Terpenes are a large class of compounds that are created naturally by plants and even some insects which give off a distinct smell and flavor. These molecules can act as a natural defense for plants and can help ward off harmful parasites and bugs while helping the plant survive dangerous weather changes.
Terpenes are made of isoprene units that consist of five carbons with a head and tail. These units bond together to form various types of terpenes and the amount of units determine classification. The way in which the hydrogen and functional groups configure themselves determine the terpene smell and taste that is produced.
The benefits of the terpenes in cannabis plants are being examined to determine the role they could play in health and wellness. So far, over 100 different terpenes have been identified in cannabis plants. The potential effects of these olfactory stimulating molecules range from promoting relaxation to helping one with focus and mental clarity.
Limonene is a prominent terpene in many plants, including many strains of cannabis, and reminds the mind of the smell of fresh lemon peels. Both indica and sativa strains of cannabis can express this citrusy terpene as part of the whole effect of all the terpenes they contain. Sativa strains are said to gain an exhilarating and energizing buzz from limonene; indica strains high in limonene counteract the potential for lower moods from the increased sedative terpenes like myrcene.
Limonene is currently being studied to determine its effect on brain functions as it may be helpful for those suffering from anxiety and other ailments. The light, sweet, and fresh citrus scent of limonene is said to make one feel energetic and upbeat. The inhalation of limonene vapor has been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine levels in areas of the brain that are associated with depression and anxiety, and yet it remains unclear exactly how the boost occurs.
Many common household products contain limonene as it has many uses. As a flavoring agent, limonene is commonly used in ice cream, baked goods and pudding. Another use for limonene is in household cleaning products and sprays due to its pleasant lemon-orange aroma and ability to act as a solvent. Since limonene is extracted from fruit skins it is considered a renewable product; these products are better for the environment than non-renewable products.