Cannabis has been getting a lot of press lately and while the focus has been on its legality, it has been touted as a great alternative to traditional medicines. Users have reported that cannabis is highly effective in mitigating a variety of chronic conditions and illnesses. Major components of cannabis have also been getting the limelight, including THC and CBD.
Although these compounds are essential to many of cannabis’ beneficial traits, there’s something you may not have heard of: terpenes. Terpenes are largely responsible for the aroma and flavor of cannabis. If you’ve ever loved the smell and flavor of the iconic Ice Cream or Blueberry strains, for instance, terpenes are the reason.
Terpenes are secreted in much the same way as THC and CBD, and they can account for as much as 5% of the total dry weight of a cannabis flower. Like cannabinoids, they are made in the trichomes of the cannabis plant. You’ll notice these as the sticky, shiny resin that covers the leaves and the buds.
Trichomes are an important feature of the plant as they ensure the plant’s safety from predators in the wild. Terpenes play a big part in this defense mechanism, as it produces powerful fragrances that can repel a number of potential ‘predators.’ Though this may sound ominous, terpenes are quite safe. They’re actually found in many of the plants and foods that we consume.
In fact, regulatory agencies in the U.S. agree that terpenes are naturally occurring and pose no danger to consumers. There are many kinds of terpenes in cannabis, and they are believed to support the beneficial functions that cannabis is known for. Some of the most common terpenes include myrcene and limonene.
Myrcene is often used to quell inflammation and mitigate dysentery, while limonene is commonly used in household cleaners. While many of these terpenes are abundant in cannabis, they aren’t the only stars of the show. There is a little known, but important player in the terpenes game, and it’s called guaiol.
What is Guaiol Terpene?
Guaiol ( pronounced ‘gway-ee-ol’ ), is not like other terpenes. Many terpenes present in cannabis are oil-based, but Guaiol is instead alcohol-based. It isn’t as abundant in cannabis as some other terpenes, but its presence could be very relevant – even if not much is known about it.
Guaiol is defined as a sesquiterpenoid alcohol. If you’re foggy on your chemistry, sesquiterpenes are terpenes that have a multi-ringed molecular structure. These kinds of terpenes are commonly found in nature among cypress pine, which makes sense given the fact that guaiol presents a fresh, “woodsy” aroma (albeit with an undertone of rose).
Guaiol is also responsible for the scents of many other plants, however. It is found in nutmeg, tea tree, conifers, apples, cumin, and lilacs, and is commonly used as a remedy for cough, congestion, and even as an insect repellent.
Guaiol possesses potent and important anti-microbial properties. In fact, a study done in 2007 found evidence that it can be useful in combating several bacterial strains. It has a very low boiling point that’s just shy of 92 degrees Celsius, which is why it is recommended to be vaped at a very low temperature setting.
Terpenes & Marijuana
Terpenes, also known as terpenoids, play an essential role in the composition of marijuana. They not only provide cannabis strains with their distinctive flavors and aromas, but they also work alongside CBD, THC, and other phytochemicals to support functions within the body. This process is known as the “entourage effect.”
The entourage effect describes how disparate components can come together to enhance the overall effect. This means that essential therapeutic effects such as anti-inflammation and pain relief are boosted to levels beyond what could be achieved when each compound is taken alone. The entourage effect was first described and discovered by researchers S. Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam in 1998. Mechoulam was also the first to isolate and synthesize THC.
Another study shows how terpenes, including guaiol, assist THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Researcher Ethan Russo indicated that terpenes amplified how CBD and THC influence certain receptors in the body. This often includes blocking the reuptake of certain “feel-good” chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters help to stabilize mood and encourage happiness and contentment.
Terpenes coupled with other cannabinoids and phytochemicals assist in the operation of the body’s endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is a network within the body that includes a complex of cells, tissues, and the brain, all working together to regulate movement, memory, and pain. Many of the compounds the body uses for the ECS are quite similar to those found in cannabis.
From acne to cancer, terpenes have a hand in shaping how cannabis interacts with bodily processes. A growing body of science cites cannabis in mitigating a variety of conditions and this is due in part to the powerful boost from terpenes. Not all is known about how guaiol works, but researchers have a hunch. Future studies can study its effects more in-depth, especially as legalization occurs.
Guaiol & Marijuana
What researchers do know, is this: Guaiol has beneficial properties all on its own. It may boost cannabis’ healing and therapeutic effects in extremely advantageous ways. For example, the guaiacum tree, which is found in tropical and subtropical parts of the Americas, produces high amounts of guaiol. This compound has been in use for centuries to treat many kinds of ailments, including arthritic pain, constipation and even sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis.
Its use stretches into other areas, and this compound is often utilized in labs to test for blood in human fecal samples. It has also been added to numerous foods and household items as an aromatic. It’s also been used as a diuretic, has some anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Guaiol can act as a cough suppressant, which may effectively offset coughing fits often associated with cannabis use.
A 2007 study examined guaiol’s efficacy in deterring and annihilating microbial growth. Another study in 2016 indicates that guaiol may inhibit cancer cells in cases of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Guaiol may be a key component in how cannabis affects day-to-day functions in the body. It may provide important support for anti-inflammatory actions. This bodes well for joints, fever and a variety of other conditions.
Final Thoughts on Guaiol
Cannabis is more than just THC and CBD. Although these components are part and parcel of how cannabis affects its users, it’s not the whole story. Cannabis contains many other chemical compounds, including phytochemicals and cannabinoids. Another major component is terpenes. Terpenes are responsible for the aroma and flavor of most foods and plants. They also make-up the flavor and aroma profiles of many different cannabis strains.
Much like THC and CBD, terpenes are created in the resinous portions of the cannabis plants or the trichomes. There are hundreds of different terpenes, including guaiol. Guaiol, while being one of the lesser-known terpenes, has some very significant attributes.
Unlike other terpenes, it is alcohol-based. It is a terpene that’s a liquid and is extremely heat sensitive. It is a sesquiterpene and boasts a complex ringed molecular structure. It often works alongside THC and CBD and other phytochemicals to enhance therapeutic effects. According to initial studies, this may include pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties, and mitigation of microbes. However, there isn’t much in the way of research on this particular terpene.
Guaiol may help cannabinoids in working synergistically with the body’s endocannabinoid system or ECS. This is described as “entourage effect.” In doing so, it may help the body to maintain and regulate its processes and maintain homeostasis. The ECS creates chemicals that are quite similar to cannabinoids, and therefore guaiol could help foster essential activities.
These activities may include functions that help with memory, movement and how pain signals are transmitted and interpreted. Guaiol is found in many different strains of cannabis, although the amounts of guaiol in each strain may differ. Some strains that contain this terpene include:
Guaiol has long been used in different ways to confront ailments and conditions. Throughout history, it has been used to alleviate symptoms such as coughing, decreasing inflammation, and for analgesic purposes. It has also been utilized in lowering blood pressure by virtue of its diuretic characteristics as well as possibly inhibiting the growth of certain cancer cells. At one point, it was even prescribed as a treatment for syphilis.
Due to its low boiling point, it is difficult to work with. Users must be careful not go beyond 92 degrees Celsius for best results. It is not ideal for every cannabis application and it is recommended that it be used in tinctures, topical creams and vaping.
Despite its sensitivity to high temperatures, cannabis cultivators and users are beginning to realize the benefits of guaiol. As legalization becomes a growing reality, further studies may help experts and researchers learn more about terpene and its role alongside other cannabinoids.