It is true that we learn more and more about the beneficial effects of the substances contained in cannabis. Yet still few people know where the secret of the characteristic smell, taste and color of this plant lies. Terpenes, a large class of organic compounds found not only in cannabis, give the plant its unique smell and taste, but recently it has also started to attract scientists’ attention because of their unusual properties and therapeutic applications.
Let’s start from the beginning. Terpenes are aromatic chemicals produced by many plants, including hemp. They can also be found in cinnamon, resin, ginger and even essential oils – shortly speaking, in plants that are characterized by the intense, captivating aroma. In the case of cannabis, terpenes are responsible for the unique smell of flowering flowers or smoke.
The molecular construction of the terpenes is no mystery. They are five-atom hydrocarbon volatile organic compounds of general formula (C5H8)n. Terpene molecules contain isoprene, and the smallest of them (monoterpenes) are a result of biosynthesis of two molecules. Terpenes are divided into types – we distinguish open-chain and ring terpenes, and they can be also divided into groups according to their size – this way we distinguish, for example, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, triterpenes, and even tetraterpenes.
The name of these compounds is derived from turpentine, which in nature is a constituent of conifer resins – the sharp, crisp smell of this colourless and slightly water-soluble substance is certainly known to all painting aficionados.