It’s easy to get confused when discussing the differences between hemp and marijuana, the two types of cannabis plant. With many unaware that hemp and marijuana are different varietals of cannabis, the two terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably, despite the very distinct differences that exist between the two related plants. Hemp and marijuana are both members of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L. However, the two plants are like cousins, and marijuana will cause a "high" and Hemp will not.
Marijuana is also a cannabis plant The fibers and stalks of marijuana are not used commercially. The marijuana plant is cultivated specifically for its flowers, which contain the high levels of THC, the psychoactive element that creates that high feeling. Through selective breeding, varieties of marijuana can contain THC concentrations that range from 10% to up to 30%. Marijuana is naturally lower in CBD than THC.
Hemp is a cannabis plant that contains CBD as does marijuana, but NOT the psycho-active amount of THC. Both THC and CBD are considered Cannibidoids. For cannabis to be considered hemp, it must contain no more than 0.3% THC, so it’s impossible for hemp to get a user “high.” Unlike marijuana, hemp is naturally higher in cannabidiol (CBD), one of over 85 cannabinoids that have so far been identified in the cannabis plant. CBD is completely non-psychoactive and therefore won’t cause a high, making it safe for use by anyone, regardless of age.
Terpenes and terpenoids are the compounds in cannabis, both Hemp and Marijuana varieties, that give the plants and their flowers their aromatic diversity and distinct flavors. They’re essential oils that are secreted in cannabis flower’s sticky resin glands, where cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are also produced.
While regular cannabis consumers take note of terpenes and terpenoids primarily because of their pungent, aromatic distinctions, the compounds offer more than an intense bouquet. According to a 2001 report from renowned researcher Dr. Ethan Russo, terpenes have wide-ranging therapeutic attributes.
Over 200 different terpenes and terpenoids have so far been identified in the cannabis plant, although they’re not unique to cannabis. They exist throughout the botanical world and are found in many other plants, herbs, and fruits. Common in the human diet, terpenes are recognized as safe to consume by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Terpenes and terpenoids are essentially one in the same and the two terms are often used interchangeably. The difference between the two is that terpenes are organic hydrocarbons, while terpenoids contain additional atoms that have been altered during a process called oxidation, which occurs once cannabis has been dried and cured.
To simplify, think of terpenes as “wet” and terpenoids as “dried out.”
Like cannabinoids, terpenes bind to receptors in the brain to stimulate various effects and affect the chemical output of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Among thewide-ranging effects of terpenes that researchers have so far discovered include:
Evidence also suggests that terpenes work with cannabinoids like CBD and THC to enhance their natural balancing properties in what’s referred to as an “entourage effect.”
The entourage effect, introduced in 1998 by Israeli researchers Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam, maintains that all the natural constituents found in cannabis – terpenes, cannabinoids, and natural other compounds – work together synergistically to magnify their beneficial properties. The theory suggests that isolated cannabis compounds aren’t as effective as when all the natural constituents work together harmoniously.
Each strain of cannabis has a unique terpene profile, producing its own distinct line-up and concentration of terpenes. Here’s a look at five terpenes that occur most commonly in the greatest concentrations in cannabis.
Described as having a musky, clove, or earthy aroma, myrcene is the most abundant terpene produced by cannabis, sometimes composing up to 50 percent of the plant’s terpene volume. Myrcene, or β-myrcene, produces what is considered the stereotypical smell of cannabis.
When myrcene levels in cannabis are high, they’re responsible for eliciting the common “couch-lock” euphoric effect, or a strong sense of sedation. A 2014 study also found evidence that myrcene has anti-ulcer properties.
Myrcene is commonly found in other plants such as:
Cannabis varieties that are high in the terpene limonene have a strong citrusy smell like orange or lime. Highly absorbed by inhalation, limonene promotes a general uplift in attitude and mood, and it assists in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin.
According to WebMD, limonene may block cancer-forming chemicals and kill cancer cells, though more research is still needed. Limonene is also found in:
The peels of citrus fruits
There are actually two types of the terpene pinene — alpha and beta. The alpha variety, found in pine woods and balsamic resin, produces a scent of pine needles or fir. The beta type, found in a variety of herbs, smells like dill, parsley, rosemary, or basil.
Studies indicate that pinene possesses anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator effects. At leastone study suggests pinene has anticancer activity.
The only terpene known to interact with the endocannabinoid system, caryophyllene produces a scent that’s been described as peppery, woody, or spicy.
Studies show that caryophyllene binds to the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) to elicit an anti-inflammatory response. When administered with cannabinoids, particularly CBD, it’s shown tosafely reduce chronic pain.
Caryophyllene is also found in:
Found in over 200 plant species and most abundant in lavender, linalool has a floral aroma and has been known to promote calming, relaxing effects. It’s known best as a beneficial sleep aid and a precursor in the formation of vitamin E.
Studies also indicate that linalool may significantly reduce lung inflammation caused by smoking as well as potentially reverse the histopathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.