The cannabis plant is comprised of approximately 100 cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) as well as over 200 terpenes. Terpenes are volatile organic compounds that are found in every plant and are very prevalent in cannabis. Terpenes are synthesized in cannabis in secretory cells inside glandular trichomes. Terpenes play an important role by providing the plant with natural protection from bacteria and fungus, insects and other environmental stresses. The terpene profile can vary considerably from cultivar to cultivar. This is what gives each cannabis cultivar its unique smell and taste.
Only a few terpenes are typically found in concentrations that are significant. Terpenes found in concentrations of greater than 0.05% are considered of pharmacological interest. It is believed that terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids to create what scientists refer to as an “entourage effect” that potentially enhances the therapeutic benefit of the plant’s individual components. Patients who abandon a cultivar for one with higher THC and/ or CBD content may not get more relief if the terpene profile is significantly different. More research is needed for improved accuracy in describing and predicting how terpenes in cannabis can be used medicinally.