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Difference Between Monoterpenes and Terpenes

What comes to mind when you think about top-shelf cannabis? Do you imagine meticulously hand-trimmed buds in bright, vibrant colors with fragrant aromas? What about incredibly high cannabinoid percentages?

Many assume that the very best cannabis is all about THC and CBD. However, modern cultivators want to create a more holistic flower. They would do so by creating strains that are not only rich in cannabinoids but also have desirable terpene profiles.  

There are over 100 different individual terpenes that could be present in cannabis, but specifically, monoterpenes are the most abundant. Keep reading to learn more about these fragrant molecules and their potential benefits. 

What Are Terpenes? 

If you’ve been inside a dispensary in the last five years, then you’ve probably heard the word terpenes used. But what exactly are these mysterious compounds? What do they have to do with cannabis? Do terpenes get you high?

One of the most recognizable traits of cannabis is its unique smell. That somewhat skunky aroma with complex hints of petrol and subtle hints of fruity citrus. It’s actually molecules called terpenes that are responsible for this infamous fragrance. 

However, terpenes aren’t just present in cannabis; they’re in all plants. They are the reason we want to stop and smell the roses.

Plants originally developed these molecules for evolutionary purposes. Sweet-smelling terpenes help attract pollinators and spread their seeds. While bitter terpenes ward off potential predators, preventing them from winding up as a snack for some herbivores. 

Terpenes don’t just benefit plants either. Emerging research suggests that terpenes have therapeutic and medicinal potential for humans. While we still require more clinical trials, early studies strongly suggest that different terpenes could have different characteristics. These include anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-depressive, antioxidant, and even cancer-fighting characteristics.

When these terpenes are combined with cannabinoids like THC or CBD, they enhance each other’s individual benefits. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect, and it’s why more and more cultivators are paying attention to terpenes. 

What Is A Monoterpene?   

We know about literally thousands upon thousands of different terpenes, but only around 150 of them have been found in cannabis. Of those 150 different terpenes, there is a class of terpenes known as monoterpenes. Monoterpenes account for the vast majority of the plant’s terpene content. 

The monoterpene definition is a chemical one. Monoterpenes contain two isoprene units and ten carbon atoms. Typically, the other kinds of terpenes found in cannabis are larger molecules called sesquiterpenes. These sesquiterpenes are made from three isoprene units and fifteen carbon atoms.

Benefits Of Monoterpenes

The monoterpenes found in the cannabis plant may have tons of potential as medicinal agents. Let’s take a look at some of the most common of these monoterpenes and how they may benefit us. 

  • Pinene: the aromatic molecule that gives conifer trees their signature scent, may have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and anti-anxiety effects. Studies also suggest that pinene functions as a bronchodilator — meaning it opens the airways. It may be why walking in the forest may make it easier to breathe. 
  • Limonene: As you might be able to guess from the name, this monoterpene has a citrusy and tangy smell. Studies suggest limonene has antifungal and antibacterial effects, as well as stress-relieving properties.
  • Myrcene: You can find myrcene in beer, black pepper, and, of course, cannabis. It’s a peppery terpene that may have potent sedating and muscle-relaxing effects.
  • Linalool: The relaxing aroma of linalool can be found in lavender and basil, as well as in cannabis. Preliminary research suggests that linalool has neuroprotective qualities that may make it a useful tool in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. For years, linalool has been used in aromatherapy and folk medicine to promote relaxation.