Other compounds in Cannabis

July 2, 2019
November 15, 2019


Many different organic compounds are synthesized in hemp. Among these molecules, the most important group is phytocannabinoids, to which many pharmacological effects are attributed, but too often the importance of other compounds such as falvonoids and terpenes is also neglected.

TERPENS are molecules made up of isoprene units (C5H8) (1) They are formed in various plants which give them aroma, taste and also color, and also protect the plant from insecticides and microorganisms.

More than 200 different terpene molecules are found in hemp. (1) They are classified into different families, according to the number of repeating isoprene units at:

Monoterpenes (10 carbon atoms),

Sesquiterpenes (15 carbon atoms) and

Triterpenes (30 carbon atoms).

Mono- and sesquiterpenes are found mainly in flowers, roots and leaves, but most of them are formed in secretory hairs or trichomes, which protect the plant from the external environment. (1)

Representatives of monoterpenes are D-limonene, β-myrcene, α- and β-pinene, terpinolene and linalool, but we must emphasize that these are volatile terpenes, so they are mostly found in hemp essential oil. The main representatives of sesquiterpenes are β-caryophyllene and α-humulene, which also occur to a large extent in the hemp extract itself (hemp resin). Triterpenes have been found in hemp roots (fridelin and epifridelanol), in fiber (β-amyrin) and in hemp oil (cycloartenol, β-amirin and dammaradienol). (1)

Because terpenes are lipophilic compounds (they do not dissolve in water), they easily cross cell membranes and the blood-brain barrier (barrier), which means that they easily pass into cells. (2) Terpenes have been found to have many pharmacological properties that are presented in the table below for some.

Table I: Terpenes and their biological activity (2)

Name of terpene Biological activities
D-Limonene Anticancer, anxiolytic, immunostimulatory, causes apoptosis (death) of breast cancer cells, actively works against acne-causing bacteria and helps with gastroesophageal reflux,
β- Mircen Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, sedative, muscle relaxation, hypnotic and blocks the carcinogenicity of aflatoxins
α- Pinen Acetylcholinesterase inhibitor and thus improves memory, anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator
Linalool Analgesic, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant and local anesthetic
β- Caryophyllene Anti-inflammatory, gastro cytoprotective activity and anti-malarial. It also binds to the cannabinoid receptor CB2, so it could also be classified as a phytocannabinoid.
Pentacyclic triterpenes (β-amyrin and cycloartenol) Antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and anticancer
Nerolidol Sedative, potential antimalarial and anti-leishmaniasis,
Phytol Prevents the teratogenesis of vitamin A. It is a degradation product of chlorophyll.


Cannabis contains about 1% terpenes, while trichomes themselves contain about 10%. Most monoterpenes are found on the plant, but because they are volatile, many of them are lost during the process (drying and storage). This is prevented by preparing the essential oil from freshly harvested hemp. Since most monoterpenes are lost in dry matter, sesquiterpenes predominate, and these are also found in hemp resin. (2)

(2) This means that cannabinoids together with terpenes increase their efficiency or operation.

  1. Andre, C. M., Hausman, J.-F., Guerriero, G., 2016. “Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules”. Front. Plant Sci. 2016, 7:19
  2. Russo, E.B .; 2011. »Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effect«. British Journal of Pharmacology, 2011, Vol .: 163, pp .: 1344-1364

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