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Guide to Cannabis Terpenes

Want to take your cannabis experience to the next level? It’s time to learn about terpenes!

As cannabis culture evolves, people are getting more interested in the nuances of the plant itself, not just the effects it produces. Or whether a specific strain is an Indica or Sativa. They’re going further to understand cannabis on a deeper level. And terpenes are the hot topic everyone’s talking about right now.

Understanding terpenes can completely change and improve your relationship with cannabis. Different terpenes can affect the smell, taste, and even the plant’s therapeutic benefits. Understanding terpenes lets you pick strains that give you exactly what you’re looking for.

This guide will teach you everything there is to know about terpenes. You’ll learn what they are, how they influence the effects of cannabis, and some of the potential health benefits they offer. We’ll also highlight some popular terpenes you’re most likely to find in your favorite strains.

What are Terpenes?

We should probably start with the basics. What exactly are terpenes? Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in the essential oils of most plants (that includes cannabis.) They give the plant its distinct smell and flavor. Terpenes are also found in many other plants and fruits like lavender, oranges, pine trees, rosemary, lemongrass, and more.

Interesting fact: they evolved in plants as a self-defense mechanism to repel predators and attract pollinators. Since insects rely on scent to locate food and mates, terpenes are responsible for creating the enticing aromas that attract them. [1]

The Effects of Terpenes on Cannabis

We know that THC produces the psychoactive “high” in cannabis, and CBD provides therapeutic benefits. But what about terpenes? It turns out terpenes also play a role in the overall effects of cannabis.

Different combinations of cannabis terpenes can create unique experiences for users in regards to:

Smell

You know when you first open up a brand new bag of cannabis, and you get that whiff of dank, good smell? That comes from the terpenes. Terpenes give cannabis its distinct aroma, ranging from more lemony and citrusy to deeper, earthier, and muskier smells. It’s like walking through a forest. You can detect hints of pine, soil, and flowers all around you. That’s Mother Nature’s terpenes at work.

So next time you take a whiff of a new strain, try to pick out the different notes and see if you can guess which terpenes are responsible for that dank smell.

Taste

What affects smell also affects taste. Our noses and throats share the same airways, so the terpenes we pick up on through our sense of smell also contribute to the taste of cannabis when we consume it. [2]

Different terpenes can give a strain a sweet, spicy, floral, herbal, or even funky taste. Personal preference comes into play here. Identifying terpenes you enjoy can help you find new strains with a similar taste profile.

The “Entourage Effect”

Alright, this is where things get really interesting. Beyond influencing smell and flavor, terpenes also interact with our endocannabinoid system. They play a role in the overall therapeutic or psychological effects of cannabis, working synergistically with cannabinoids to contribute to the plant’s overall efficacy. That’s a mouthful, we know, but bear with us because this is important.

Research suggests that terpenes work together with the other compounds in cannabis, like THC and CBD, to produce something called the “entourage effect.” Basically, this means that the plant’s effects are stronger when all of its components work together in synergy. [3]

The Benefits of Terpenes

The fact that terpenes influence the effects of cannabis brings us to our next point. Some research suggests that terpenes may have health benefits on their own! It’s why drinking certain essential oils or herbal teas can benefit you.

Let’s look at some of the potential therapeutic properties of cannabis terpenes.

Antioxidants

You’ve probably heard about antioxidants before – they’re compounds that help protect our cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. Free radicals contribute to disease, inflammation, and aging. Antioxidants counter the effects of free radicals.

Preliminary research shows that some terpenes act as antioxidants within the body, potentially reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. It’s worth noting that free radicals also contribute to cancer development, so terpenes’ antioxidant properties may also have anti-cancer potential.[4]

Pain Relief

Over 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain each year. Issues like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and back pain can severely impact a person’s quality of life. [5] Many turn to prescription medications like opioids for relief, but these drugs come with significant risks and side effects.

Some terpenes have been found to have analgesic properties, meaning they may help reduce pain. They are thought to activate analgesic (pain-relieving) receptors in the brain and body. [6] 

Thanks to the entourage effect discusses earlier, they may also boost the pain-relieving properties of cannabinoids like THC and CBD for natural plant-based pain relief. 

Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is a normal immune response, but when it becomes chronic, it can contribute to issues like arthritis, IBS, and even heart disease. The good news is that some terpenes appear to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties!

These terpenes may help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of various inflammatory conditions by reducing inflammation throughout the body. Combined with their potential pain-relieving effects, this could be a game-changer for many people.

Anxiety Relief

Cannabis is well-established for reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. Cannabis terpenes may play an important role in these mental health benefits. [8]

Of course, more research is needed to fully understand how terpenes affect our minds and bodies. But if you find certain strains especially soothing, it could be because of their unique terpene profiles.

