"What is a Terpene and Why Should I Care?"
What does your weed smell like? Behind that core 'marijuana' smell, there are big variations in the aromas you experience from strain to strain. Pine, cheese, oranges, pepper, diesel, skunk... the list goes on, but have you ever wondered the reason for these unique scents and flavours in your cannabis?
As it turns out, these varied scents all come from the wide variety of terpenes which are found within the cannabis plant. So far, scientists have discovered over 150 different terpenes that occur naturally in cannabis. When you consider all the possible combinations & potencies in which they could be found, this certainly accounts for the wide range of smells, tastes, and even effects encountered in the cannabis world.
"What Is A Terpene?"
As mentioned, terpenes occur naturally in the cannabis plant but they also occur throughout nature in a variety of plants, like pine & lavender, and even in some insects. They are hydrocarbons that make up the main components of plant resins and also of essential oils. It is thought that the often strong odours given off by terpenes help protect the plant by deterring herbivores and/or attracting the predators of the herbivores.
Herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers all benefit from nature's wide selection of terpenes. There are at least 20,000 terpenes that have been discovered in the natural world up until now, so you can bet that many more and their effects will be found in the cannabis plant in the years to come.
With the Cannabis plant, it's the trichomes or sugary, crystal-like coating on the buds and leaves also known as kief that contains the majority of the terpenes and cannabinoids.
"So Why Should I Care?"
Well, ever enjoy the smell of an orange or a pine tree? Ever been relaxed by the scent of lavender? These terpenes cause the array of smells, flavours, and effects we all encounter with our cannabis.
Do you prefer marijuana that smells like citrus? You can thank Limonene for that. Do you enjoy a heavy, couch-locking Indica? Chances are its Myrcene, commonly found in mangoes, that is causing you to feel that way.
Medical cannabis users in particular need to pay close attention to terpene profiles when selecting the best herb for themselves and their conditions. Caryophyllene is known as being an anti-nausea agent, Humulene has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory & anti-bacterial, while Pinene is said to be a memory enhancer. (*Please note that you should consult with a medical professional before using any cannabis product for medical purposes.)
The latest science also seems to show that terpenes and cannabinoids work together in what is referred to as 'The Entourage Effect', meaning that they all work together to provide the overall effect of the cannabis and are more effective when kept together, and not separated out in to their individual components. It is for this reason that many oils and edible cannabis products have their terpenes added back in post-processing in order to provide the full effect.
Some terpenes are more rare than others, and so for the purposes of brevity we're going to have a look at some of the more common terpenes within cannabis and what to expect from them:
Caryophyllene - Provides a peppery, spicy smell. Found in black pepper & cloves.
Myrcene - The most commonly found terp in cannabis is also found in mangoes, thyme, and lemongrass. Responsible for that signature earthy, skunky smell.
Pinene - No surprise that this one is also found in pine trees (and rosemary) and gives us that piney, woody scent and flavour.
Limonene - This terpene is known for its strong citrus like aromas and for providing an energetic kick. Also found in citrus fruits and juniper.
Linalool - Found in lavender and mint, Linalool is known as a stress reliever and relaxant and gives off a floral, sweet scent.
Humulene - With a reputation as an appetite-suppressant, Humulene can be great for those looking to avoid the notorious 'munchies'. Also found in hops, basil, and coriander, this one smells herbal and earthy.
One last thing to note. Dried flower vaping can be beneficial for those looking to take advantage of specific terpenes as you are able to dial in an exact temperature to vape at, which allows you to activate a particular terpene, as they all have a different active temperature.
Science is only scratching the surface of the benefits of terpenes, but in the meantime, we can still enjoy the wide scope of wonderful flavours, smells, and effects found within the plant we love.
The Good Roots Gang