Terpenes: Taste & Smell
For many people the word “terpene” is a strange and unfamiliar term, but it won’t be for much longer. As science and technology carry us to better understandings of cannabis, we’re beginning to see that there’s a lot more to cannabis than its cannabinoid content. To get a hint of the other therapeutic compounds in your strain, just give it a sniff.
Terpenes are fragrant oils that give cannabis its aromatic diversity. They’re what give Blueberry its signature berry smell, Sour Diesel its funky fuel flavor, and Lavender its sweet floral aroma. These oils are secreted in the flower’s sticky resin glands, the same ones that produce THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Terpenes are by no means unique to cannabis; they can be found in many other herbs, fruits, and plants as well.
Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and every strain tends toward a unique terpene type and composition. In other words, a strain like Cheese and its descendants will likely have a discernible cheese-like smell, and Blueberry offspring often inherit the smell of berries.
The diverse palate of cannabis flavors is impressive enough, but arguably the most fascinating characteristic of terpenes is their ability to interact synergistically with other compounds in the plant, like cannabinoids. In the past few decades, most cannabis varieties have been bred to contain high levels of THC, and as a result, other cannabinoids like CBD have fallen to just trace amounts. This has led many to believe that terpenes may play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains.
When choosing a strain based on its terpene content, keep in mind that different harvests may demonstrate dramatically different terpenoid profiles due to variances in growing and curing techniques. Lab-tested products are the only surefire way of knowing a strain’s terpene potency – without it, you’ll have to rely on your nose to guide you.
Lastly, when choosing your method of ingestion, keep in mind that the beneficial qualities of terpenes can be seriously damaged if heated past their boiling point. It is best to try a ‘low-heat’ device.
Most common cannabis terpenes
Effects: Alertness, memory retention, counteracts some THC effects
Medical Value: Asthma, antiseptic
Also Found In: Pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley, dill
High Pinene Cannabis Strains: Jack Herer, Chemdawg, Bubba Kush, Trainwreck, Super Silver Haze
Aroma: Musky, cloves, earthy, herbal with notes of citrus and tropical fruit
Effects: Sedating “couchlock” effect, relaxing
Medical Value: Antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic; good for muscle tension, sleeplessness, pain, inflammation, depression
Also Found In: Mango, lemongrass, thyme, hops
High Myrcene Cannabis Strains: Pure Kush, El Nino, Himalayan Gold, Skunk #1, White Widow
Effects: Elevated mood, stress relief
Medical Value: Antifungal, anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, dissolves gallstones, mood-enhancer; may treat gastrointestinal complications, heartburn, depression
Also Found In: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint
High Limonene Cannabis Strains: OG Kush, Super Lemon Haze, Jack the Ripper, Lemon Skunk
Aroma: Pepper, spicy, woody, cloves
Effects: No detectable physical effects
Medical Value: Gastroprotective, anti-inflammatory; good for arthritis, ulcers, autoimmune disorders, and other gastrointestinal complications
Also Found In: Black pepper, cloves, cotton
High Caryophyllene Cannabis Strains: Hash Plant