Terpenes and terpenoids are both aromatic chemical compounds commonly found in plants, including marijuana and hemp plants. Aromatic profiles vary by cultivar, also referred to as a cannabis strain, and depend on the cultivar’s genetics and growing conditions. Cannabis breeders and growers have worked tirelessly to create new and increasingly potent and flavorful varieties of cannabis strains, each with their own unique smell.
Terpenes and terpenoids are terms that have been mistakenly used interchangeably. While they do refer to similar organic compounds, they have different chemical characteristics. When consumed, terpenes and terpenoids don’t produce a “high.” Instead, they work indirectly on the same network of cell receptors that cannabinoids work on.
The Difference Between Terpenes and Terpenoids
Before discussing why terpenes and terpenoids can’t get you high, let’s understand the difference between terpenes and terpenoids. Terpenes are simple organic hydrocarbons that contain only carbon and hydrogen atoms. During the curing and drying process, for example, terpenes can become denatured by oxidation and become terpenoids. Essentially, the addition of atoms to terpenes creates a chemically-modified terpenoid.
Terpenes and terpenoids are secondary metabolites because they are created from primary metabolites (vitamins, sugars, amino acids) with the help of enzymes throughout the growing process. Terpenoids are classified into multiple sub-groups depending on their chemical profile: monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, sesterterpenes, triterpenes, and diterpenes. Terpenes and terpenoids are both used across the world for a variety of therapeutic purposes and used to infuse cosmetics and foods.
Currently, botanically-derived terpenes are safely used for cooking, making topicals, and even vaping. Cannabis-derived terpenes, however, are a little harder to come by for most people. These terpenes won’t get you high, even if they’re derived from cannabis. Cannabis terpenes are created inside the mushroom-like glands, called trichomes, that form primarily on cannabis flower buds.
Manufacturers have been able to extract terpenes through a variety of extraction methods that preserve terpenes. Terpenes have a relatively lower boiling point than more commonly extracted cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
Do Terpenes and Terpenoids Get You High?
Terpenes and terpenoids won’t get you high, no matter how hard you try. You may get dizzy, however, if you continuously breathe in concentrated forms of terpenes. While terpenes won’t necessarily get you high on their own, some research suggests that terpenes may work indirectly with other chemical compounds found in cannabis to increase the effectiveness of cannabinoids or diminish THC’s side effects such as paranoia and anxiety. Terpenes act on cell receptors and neurotransmitters that affect our mood and other biological responses. More research is needed on cannabis-derived terpenes to uncover the extent to which terpenes play a role in cannabis effects.
How to Use Terpenes
Studies on terpenes, especially cannabis-derived terpenes are scant, there’s not much information out there on recommended dosages for terpenes. Botanically-derived terpenes can add flavorful dimension to a food or drink on top of any possible therapeutic benefits. For example, one or two drops of botanically derived terpenes can be enough to infuse your cocktail or dinner.
Cannabis terpenes can be a great first step for cannabis-averse individuals who want to dip their toe into the proverbial cannabis pool. Terpene effects are subtle, if anything. You won’t get the stereotypical mind and body intoxication and heightened sensory perception from cannabis. Terpenes aren’t a quick fix for anything. They’re intended to be used throughout your daily life and improve your body over a long period of time.