The term "terpene" refers to a wide variety of secondary chemical compounds produced by cannabis and nearly all other plants on the planet. Secondary compounds are those made by a plant as by-products to support the production of its primary compounds. In the case of cannabis, the primary compounds are cannabinoids such as THC and CBD that we enjoy consuming.
There are a variety of ways cannabis' secondary compounds support the plant's healthy growth - terpenes have an array of effects on bacteria, fungus, insects, cellular growth irregularities, and a host of other stressors. The smell of plants is also affected by terpenes.
Cannabis trichomes, which look like frost-covered leaves and buds on strains with high terpene concentrations, generate terpenes as well as cannabinoids. Cannabis strains emit their distinctive smell due to the small molecules that compose the trichomes and contribute to their distinct aromas - each terpene has its own smell, and the blending of different types and amounts of terpenes in each produces its own aroma.
There's an important difference between terpenes and cannabinoids - they're both different compounds that interact differently with our bodies. Our Endocannabinoid System receives cannabinoids directly via the receptors CB1 and CB2 to produce psychoactive effects and modifications in our cognition, mood, and physical sensations. The euphoric and intoxicating effects of THC are accompanied by a multitude of medicinal benefits that have made cannabis so popular among recreational users.
Due to its lack of intoxicating effects and many medicinal properties, CBD is often incorrectly cited as being non-psychoactive. Despite the fact that it does not produce an intoxicating effect, because it interacts with our nervous system cells to change our mood, state, and sometimes even our cognition, it is psychoactive by definition.
The effects of cannabinoids are very strong, while the effects of terpenes, particularly their cognitive effects, are more nuanced.
Therefore, while THC can produce euphoric feelings that may make you giggle or feel silly, terpenes such as Limonene and Pinene produce more subtle effects, such as an energy boost you get while you're doing housework or hiking.
To get the most predictable, repeatable, and desirable results from your cannabis products, it is crucial to understand how different terpenes affect you individually. Cannabinoids and terpenes are very different in the types of effects they produce and how they interact with our bodies, but they do work together naturally in several interesting ways that cannabis scientists call the "Entourage Effect."
Entourage Effect is a way of describing how terpenes and cannabinoids work together to interact with our nervous system's cannabinoid receptors to produce effects that are very different from that induced by just one or the other alone.
It's more complex than a simple yes or no answer. Because of the Entourage Effect, terpenes undoubtedly impact your high, but they are not typically described as inducing powerful highs on their own. However, it's been noted that terpenes are capable of elevating one's mood. They can also boost your body’s uptake of its own natural endocannabinoids - the feeling is similar to that of a "Runner's High."
Essentially, terpenes support the function of our Endocannabinoid System indirectly by encouraging binding of receptor molecules through positive influences on the binding environment.
Terpenes are very small, and natural, molecules which are capable of passing the Blood-Brain Barrier - a thin membrane protecting your brain from dangerous foreign substances. Through this action, they're capable of assisting cannabinoids into the brain, and further assist in binding them to our nervous system.
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