Hey there – it’s your very own Professor Harvest again! I’m here to get on with our little trip along the marvels of terpenes – if you’re reading this thinking “what on Jah’s green earth you talkin’ ’bout?”, check up on my earlier introductions here and here. I’ve been digging a little deeper into the subject of terpenes and terpenoids lately and let me tell you: it just keeps getting more interesting with every article I find.
What I’ve managed to figure out so far is that terpenes are all about interactions. These fancy little chemicals work together with all sorts of things. Terpenes interact with parts of our brains when we smoke, eat, or breathe them. They also interact with systems that protect plants from threats like insects and diseases. This works the other way around, too: some terpenes attract insects that the cannabis plant needs; particularly bees for pollination.
Terpenes affecting your high
Most interesting of all, perhaps, is that terpenes interact with important marijuana chemicals like CBD and THC. By doing so, they change how these weed compounds make us feel when we get high, or when we use them for all sorts of medical purposes. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that the medical companies interested in medical marijuana are working hard to figure out exactly what kinds of terpenes have specific effects on weed as the miracle cure it sometimes seems to be. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Terpenes up your nose
Terpenes can reach your brain in more than one way. Firstly, they can get in through your nose. That is how terpenes work in aroma therapy, where they are widely used. Inhaling the vapours in essential oils drawn from plants, including cannabis plants, can influence the way you feel. Our sense of smell works through what is called the olfactory tract. It is basically a system of sensors in the nose, connected to a part of the brain known as the limbic system. This is a very old part of our body in evolutionary terms; smell was around long before any creature could hear or see, for instance. This explains why smells can trigger such deep responses in humans: they work on a deep-down and ancient part of our being. The limbic system plays an important part in regulating our mood and emotions. That is why different scents of different terpenes can make us feel so relaxed, or focused, or even get us in spiritual or sexually aroused states. Pretty fascinating stuff if you ask me. Still, terpenes are mostly interesting for pot smokers through the other way they can affect our moods.
Terpenes in your blood
Apart from breathing terpenes in through your nose, you can get them to work on your mind, mood, and body by inhaling them through your lungs. This is the usual way by which marijuana terpenes do their work, obviously. Terpenes present in the sparkly resin glands (‘crystals’) on ganja buds are released at high temperatures – when you burn them in your joint or vape them, that is. They then pass through the lungs, where they can enter your bloodstream. From there on, your blood carries them past the so-called brain/blood barrier, and once they are inside your brain, they bind to receptors all across various brain structures. There, they can do their job either directly, by interacting with your brain’s nerves that affect your mood, or they can work indirectly. This happens when they change the way the receptors in your brain deal with THC and CBD. Both the direct and indirect effects can happen at the same time. Different terpenes do it in different ways. This, in short, explains why all sorts of weed strains, with all kinds of scents and flavours, affect your highs in different ways.
The next step in our terpene tour
From here on out, I will start to explore and explain the effects that different individual terpenes can have on your high, your mind, and your whole body. At least now you have a general idea of why and how these loveable little plant substances can have these subtle effects. In my next article, I will get specific on some of the strains that you can get while you’re in Amsterdam, and the effects that their terpenes may have on you as you smoke them. Until then, sit tight and look out for the next episode of our terpene tour, dear readers!
With scented regards, Professor Harvest at the Coffeeshop Info Centre