can have a direct impact on pain, while helping to reduce the damage that is caused by chronic inflammation.
5. The Entourage Effect
It is believed that the use of terpenes can enhance the effect of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. It’s what is called the ‘Entourage Effect’. The idea is that multiple cannabinoids combined with multiple terpenes lead to better therapeutic benefits than the cannabinoids alone. If you’re purchasing cannabis for medicinal purposes look for products that list terpenes as part of the cannabis blend, or purchase a separate terpene blend to enhance its effect.
Here are some other ways to get more terpenes in your diet
Add herbs and spices to your meals
One of the most therapeutic terpenes, Beta-caryophyllene, is found in black pepper, lemon balm, hops, cloves, cannabis, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric and several other herbs and spices. It selectively stimulates the CB2 receptor, a sought-after property in the development of treatments for inflammatory disorders.
Drink herbal teas
Herbal teas are a fantastic way to get a wider variety of plant terpenes into your diet. Most plants used in herbal teas, e.g. lemon balm, peppermint and echinacea do not feature in our daily meals so enjoy a cuppa every night after dinner.
Where can I purchase terpenes?
Before purchasing terpenes, do your research. Identify what you are trying to treat and which terpenes are effective for this condition. If you believe the condition/s you are trying to manage can be treated with CBD oil you may be interested in Cannanda’s CB2 range, which is a cheaper and legal alternative to CBD oil.
For more information on how to improve your overall health and wellbeing read:
- The Endocannabinoid System and your health
- How to support your endocannabinoid system without using cannabis
We wish you all the best in your journey to improved health.
Zhou, J.Y., Tang, F.D., Mao, G.G. and Bian, R.L. (2004) Effect of alpha-pinene on nuclear translocation of Nf-kB in THP-1 cells. Acta Pharmacol. Sin. 25, 480-484.
Lee, Martin A. “Talking Terpenes”. 2013 April 8.