When it comes to the effects of your flower…follow your nose.
For most people, ‘terpene’ is a foreign word when it comes to cannabis. Or, if it’s not a foreign word, its meaning and science are not widely known or discussed. For most marijuana users, sativa and indica are the go-to terms used when determining how a strain will make them feel. When in actuality, sativa and indica refer to different plant origins and growing patterns, and terpenes (along with cannabinoids THC and CBD) hold the truth – and the effects – of your cannabis.
So, you may be asking, just what exactly is a terpene? Terpenes are fragrant oils that are responsible for the aromas and flavors found in cannabis, as well as many other foods, plants, and herbs. In the cannabis plant alone, researchers have identified over 200 terpenes. And on top of having anti-fungal, anti-septic, and anti-bacterial properties, these aromatic and therapeutic compounds play a big role in how your cannabis will make you feel.
Think of some of your favourite cannabis strains – Blueberry Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, Orange Crush, Sour Diesel – all of them have very distinct smells, and of course, very distinct effects. You can thank terpenes for that. The oil is found in the plant’s resin glands, the same place where different cannabinoids are produced – including THC and CBD. And just like the cannabinoids THC and CBD, terpenes bind to receptors in your brain, which means terpene profile plays a major part in the therapeutic effects of your flower. For example, the terpene myrcene can give off a heavy sedating effect and produce that ‘couch-lock’ that many users know all too well. But on the other hand, a strain with high amounts of the terpene limonene can be uplifting and mood enhancing.
Making sense? Let’s take a look at some of the most common terpenes (scroll the bottom for an easy-to-read infographic):
Smell: Musky, earthy, citrus
Found in: Mango, thyme, lemongrass, hops
Effects: ‘Couch-lock’, sedating, body high, relaxing
Medicinal uses: Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, muscle relaxant
Common strains: Green Crack, Northern Lights
Found in: Pine, dill, parsley, basil, rosemary
Effects: Alertness, euphoria, creativity, memory retention
Medicinal uses: Anti-inflammatory, bronchodilatory, anti-biotic, memory aid
Common strains: Dutch Treat, Blue Dream
Found in: Grapefruit, lemon, lime, oranges
Effects: Elevated mood, stress relief
Medicinal uses: Anti-stress, anti-depressant, anxiolytic, immune boosting
Common strains: OG Kush, Sour Diesel
Smell: Floral, candy, citrus
Found in: Lavender
Effects: Anxiety relief, sedating
Medicinal uses: Anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, analgesic, anti-depressant, anti-acne
Common strains: Pink Kush, Skywalker OG
Smell: Spicy, wood, pepper, clove
Found in: Black pepper, cloves, rosemary, basil
Effects: Currently no noted effects
Medicinal uses: Gastroprotective, anti-inflammatory, arthritis, ulcers
Common strains: Girl Scout Cookies, Bubba Kush
An important thing to note with terpenes is that every harvest is different. Meaning, different growing techniques will produce different terpene profiles and lab testing is really the only definitive way to know what you’re ingesting.
Otherwise…follow your nose! Next time strain profiles come up in conversation, be sure to flex your knowledge and educate the masses on terpenes. And of course, hit us in the comments with any questions or comments!
Source: Russo, E.B. (2011). Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163, 1344-1364.