If you’ve begun exploring the world of cannabis products, either for your own use or in the creation of products for the commercial market, you’ve probably heard of terpenes. These aromatic compounds, which give most plants their recognizable odors and flavors, appear in particularly high concentrations in cannabis plants. They’re also bioactive, influencing the body and mind through the same endocannabinoid system that interacts with cannabis products. It’s no wonder, then, that manufacturers and home users seek specific terpene blends to enhance cannabis-based products.
There’s more to an optimal cannabis experience than just terpenes, however. Other naturally-occurring compounds can also make a major impact on cannabis effects and experiences. Let’s examine these classes of compounds and the role that they might play in defining new cannabis classifications.
Terpenes combined with acids produce compounds known as esters. (For instance, linalool plus acetic acid yields an ester called linalyl acetate.) Esters commonly produce pleasantly floral aromas which can range from jasmine to banana or strawberry. These compounds not only enhance the smell and flavor of cannabis products, but they may also offer anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antimicrobial benefits.
Esters don’t interact directly with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body, unlike some other compounds. However, they do seem to moderate the interactions of those other compounds, potentially allowing manufacturers and users to fine-tune the effects of their cannabis products.
You may have heard the odor of cannabis described as “skunky,” but don’t blame the terpenes in the plant for this skunky smell. The aroma actually comes from a class of compounds known as thiols. Specifically, the thiol 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol, or 321 MBT for short, is the same compound that also makes a skunk’s spray its sulfurous, instantly recognizable smell. Beer exposed to light can also go skunky when the light causes 321 MBT to form inside the container.
You’ll be happy to learn that thiols do much more than just stink. They appear to hold valuable antioxidant properties, reacting with free radicals in ways that can help protect cells against damage.
The plant world relies heavily on flavonoids for a wide range of benefits and functions. Flavonoids give many fruits and vegetables their bright colors, attracting insects which then pollinate the plants. Common types of flavonoids include anthocyanins, anthoxanthins, flavanones, isoflavonoids, flavones, and chalcones. Your body gets flavonoids whenever you consume red wine, dark chocolate, banabas, blueberries, parsely, and onions.
There are good reasons to seek out flavonoids from foods, supplements, and other sources. Flavonoids enjoy an exalted reputation for their antioxidant properties, protecting cells against damage just as thiols do. These compounds can also fight viral infections, allergies, and inflammation. They may even have anti-cancer properties. Some research suggests that the more flavonoids people ingest, the lower their risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty plaques on artery walls).
Aldehydes are produced when alcohols lose their water content. Different members of the aldehyde family may produce different kinds of aromas. For instance, benzaldehyde may smell like almonds, while vanillin creates the odor of vanilla. Other aldehydes produce the smell of citrus or cinnamon. Aldehydes may be derived from terpenes or (as in the perfume industry) synthesized from fatty acids. In fact, the classic perfume Chanel No. 5 relies on aldehydes as part of its unique scent.
Unfortunately, aldehydes in cannabis can offer a big negative among the positives. Cannabis that isn’t carefully stored to maintain its freshness can turn quite unpleasant indeed. That’s because whatever aldehydes the plant contains can go rancid if allowed to oxidize. If you’ve ever turned green after getting a whiff of rotten meat or rancid fat, you’ve smelled aldehydes at their worst. This is one of the reasons that cannabis users and producers must do everything possible to preserve the freshness of their cannabis plants. By contrast, a careful balance of the right aldehydes, stored and processed under the right conditions, can yield a very lovely aroma indeed.
Beyond Indica and Sativa: The Future of Cannabis Superclasses
The world of cannabis products has long been dominated by two superclasses: indica and sativa. The high-THC properties of sativa strains tend to have a stimulating effect, while the high-CBD properties of indica strains more usually promote deep relaxation. However, different blends of terpenes and other aromatic compounds open up a whole new world of cannabis products and applications, making many new superclasses possible. As researchers and manufacturers learn more about the different possibilities, you’ll most likely see an increasing number of cannabis products marketed for their specific aromatic compound profiles.
Whatever cannabis strain strikes you as ideal for your needs and preferences, True Extracts can help you infuse it with the right selection of terpene extracts, with over 300 distinct profiles to choose from. Browse our selection today.