Terpenes – If you’re a regular cannabis user, chances are you’ve heard of them by now, and most of us recognize that they play an important role in cannabis. But what are they and what do they do? In the next two blogs, I will do my best to explain in basic terms why they are so beneficial to us and why you as a consumer need to be aware of the most common terpenes and what they are all about.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are a diverse class of organic compounds found not only in cannabis, but also in all types of plants, their flowers and fruits, and even in insects. Finally, in this blog we focus purely on the relevance of terpenes in cannabis – which is why you’re still reading this.
Terpenes are synthesized in the trichomes (small, crystal-like structures that cover the surface of leaves and flowers) of the cannabis plant. These compounds are produced by the plant as a defense mechanism against herbivores (grazers such as goats and cattle) and to attract pollinators (insects that travel from plant to plant, allowing the plants to reproduce).
These little compounds we call terpenes produce miracles. In fact, they are responsible for the reasons you are attracted to a particular strain, because it is the terpenes that produce the aromas, flavors and effects you experience. In other words, you could say that the terpene profile defines a species.
Terpenes work together in something we call the entourage effect, in a way we still don’t fully understand. What we do know, however, is that it is the ratios of different terpenes (rather than the effect of a single terpene) together that are able to produce those characteristic smells, tastes or effects that we love so much. That gassy, dank aroma we associate with a good O.G or Kosher Kush is mainly the result of two common terpenes(Caryophyllene & Myrcene) found in more or less equal proportions in that plant. Change the proportions and the smell, taste and effects will also change.
Now it gets a little complicated – but try to keep up with me in this … Each cannabis strain has its own terpene ratio, but these ratios are not exact and can vary by a few hundredths of a percent within a specific strain, but change these ratios too much and suddenly you are talking about a different strain.
But I hear you ask, if it is the terpene ratio that defines the strain, how come one Lemon Haze can have a stronger flavor or effects than another? Well, that has largely to do with the quality of the plant. In general, how a plant is grown, harvested and stored directly affects the amount of terpenes it produces. The higher the volume, the stronger the smell, taste or effect, but as long as the proportions remain about the same, the strain remains the same.
Therefore, it is important to choose high-quality cannabis products that have been treated with passion. Unfortunately, these quality products are not available everywhere, but fortunately they are becoming more common. (All Cannabytics customers carrying the Trusted Shop sticker sell high-quality, tested products with trained staff to help and advise you).
More than 200 different terpenes have been identified – but identification does not mean we know exactly how they work and what they do. In fact, we only know the details of about 30 primary terpenes – science still has much to learn from this amazing plant.
There is only one way to find out the terpene ratio and volumes in cannabis and that is to test it using gas chromatography. And again, all Cannabytics customers have their cannabis tested for terpenes (as well as cannabinoids and contamination). You as a consumer can view these test results available in-store by scanning the qr code on the product you purchased. Greenhouse has gone a step further, displaying the dominant terpenes on their menu – this is a next-level initiative that I hope will become a trend in other stores.
If you want to know the properties of individual terpenes, you can look at the large posters hanging in our Trusted Shops – we’ll make more of them in the near future to cover more terpenes and other facts about cannabis, but for now, the 5 most common ones are listed below.
Next month we will delve deeper into the medicinal properties of terpenes and how they can be used to relieve some aches and pains – until then, be happy and be safe!
- Myrcene: This is one of the most common terpenes in cannabis and is also found in hops, which gives beer its characteristic aroma. Myrcene has a musky, spicy scent and is known for its calming and relaxing effects. It is often associated with indica strains and is believed to enhance the psychoactive properties of THC.
- Limonene: As the name suggests, limonene has a citrusy aroma reminiscent of lemons and oranges. It is also found in various citrus fruits and is known for its uplifting and stimulating effects. Limonene is believed to have anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties.
- Pine: Pine is found in abundance in pine trees and has a distinctive aroma of pine needles. It is also found in herbs such as rosemary and sage. Pineene is known for its bronchodilatory properties, which can help improve airflow to the lungs. It is thought to improve focus and alertness and may have anti-inflammatory effects.
- Linalool: Linalool has a floral scent with hints of spice and is found in lavender, as well as other aromatic plants. It is known for its calming and soothing properties and is often used in aromatherapy for its relaxing effects. Linalool may also have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.