One word that we see quite often used by advocates of dry herb vaporizing is “terpenes”. It’s a word that seems to inspire a lot virtual head nodding and muttered responses along the lines of; “Ah yes, one mustn’t forget the beneficial terpenes. Very important and all that.” In fact, for all the discussion, there doesn’t seem to be that much actual information out there, and we get the impression that there’s an opportunity for us to shed some light on the topic.
Almost all of us are familiar with terpenes on a deep level, we just don’t entirely know the nature of our relationship. If you think back, maybe you can remember the first time you noticed the way it smells in a pine forest. It’s a strong odor, certainly. It doesn’t smell like anything else, either. But there’s something going on beyond those two facts, and you knew it the moment you breathed it in. Any time you enter a woodland dominated by conifers it changes the context and the mood. It evokes memories, and you never really know where you’ll go back to. The reason for that is that pine trees produce a lot of volatile terpenes, and you rarely encounter those types of chemicals at that density otherwise. Somehow you know that, unlike other powerful and unique odors, this is something living and wholesome instead of something dead or dangerous. Something to be embraced and not avoided (please embrace the scent of the trees, metaphorically. Not the trees themselves).
Now, no one really knows exactly why we react to the fragrance of terpenes the way we do, but the reaction is genuine and universal enough to have helped launch an entire billion dollar industry in aromatherapy. The “essential oils” typical in aromatherapy smell the way they do because of the aromatic terpenes present in the lipids produced by plants.
Beer brewing is another, even bigger industry that’s heavily dependant on terpenes. The hops that are in (exceedingly close to) every drop of beer made have the aroma they do because of the terpenes present. In fact, it’s fairly common for hops growers to try and manipulate the levels of different terpenes present in the many varieties under cultivation. It works too, that’s why brewers can add different hops to very similar grain bills and the resulting beers will have profiles ranging from “floral” to “citrus”. It’s really amazing.
All that is interesting enough, and most of us don’t spend much time considering how different scents affect the way we interpret the world around us, even though they definitely do. However, the real question is; Why are we seeing the word come up so often lately when the subject of dry herb vaping is at hand? It’s probably because we’ve discovered that they’re important, and that they are part of what makes vaping different than all other approaches to botanical medicines; burning destroys terpenes, baking ignores them. But we’re still trying to work out what’s going on and how to get the most out of their usage.
Linalool, for example, is a commonly encountered terpene. Every time you catch a whiff of the bracing, fresh scent of mint, you’re getting a schnoz full of linalool. And it’s in a lot of other vaped plants too. Research suggests that linalool is a funny word to say. No, that’s not what research suggests. Research suggests that it has anti-anxiety properties and therefore if you vape an herb with high levels of that terpene, you will feel mellow and confident.
Limonene is another one that’s pretty common. If the name brings to mind lemons or limes, that’s because it’s commonly encountered in the flowers or peels of certain citrus fruits. Limonene seems to promote energy and mood elevation in laboratory animals lucky enough to have been exposed to it. Herbs that contain high percentages of limonene would be good to vape before you have to go do yard work.
Maybe there’s a future blog entry covering all the terpenes that are present in the various useful botanicals and their purported advantages, but the point here is that they are a genuine active compound in all the plant based remedies currently available to the vaping public. It’s also very important to understand that vaping is the best way to get them working for you.
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