In light of the temporary vaporizer ban here in Massachusetts and similar actions across the country, botanical terpenes and their safety have been brought into question. Currently botanical terpenes are widely known as an ingredient in medical and recreational cannabis vaporizer products, but what are they and are they safe? The team at Coast Cannabis Co™ digs deeper.
Terpenes are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in essential oils contained in numerous plants including cannabis, fruits, herbs and spices. Cannabis derived terpenes are just that, sourced from cannabis, while botanical terpenes are harvested from other plants. Terpenes like limonene can be found naturally in lemons and oranges, as well as cannabis. Although these are three different plant types the composition of limonene found within their essential oils is identical. Another common example of a terpene is linalool, found in lavender which is responsible for a relaxing and calming effect, is also found in cannabis. Though chemically identical and naturally occurring in a variety of plants including cannabis the question still remains, are they safe for consumption?
With this in mind the team here at Coast Cannabis Co.™ set out to learn more. In this search for answers we’ve found several articles published by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health with results suggesting that both terpenes contained within cannabis or collected from botanical sources when inhaled seem to be at the very least benign and may even have beneficial qualities. Let’s unpack some of our findings!
Cannabis naturally produces a wide range of essential oils (Gulluni 2018) which include terpenes. Terpenes are defined as “any of various isomeric hydrocarbons C10H16 found present in essential oils” (Merriam-Webster). A study using the terpene alpha pinene on mice, a compound found in the oils of conifers, “…suggest that alpha-pinene has an anti-inflammatory effect…” (Bae 2012) and “There was significant anxiolytic-like [anti-anxiety like] activity, which remained constant for the 5 days’ [of consecutive] inhalation of α-pinene” (Satou 2014). These studies provide evidence of the anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties of botanical terpenes when inhaled.
Hemp is part of the cannabis family and produces similar essential oils. A study conducted in 2018 on the essential oils found in hemp concluded, “…the data recorded after CEO [Cannabis Essential Oils] inhalation shows relaxation and anxiolytic effects on the brain at level of the ANS, CNS, and mood states. At level of mood states a feeling of calm, relaxation, and decreased anxiety was recorded indicating the involvement of the limbic system.” (Gulluni 2018). This study, when compared to the mice studies, suggests that terpenes have comparable effects on humans.
The study conducted by Russo shows, “…the results obtained in human depression solely with a citrus scent (Komori et al., 1995), strongly suggest the possibility of synergistic benefit of a phytocannabinoid-terpenoid preparation.” (Russo 2012). This study suggests that terpenes and essential oils have a synergistic relationship with cannabis and when combined their medicinal effects are greater than the two constituents separately.
It is clear that these published peer-reviewed studies indicate botanical terpenes have anything but a negative effect when consumed, but why are botanical terpenes used in cannabis vaporizers?
The answer is pretty simple, essential oils and terpenes that are naturally produced by cannabis plants are often lost in extraction and refinement processes. Further to this terpene content can vary from plant to plant even within the same strain creating consistency issues over time in production of vaporizer products. Botanical terpenes, identical to those terpenes found in cannabis, remove this element of inconsistency and can be reformulated with cannabis oil to match identically with those naturally occuring. Allowing for a safe way to create a vaporizer product that tastes and acts just like its flower counterpart time after time.
Cannabis Essential Oil: A Preliminary Study for the Evaluation of the Brain Effects
Daily inhalation of α-pinene in mice: effects on behavior and organ accumulation.
Protective effects of alpha-pinene in mice with cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis.
Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects