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Most potheads aren’t too busy to stop and smell the flowers. A big whiff of weed can re-invigorate your lungs, and even give the sniffer a bit of a contact high. Why does weed smell so good, though?
The answer is a class of chemicals called terpenes. Terpenes are a chemical compound found in a wide-array of organic life, and can account for distinctive fragrances. As flavor and aroma are closely associated phenomena, terpenes can account for both. Although most plants usually contain one specific aroma, they can have hundreds of different terpenes. Certain cannabis strains contain more than 120 terpenes, mostly around the plant’s buds.
If you observe a cannabis plant closely, you’ll notice the crystalline hairs covering the plant’s buds. The buds are what you smoke when you smoke flower, and good bud is very sticky and hairy. These hairs are known as trichomes and they produce terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids, and cannabinoids, the compounds largely responsible for marijuana’s effects.
Many people often use the terms 'terpenes' and 'terpenoids' interchangeably. However, they don't precisely denote the same thing.
Terpenes are hydrocarbons (compounds that comprise carbon and hydrogen), whereas terpenoids are hydrocarbons that have been chemically modified by various methods, such as oxygenation. Basically, terpenoids are modified terpenes. Some terpenes are modified by heat and other by chemical processes, both naturally and in the lab. But since most marijuana products mention terpenes instead of terpenoids, and since terpenoids are just a class of terpenes, we will simply discuss terpenes in this article.
The primary function of terpenes is giving a plant its distinctive flavors. When you consume cannabis, terpenes are the compounds that determine how extracts from the plant smell and taste. In addition to their flavor-enhancing abilities, terpenes also deliver specific therapeutic effects. Terpenes work synergistically with cannabinoids to provide compounded therapeutic benefits known as the entourage effect.
The entourage effect is the theory that cannabis users achieve optimal benefits by consuming products containing a maximum number of compounds from the plant. You’ll mostly experience the entourage effect when you use full-spectrum cannabis products that contain a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. That’s why buying weed that’s just high in THC but not much else isn’t as good of a deal as it sounds. While THC and CBD are great and all, terpenes are the unsung hero of marijuana’s best effects.
Now, choosing the best terpenes comes down to understanding which strains have the most of which types. The following are the most common terpenes in cannabis, along with their distinct effects and strains where they occur.
It produces sedative effects, making it an excellent compound for people struggling with stress, anxiety, and insomnia. In addition to cannabis, you can also find myrcene in plants like basil, thyme, lemongrass, and mangoes.
Some of the cannabis strains rich in limonene include Super Lemon Haze, Jack Herer, Wedding Cake, White Fire OG, and Sour Diesel. Besides cannabis, you can also find limonene in most citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruits.
Pinene is famous for its anti-inflammatory effects and can help with inflammatory conditions like asthma and arthritis. In cannabis, some of the strains that contain pinene include Chem Dawg, Strawberry Cough, Critical Mass, and Snoop’s Dream.
Other therapeutic effects of linalool include strengthening the immune system, pain management, and reducing inflammation. When looking for this terpene in cannabis, you might want to look in the direction of strains like Kosher Kush, Amnesia Haze, and Do-Si-Dos. Besides cannabis and lavender, linalool is also relatively abundant in birch bark.
Caryophyllene also packs powerful antioxidant properties and can be used as an immune-booster. The terpene is abundant in strains like Super Silver Haze, GSC, Purple Punch, and Original Glue. Other plants that contain caryophyllene include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and hops.
In terms of its therapeutic effects, terpinolene carries antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties. It also has uplifting effects, hence it is a perfect remedy against anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Tea trees, nutmeg, conifers, cumin, apples, and lilacs are other plants full of terpinolene.
While the subject of terpenes in and of itself may be interesting, all of this knowledge is wasted if not put to good use. What good is it to know the difference between linalool and caryophyllene if you can’t find out which terpenes are in which strains? We’ve pooled together a list of resources that will be helpful in your search to figure out which terpenes are in which strains.
Between these four /resources, most marijuana strains are documented, terpenes and all.
Terpenes, it turns out, are just as important as CBD and THC when it comes to good marijuana. What’s not to love about the chemical? It both makes food smell better while also providing the smell. Cannabinoids can’t stand up to that.
To be an informed consumer, you need to know a little about terpenes. While you’ve read this article, there is a good chance your budtender has not. Budtenders don’t necessarily learn about terpenes as part of their training, so you need to show up prepared. In addition, most manufacturers don’t print terpene contents on the label. It is incumbent upon you to know what you’re buying.
One suggestion is to keep personal notes on the different strains you smoke. This will help you determine precisely what you do and don’t like, while also transforming you into a veritable cannabis connoisseur. With the information provided here, you are already well on your way. Whatever your favorite flavor is, one thing is for certain: everyone loves terpenes.