You know it when you smell it. Maybe that smell even got you in trouble once or twice. Top shelf connoisseur-level bud, the absolute dankest of the dank, always smells. Why can you usually tell who has the good stuff just by sniffing around? The short answer: terpenes. The most common terpenes found in cannabis are shown below. These volatile organic compounds are what give high quality cannabis its amazingly complex taste and smell.
Without terpenes, cannabis would be very bland. THC and other cannabinoids have little odor or taste – which sounds about as enjoyable as eating a flavorless bowl of rice. You need to spice things up a bit! Alpha-pinene, myrcene, limonene, and linalool may not roll off the tongue, but their sensory descriptors like piney, musky, fruity, tropical, spicy, floral, and citrusy immediately conjure up memories of familiar tastes and aromas. It’s then no surprise to learn that terpenes aren’t unique to cannabis – they can be found in everything from plants and herbs to fruits and spices.
Our cannabis knowledge and vocabulary has expanded beyond THC, but it hasn’t expanded far enough. Lately, the focus has been aimed towards the other major cannabinoids – CBD, CBN, CBC and CBG – which have been shown to alleviate symptoms such as pain, nausea, seizures, and inflammation. But these cannabinoids do not tell the full story. They do not, on their own, account for the total effects felt.
Terpenes are an important component to the overall cannabis experience, not only influencing a strain’s taste and smell but also influencing its effects on the mind and body. The total effect of all of the components in cannabis is referred to as the “entourage effect.” This documented phenomenon is what distinguishes one strain from another, and research shows it relies heavily on the physiological effects produced by terpenes.
Terpenes shape the feelings and effects delivered by a strain. Whether you’re a patient seeking therapeutic effects, or a grower looking to tailor a strain, or a recreational user looking for a certain kind of buzz, it’s time to learn about terpenes and to use them to your advantage.
Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in cannabis; and despite not being quite as popular or as well-studied as cannabinoids, these diverse molecules are instrumental in delivering the physiological and psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Knowledge is Power—Get to Know Your Terpenes