Terpenes are found abundantly in nature, and they are the chemical precursor of all cannabinoids. Terpenes are aromatic compounds, which means they evaporate quickly and therefore produce a vast majority of the smells we associate with foods, perfumes, plants, personal hygiene products, cleaning solutions, and other every-day items.
Myrcene is the simplest terpene, as it’s comprised of one molecule of isoprene. Isoprene has the chemical formula C5H8. Isoprene molecules readily join with one another to form long chains with multiples of 5 carbon atoms – this is the defining feature of all terpenoid compounds. Terpenes/terpenoids serve hundreds of biological purposes and are considered one of nature’s basic building blocks.
There are hundreds of thousands of terpenoid compounds – all compounds that contain a multiple of 5 carbon atoms, such that their chemical formula would include C5, C10, C15, C20, etc.
The terpenes found in the Cannabis species give it a distinct environmental advantage over other plants. Different terpenes are necessary to perform diverse functions, including to: attract insects for pollination; repel pests; protect against fungal and bacterial infection; and even to add protective physical properties, like the flexibility of rubber.
There are some terpenoid compounds that contain up to 5000 isoprene units linked together, like which gives rubber its elastic properties. In addition to cannabis, myrcene is also commonly found in mangos, citrus, and lemongrass, and it has been found to act synergistically with THC to contribute to the sedative effects of cannabis.
In essence, terpenes add to both the flavor and the effects of cannabinoids.
The penetrating scent of terpenes in the trichomes of leaves and flowers repels pests and herbivores, making hemp one of the only plants known that doesn’t require chemical growth assistance or remediation. Others have antibiotic and antifungal properties. They produce the pervasive aroma often encountered with Cannabis, but they do many more vital things in the body, under almost everyone’s radar.