If you’ve been smoking for any significant amount of time, you may have heard about terpenes. These organic compounds aren’t a new discovery – in fact, a German scientist first coined the term in the 1800s. However, while we’ve known about the existence of terpenes for some time, we’re just beginning to understand their role in cannabis and why they matter.
Researchers have known that terpenes provide weed with its taste and aroma for some time. There’s more than just flavour to terpenes, though. Thanks to a phenomenon called the Entourage Effect, these organic molecules may have an impact on the overall effects of a strain. In other words, terpenes may have just as much input on how weed makes you feel as cannabinoids do.
We’ll begin this post by discussing what terpenes are. Then, we’ll cover why they’re important, and how they can impact a strain’s high. Finally, we’ll cover some of the most common terpenes found in cannabis.
- Terpenes are molecules that plants grow naturally to defend themselves
- Carry flavour and aroma
- Present in many plants, not just cannabis
- Several common cannabis terpenes
- Thanks to Entourage Effect, terpenes may be able to change a strain’s possible effects
What Are Marijuana Terpenes?
Outside of cannabinoids, terpenes are some of the most important molecules in marijuana plants. Cannabis naturally develops dozens of terpenes, which the human body can metabolize into more than 600 different compounds.
Terpenes are best known for their ability to convey flavour and aroma. If you’ve ever savoured the sweet, fruity taste of Banana Clips or the hashy, complex aroma of Pink Kush, you can thank terpenes for the experience.
Terpenes aren’t just found in cannabis. In fact, nearly every plant worldwide produces some kind of terpene. Additionally, some insects may produce these molecules. In the wild, plants use terpenes to protect themselves. Some terpenes drive away herbivores, who view plants as a tasty snack. Others attract predators to eat bugs that would normally prey on plants.
Why Are Cannabis Terpenes Important?
For years, scientists thought that cannabinoids alone gave cannabis its host of possible effects. Newer data has changed that paradigm, though. Now, researchers are beginning to unravel the possible impact that terpenes have on how a strain makes a user feel. That’s right – terpenes not only give weed its flavour, but it may also change its effects.
That’s because terpenes participate in the Entourage Effect. The Entourage Effect postulates that the presence of multiple cannabinoids in a strain or extract will change its effects. The inclusion of terpenes in the Entourage Effect make these organic molecules some of the most important components of a strain’s makeup.
Common Marijuana Terpenes
Here, we’ll cover some of the most commonly-found terpenes in cannabis plants. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all cannabis terpenes – there are more than 200 of them that can occur in weed. Instead, it’s meant as a cursory look at these compounds and their individual traits.
Limonene is one of the most common terpenes to occur in marijuana plants. Like its name suggests, it has a bold, tangy-sweet citrus taste and is commonly found in limes, lemons, oranges, and more. Limonene usually only makes up about 2 percent of a weed plant.
Limonene isn’t unique to cannabis – it has several commercial applications as well. Limonene is a common component in many cosmetics and countless cleaning products.
Many terpenes, including limonene, are known stress relievers. This terpene also plays particularly well with others, and it helps the body absorb other terpenes. Outside of these effects, limonene has several other properties like:
- Heightened mood
Linalool is a floral-scented terpene commonly associated with lavender. However, it occurs in many different sources, ranging from wild mushrooms to milk, rum, wine, and cheese. In fact, there are more than 200 plants that naturally produce linalool, including cannabis. Kush strains, in particular, tend to exhibit high levels of linalool.
Outside of cannabis, linalool can be found in a variety of products. The terpene is a common ingredient in many perfumes. It’s also a core component of many types of floral soaps.
Linalool also has a reputation as a stress-relieving agent. It may have several other effects to contribute to cannabis strains, including:
- Reducing inflammation
- Eliminating anxiety
- Painkilling properties
With a refreshing, piney scent, pinene is another common terpene in cannabis plants. Outside of weed and pine trees, pinene is also a component of rosemary and basil. It’s the most commonly found terpene in the world. Like linalool, pinene is commonly found in cleaning solutions.
Pinene has a few unique properties. It acts as a bronchodilator, meaning that it helps open breathing passages leading to the lungs. It also may be able to counteract the mind fog and short-term memory loss that smoking weed can induce. Finally, it has some properties common to many cannabis terpenes like:
- Reducing inflammation
- Eliminating anxiety
- Relieving pain
Also known as beta-caryophyllene, you can find this terpene both in its natural state and as an acid. It gives its distinctive aroma to several spices, notably black pepper and cinnamon. Caryophyllene has one extremely unique trait that makes it stand out among other terpenes: it also acts as a cannabinoid.
Outside of the typical anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties that many terpenes exhibit, caryophyllene is a strong antioxidant. Incredibly, this terpene may also be able to help extend the human lifespan. It does this by reducing stress on a user’s genes.
Toking with Terpenes
Although terpenes have a complex relationship with cannabinoids that we don’t completely understand, one thing is certain: they’re a big deal. Much of what we’ve learned about terpenes and cannabis has only come to light in the last few decades. As a result, there’s likely much about these flavour-carrying molecules for researchers to uncover.
Understanding how terpenes work gives a smoker a huge advantage when selecting what strains to buy. First, research what terpenes occur prominently in your favourite strains. Then, check out what terpenes occur in a new strain before you buy it. That will give you an idea not only of the strain’s flavour, but how its high may affect you.