Terpenes are a large group of organic compounds that occur naturally in some insects, in fruits and vegetables, and in almost all plants - including cannabis plants - and influence their flavour profile and aroma. Terpenes are secreted by the same plant glands (trichomes) of the cannabis plant that produce CBD and THC. So far, more than 20,000 different terpenes have been identified, about 200 of which have also been discovered in the cannabis plant.
The basic chemical structure of all terpenes is similar, but they vary greatly in taste, smell, and medicinal properties. All natural flavours in food originally come from terpenes. They produce the flavour of fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, and are responsible for the scent wafting from trees and blossoming flowers. Thus, they play an important role in the formation of flavours and smells that we encounter every day.
Terpenes not only give hemp a pleasant smell, but also effectively protect it from insects. For this reason, pesticides and herbicides are not needed for commercial hemp cultivation. They also support the positive effect of the cannabinoids in full-spectrum substances through the so-called entourage effect. This refers to the synergistic interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes, in which, according to researchers, the effect of each individual compound involved is enhanced.
Terpenes also play a very important role in many other plants, providing them with natural protection against bacteria and fungi, insects, and other environmental stresses. They can also attract insects, such as bees, to pollinate the plant. Some plants also release terpenes in stressful situations. Insects use terpenes mainly to communicate with their conspecifics and to attract them to a food source.
Terpenes are the main component of essential oils and are often used in aromatherapy because they are easily absorbed through the skin. It is also assumed that certain odours can positively influence our mood, stimulate creativity, or have a relaxing effect. As odour and flavour substances, they are not only found in natural foods, but also in cosmetic products. In addition, terpenes can prevent the spread of bacteria, which is why they are also suitable as natural preservatives for food.
With the individual terpenes in combination, any imaginable taste can be imitated. Manufacturers are now very creative and add the flavour compounds to a variety of products in an attempt to mimic or enhance the terpene profiles of cannabis flowers or cannabinoid oils.