Top 6 Cannabis Terpenes

By now, you’re probably curious about which specific terpenes you’re likely to encounter in your go-to strains. There are over 100 identified terpenes in cannabis, though some appear more prevalently than others. These are 6 of the most common cannabis terpenes that give strains their distinctive personalities.

Limonene

If you’re a fan of fruity, citrusy strains, chances are you’re loving the limonene! As the name suggests, this terpene has a bright, lemony aroma that’s super refreshing. You can also find it in (surprise, surprise) lemons, limes, and oranges.

But limonene’s benefits reach far beyond taste and aroma. Research indicates it has antifungal and antibacterial properties, plus it may support weight loss and heart health. [9] Garden Greens’ Z Pie is a prime example.

Pinene

You guessed it – pinene gives strains a piney aroma, much like its namesake pine trees where it’s also found. Mexican Flan by Cookie’s Flowers has a decent amount of pinene. It’s also present in basil, parsley, dill, and rosemary.

Beyond conjuring up images of evergreen forests, pinene may help counteract short-term memory loss related to THC and boost alertness, focus, and energy. [10]

Linalool

Linalool is one terpene that really lives up to its name. It’s largely responsible for the floral aromas in cannabis strains. Appropriately, it’s also found in lavender, birch trees, and coriander. Try Fumez by Rythm to see what we mean.

Linalool is being studied for its potential to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. Its soothing properties may also help improve sleep. [11]

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is interesting because it’s the only terpene directly activating the CB2 receptors in our endocannabinoid system. [12] These receptors regulate inflammation and pain. Caryophyllene is found in black pepper, cloves, cinnamon leaves, and basil. It gives strains a spicy, peppery flavor and scent. It may be effective in reducing inflammation-related pain.

Take a look at Strawnana by Road Tripper, a strain high in caryophyllene, if you’re looking for pain relief.

Myrcene

Last but certainly not least is myrcene – the most common terpene in modern commercial cannabis! It can comprise as much as 65% of the total terpene profile in some strains, like Cherry Slushee. [13] This highly abundant terpene lends an herbal, earthy profile with notes of cloves, mango, and hops (it’s even found in hop plants!)

Myrcene is thought to increase cell permeability, allowing cannabinoids to be more rapidly absorbed for a faster onset of effects. It also has relaxing properties like linalool that contribute to the overall relaxing effects of Indica strains.[14]

Find Your Favorite Terpenes at One Green Leaf in Gibbsboro, NJ

We’ve covered a lot of ground exploring the science and benefits of cannabis terpenes. Remember – terpenes are what give each cannabis strain its unique smell, taste, and effects. They work together with THC and CBD to create the complex experience we know and love.

The best way to determine your favorite terpenes is to experiment with different strains and pay attention to how they make you feel. If you ever need advice on picking the perfect strain, just stop by One Green Leaf in Gibbsboro, NJ, and ask our staff.

Come talk terpenes with us, and we’ll help you zero in on the best products for you.

Sources

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7763918/

[2] https://www.scienceworld.ca/resource/taste-smell-connection/#:~:text=Because%20the%20nose%20and%20throat,80%25%20of%20what%20we%20taste.

[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/the-entourage-effect#:~:text=This%20is%20the%20theory%20that,effect%20than%20when%20taken%20alone.

[4] https://books.google.com/books/about/Potential_Antioxidant_Activity_of_Terpen.html?id=gwwj0AEACAAJ

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC11095171/#:~:text=More%20than%2050%20million%20Americans,many%20patients%20receiving%20ineffective%20care.

[6] https://www.marijuanamoment.net/marijuana-terpenes-are-as-effective-as-morphine-for-pain-relief-and-have-fewer-side-effects-new-study-finds/

[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2215017X2400002X#:~:text=In%20addition%2C%20terpenes%20have%20known,inflammatory%20agents%20for%20human%20use.

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7324885/

[9] https://infectiouscongress.com/program/scientific-program/2023/inhibitory-effects-of-limonene-on-candida-albicans-virulence-related-traits#:~:text=Limonene%20is%20an%20excellent%20candidate,in%20vivo%20research%20are%20required.

[10] https://www.alchimiaweb.com/blogen/pinene/

[11] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0944711309002578

[12] https://mamedica.co.uk/caryophyllene-the-benefits-of-medical-cannabis-terpenes/#:~:text=In%20particular%2C%20this%20compound%20binds,with%20anxiety%20and%20chronic%20pain.

[13] https://weedmaps.com/learn/the-plant/myrcene

[14] https://labeffects.com/terpene-glossary-myrcene/#:~:text=Myrcene%20allows%20for%20more%20absorption,than%20if%20they%20were%20isolated.