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What are terpenes?

Before we embark on the history of terpenes, you might be wondering, “What in the world are terpenes?”. 

Terpenes are a big, diverse group of organic compounds that are produced by a variety of plants and some insects.  They possess a strong odor that can be used for a host of reasons, most importantly, to either attract pollinating insects or protect them from predators.  I’m sure you are thinking like a skunk spraying in defense, but nope, this is inherent in the plant as a defense mechanism without the need to react.  If you still aren’t sure, you can learn more here. 

Just like lavender, rosemary and lemons produce a distinct aroma and are known to have some medicinal values, the terpene from the cannabis plant has distinct profiles that underscore how it will affect you.

The history of terpenes

While the terpene is the new kid on the block in the cannabis and CBD space today, you might be surprised to know that it’s been around and used for a very long time.  Throughout history, applications for the terpene can be identified with Egyptians, Babylonians, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and the Chinese.  All of these cultures used essential oils and their terpenoid elements medicinally.  They’re now becoming more popular as CBD and cannabis users are being educated about their holistic benefits. 

As shared, terpenes have a long history that spans many civilizations.  They’ve been around so long that we can trace them to Ancient Egypt with many uses including fragrance and religious ceremonies.  Chemists of that time would mix blend the constituents of the terpenes into blends for use by women in the form of a fragrance and even for feminine hygiene.

Terpenes can be traced to the introduction of Camphor in Eastern Europe by the Arabs in the 11th century as a treatment for illness and pain – even as a fumigant during the Black Death era.  Rosewater was mixed with camphor as a perfume ingredient sprinkled over the dead before they were prepared for burial.

Ancient Indians used the calamus root, to smoke it along with a pinch of cannabis.  There are some that suggest that the terpene, Calamus (like Pinene) promotes the production of an enzyme (acetylcholinesterase) that supports the function of neurotransmitters and lends itself to clearer thinking and improved memory.

Have you ever had a parcel of food and felt it was a bit bland and needed some black pepper to add some zest to it?  Another terpene!  There are civilizations that actually used the terpene that emits the black pepper scent as an essential oil vapor to support ease in breathing. 

 As we jump forward to the Middle Ages, people developed a process for extracting the essential oils from plants through a simpler process than is used today.

Advancing to the 17th century, a German chemist, Otto Wallach identified the structures of many terpenes and recognized they were composed of two or more carbon units.

No matter where or when in the world you are, terpenes are ubiquitous.  They are prevalent in fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, and other botanicals.

How terpenes are used

Throughout time, in different geographies and different regions, terpenes have served many purposes, but one thing is universal – they are definitely misunderstood.

While terpenes are found in many places throughout the world, they happen to be especially preeminent in the cannabis and hemp plants.  Did you know that unlike any other organisms that typically contain only one terpene, marijuana contains many terpenes? 

The easiest way to understand terpenes is to think of them as you do about essential oils. 

There are over 150 terpenes, and some are more common than others.  Like cannabis and hemp, terpenes vary from strain to strain and that is what makes them unique and gives them their specific scents and flavors.

 Each terpene can produce a complex array of effects on the user.  Some make you feel drowsy, and others can make you feel energized.  Some can improve your sex life (really your drive)! 

 While the subject of terpenes and sex comes up a lot (no pun intended), it has yet to be studied extensively.  It would probably be helpful to know which ones can improve your libido.

Terpenes, as showcased throughout history provide a host of alternative solutions to ailments.  They afford people holistic alternatives and a myriad of natural remedies with terpenes to help discomfort, inflammation, insomnia, stress, and other auto-immune challenges.  Combining them with tinctures to support the entourage effect can be beneficial.

Terpenes’ journey throughout time is undeniable and they have been used for a variety of things.  What is clear is that humankind and different cultures discovered terpene truths long before cannabis and CBD enthusiasts today.  The holistic benefits are likely endless, and we are enjoying the discovery just like those that came well before us.

Your body knows what it needs and often your nose provides the direction.  Listen to what your body tells you it needs and if you aren’t sure, either ask a trusted friend or consult with a physician to determine what is best for you.

For those of you that aren’t fully satisfied just yet, here’s a handful of common terpenes and some of their holistic benefits.

Common terpenes and their holistic solutions

Alpha and Beta-pinene (essential pine oil), the most common terpene in the plant world. 

Benefits:  A bronchodilator potentially helpful for asthmatics. Promotes alertness and memory retention.

Limonene, a major terpene in citrus as well as in cannabis.

Benefits:  An analgesic, an anti-inflammatory compound, and known to improve outlook by elevating mood and reduce stress/anxiety.

Myrcene, another terpene present in numerous cannabis varietals

Benefits:  Known for its ability to work as an anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxer, pain killer and sedative. Myrcene, which is also dominant in certain strains of marijuana is known for its “knock-out” effect, sometimes known as “couch-potato look.”

Linalool, a terpenoid prominent in lavender as well as in some cannabis strains

Benefits: Counters anxiety and mediates stress. It also amplifies serotonin-receptor transmission, providing an antidepressant effect. If used topically, it can heal acne and skin burns without scarring.

Beta-caryophyllene, found in the essential oils of black pepper, oregano, and other edible herbs, as well as in cannabis and a lot of green, leafy vegetables.

Benefits: Gastro-protective, good for treating certain ulcers, and shows promise as a therapeutic compound for inflammatory conditions and autoimmune disorders because of its ability to bind directly to the cannabinoid receptor CB2.

Terpenes + CBD and High Falls Hemp NY

Now that you have gained some knowledge about the history of terpenes and how they work, you may have a whole new perspective. Humans have been using these valuable herbs and botanicals for centuries. 

You can try our CBD Terpene Tincture right here in our store and see for yourself that High Falls Hemp NY only brings the finest CBD products to the table. 

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