012021 Joe Garcia Cannabis Mug


Have you ever stepped outside and smelled the roses? Have you ever been on an evening walk or hike and been taken over by the soothing scent of eucalyptus? Perhaps you have driven by a field of strawberries or broccoli and may have found the smells attractive or repulsive.

Congratulations, you’ve experienced terpenes!

Terpenes contain a class of naturally occurring hydrocarbons that create a distinct smell and taste; they are composites that regulate the scent of many herbs, plants and even some animals. Some distinct terpene aromas can be found in eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, lemons, pine trees, strawberries and oranges — and even in soothing essential oils found at home.

The aromatic compounds also can be found in some animals as a oily or waxy substance, like fish oil, and the yellow pigment in fish scales, feathers, egg yolk and butter fat.

Let’s not forget, of course, that terpenes also are present in wines and cannabis and regulate the taste and smell of these products.

Terpenes perform a fundamental role in the health of plants. In some plants, terpenes can attract insects like butterflies and bees to aid in the pollination process. In other plants, however, terpenes may act and cause a strong reaction against plant predators, such as foraging animals, pests and insects.

Terpenes also can act as part of the plant’s immune system by helping to ward off diseases. In some cases, they even can help plants recover from damage.

When it comes to manufacturing products from terpenes, manufacturers extract individual terpenes and add them to products to create the flavors and scents of many everyday products that we enjoy, such as perfumes, personal products and even foods.

Another term used to describe the compound's qualities is terpenoids.

Nonetheless, terpenes and terpenoids, while similar, are not necessarily the same. Terpenes are the natural form of these composites when they are found in living plants. However, when a plant is dried out or placed through a curing process, the terpenes are broken down through the process of oxidization and metamorphose into terpenoids.

This transformation is common with the curing of cannabis, and, if not done properly, can result in top-shelf products becoming subpar products. As much as 50% of terpenes or terpenoids can be lost forever with evaporation affecting the quality of taste and smell.

Although terpenes are found everywhere, they are commonly associated with cannabis, thanks to the pungent aromas that can be described as skunky, sour, earthy, fruity or sweet.

However, there is more to terpenes than just the regulation of smell and taste, as they also provide therapeutic benefits.

While there are many terpenes, seven common terpenes and their associated medicinal effects stand out:

  • Pinene: This terpene is commonly found in the resin of pine trees. The earthy aroma has therapeutic qualities that are anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and act as a bronchial dilator.
  • Humulene: This outdoor/wood-scented terpene has two main therapeutic benefits as an appetite suppressant and anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Limonene: The citrus-scented terpene aroma acts as a mood lifter. The uplifting properties help to reduce depression and anxiety. Additionally, this terpene may help with digestion and dieting.
  • Myrcene: This earthy clove-like-scented terpene is most notable for body relaxation and can provide a sense of euphoria. It also can be an anti-inflammatory and pain-fighting ally.
  • Eucalyptol: This menthol-like cool aroma has both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
  • Phytol: This floral-scented terpene acts as a sedative and also provides anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.
  • Terpinolene: This fresh-tasting terpene, which can combine piney, floral, herbaceous and even a bit of citrus, is known for its sedative properties that help with anxiety and sleeping disorders. 

The broad therapeutic benefits of terpenes abound and have contributed to cannabis' rise from the ashes of prohibition to an era of legalization, thanks to its medicinal properties. Nature can combine terpenes' soothing aromas and pleasurable tastes with a number of health benefits. To that I say, more Flower to the People!

Monthly columnist Joe A. Garcia is a Lompoc resident who founded the Lompoc Valley Cannabis Coalition and works in the county's cannabis industry. He can be reached at FlowerToThePeople805@gmail.com or follow on Facebook @FlowerToThePeople805