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What are Super Class Terpenes?

Updated: 6 hours ago

This article was featured in No. 21 of the C3 Podcast.


An October 2022 study entitled "Effects of Super-class Cannabis Terpenes Beta-caryophyllene and Alpha-pinene on Zebrafish Behavioral Biomarkers" that was published in the journal Scientific Reports suggested the existence of a special subclass of terpenes, the aromatic molecules produced by more than 20,000 botanical species on earth, including hemp and cannabis.

The study's authors reported that cannabis terpenes "have emerged as candidate therapeutic compounds following the potential health benefits of the phytocannabinoids ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)." They explained that terpenes are a major class of phytochemicals and that they form "the essential oils of plants and flowers and are responsible for their varying aromas, flavors, and colors."


"Terpenes are a major class of phytochemicals that form the essential oils of plants and flowers and are responsible for their varying aromas, flavors, and colors."

The scientists explained how terpenes are manufactured within the glandular trichomes of the flowers of mature female plants, the same source as the most popular chemical compounds produced by hemp and cannabis, the cannabinoids CBD and THC.


Types of Terpenes

Reported the study: "Terpenes are hydrocarbon compounds that consist of varying numbers of isoprene molecules and are classified according to the number of pairs of isoprenes they are made up of. The most prevalent types of terpenes in cannabis consist of either two isoprene molecules (monoterpenes) or three isoprene molecules (sesquiterpenes), and less commonly, four isoprene molecules (diterpenes)."


Monoterpenes vs. Sesquiterpenes

"Monoterpenes are highly volatile and contribute more to the aroma of the cannabis plant, while sesquiterpenes are more stable and less likely to break down during plant processing. Each cannabis strain [cultivar] has a unique terpene profile which contributes to the different psychoactive and medicinal properties.


"Research has found terpenes have medicinal properties including anti-inflammatory, anxiety-reducting (anxiolytic), and antidepressant effects."

"Recent research has found terpene compounds to have a myriad of potential medicinal properties including, but not limited to, anti-inflammatory, anxiety-reducing (anxiolytic), and antidepressant effects in humans and mice."


Terpene Super Class

"There are more than fifty cannabis terpenes most commonly found in North American cannabis strains, eight of which predominate to form a 'Terpene Super Class,'" explained the study. It listed these terpenes as the following:

  1. Alpha-pinene

  2. Beta-caryophyllene

  3. Humulene

  4. Limonene

  5. Linalool

  6. Myrcene

  7. Ocimene

  8. Terpinolene


View the original study.


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