If you’re new to cannabis, you’ve probably gotten familiar with all the strange terms like Indica, Sativa, cannabinoids, and of course, terpenes. Each of these plays a crucial role in perfecting the relaxing or euphoric high you know and love.
Terpenes contribute to the consumer’s experiences through smell and taste. They act as aromatherapy, which is particularly beneficial for people who use CBD products.
Terpenes are crucial in the cannabis experience, and if you’re curious about them, this article will cover what they are and exactly why you need to know about them.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are aromatic compounds that create a distinct smell and taste in cannabis strains. Common terpenes are citrus, coriander, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, lilies, carnations, peppermint, rosemary, sage, and thyme and usually have a spicy taste.
Terpenes are extracted from organic matter like plants and used in everyday objects like cleaning solvents, perfumes, and even foods. The ones found in cannabis are extracted from the trichomes of female plants. Trichomes are the sticky glands that cover the surface of the flower.
Three types of terpenes in the cannabis plant are monoterpenes, diterpenes, and triterpenes. When you search cannabis products, expect to see familiar terms like limonene, myrcene, pinene, linalool, caryophyllene, and ocimene in the description.
Medical benefits of terpenes
Cannabis has had many recorded uses throughout history.
Its earliest use dates back to just after the Ice Age where it was used as cord and textile scraps in the Czech Republic. Seed and oil extracts were used as food in Central Asia. In the 19th century, hemp was the preferred fiber crop for its superior qualities. Today it is used for medicinal properties.
In the past, CBD and THC, the two chemicals responsible for the different types of highs cannabis produces, were used separately. Combining CBD, THC, and terpenes creates a strong synergy that chemists call the entourage effect. Terpenes enhance the entourage effect when patients use cannabis since some believe aroma influences their high and can result in increased effects.
In a study by Ethan B Russo, he documented the unique therapeutic effect cannabis terpenes had on medical treatments. Terpenes contribute to the phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy to enhance the treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal, and bacterial infections.
Cultivators in the cannabis industry are adding terpenes into their CBD oils and edibles due to the growing interest. Others are growing strains with unique terpene profiles for their perceived benefits. A study from Chittasupho et al. on the biosynthesis and diversity of terpene profiles stated terpenes “enhance the effect of cannabinoids and synergize the feeling of relaxation, stress relief, energy boost, and maintaining focus along with their underlying pharmaceutical functions.”
Myrcene is the primary monoterpene. A study conducted by Lumír Ondřej Hanuš for The Hadassah Medical Center discovered myrcene contained antipsychotic, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, sedative, muscle relaxant, and anticarcinogenic properties.
Cannabis users describe myrcene as herbaceous, spicy, earthy, and musky. It gives off a mildly sweet flavor.
Myrcene is also responsible for the “couch-lock” effect that can leave you feeling tired and unenergetic. It’s commonly found in hops, fresh mangoes, and lemongrass.
Blue Dream’s dominant terpene is myrcene to sweep you away into euphoria with hints of sweet berries.
It is the only terpene known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). ECS is a complex cell signaling network that regulates and balances key bodily functions. They’re known to regulate sleep, pain, mood, memory, and metabolism to name a few.
The presence of caryophyllene aids the ECS as a gastroprotective, analgesic, anticarcinogenic, antifungal, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, antioxidant, anxiolytic, analgesic, and neuroprotective support.
The caryophyllene terpene gives cannabis its spicy flavor. Caryophyllene is predominant in herbs like rosemary, cloves, oregano, and black pepper.
Feeling adventurous? Unicorn Poop smells like fermenting fruit and gas if you’re ready for that.
Pinene is the next important format terpene for its medicinal properties. It can act as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, antiseptic, and gastroprotective assistant.
Pinene is extracted from the resin in pine trees, so expect an outdoorsy, earthy smell. You can also find it in orange peels and parsley.
Guava Kush is a popular choice for users who want a tropical, sweet, or citrusy flavor.
Limonene is another dominant terpene found in cannabis. There are recorded studies of antibacterial, gastroprotective, antiproliferative, antifungal, anxiolytic, antidepressant, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and immunostimulant effects. The unmistakable scent supports focus and elevated mood.
Limonene, as you’d expect, smells of citrus. It’s often found in citrus fruits and ginger.
It’s predominant in strains like Wedding Cake, leading to a clean-burning smoke full of flavor.
Can you get high on terpenes?
Terpenes alone won’t make you high. They work with THC and CBD to influence the nature of the highs through your sense of smell. The chemicals in THC and CBD will either give you a euphoric high or a relaxed feeling, but otherwise, terpenes don’t have the same psychoactive effects by themselves.
For a better high, budtenders recommend choosing strains with a certain terpene profile to enhance the desired effect.
Terpenes influence highs, and many cultivators in the cannabis industry pay close attention to these details. Growing, harvesting, and curing all impact the quality of terpenes.
Growing cannabis indoors gives cultivators greater control over environmental factors to maintain terpenes. This includes temperature, water, soil quality, and lighting, which affect the trichomes.
The best time to harvest is when the trichomes have gone from transparent to opaque. A good rule of thumb is to look out for signs like yellowing leaves, hanging branches, and stagnant growth.
Many cultivators prefer to harvest their plants when the plant has begun to turn amber. But harvesters shouldn’t wait for it to turn completely amber or else all the chemicals will break down by then, and your plant won’t have any effects.
Terpenes play an important role in cannabis consumption. They affect the user’s experience due to their distinct aromatic properties and ultimately influence their mood and mentality. Without terpenes, we wouldn’t have aromatherapy.
Terpenes have been scientifically proven to provide medicinal benefits. There are over 400 terpenes present in cannabis but researchers are optimistic about the benefits. Myrcene, limonene, and caryophyllene provide pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties, among other things.
Cannabis has become a popular alternative medicine in recent years thanks to legalization. Patients with diabetes, cancer, mental health problems, and other issues reported the therapeutic benefits they receive. Terpenes enhance the entourage effect, boosting perceived benefits within patients, combining chemical reactions and aromatherapy for stronger effects.
The next time you’re in the market to try something new, talk to your local cannabis supplier of terpenes with your best interest in mind. The right terpene will make a world of difference for the right high.