Whether you are a seasoned smoker or new to the game, you have undoubtedly come across the word “terpenes.” But what exactly are they? And what difference might they make to your cannabis experience? We took some of the most common questions we get and created a useful guide to terpenes. Keep reading to get the 411.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are chemical compounds that the cannabis plant makes to protect itself from threats in the environment. Thus it might create terpenes to defend itself against ultraviolet radiation from the sun, moisture loss, or even predators.
Cannabis plants, like hemp and marijuana, make terpenes in the same gland as CBD and THC, the two most commonly used compounds in cannabis products. Terpenes, therefore, are intrinsically part of the cannabis experience.
For many, the most impressive feature of terpenes is the aroma that they produce. Whenever you hear somebody saying that a particular strain has a “citrusy” or “woody” flavor, they’re referring to the terpene content of the flower. Some cannabis, for instance, contains high levels of the very same terpene that you find in lemons.
The sheer variety of different terpenes is impressive. There are those that taste like mint, berry, pine, and many more. It’s led to a whole new generation of cannabis connoisseurs – people who understand the plant, as well as a wine expert, understand their wine.
How Many Different Terpenes Are There?
Cannabis is, in many ways, similar to most cultivated plants. It contains hundreds of different compounds that, when taken together, impart a distinct and interesting flavor. So far, researchers have identified more than 100 such chemicals across a variety of cannabis species.
You might have seen some varieties of cannabis with “blueberry” in the name. This naming convention isn’t by accident: it’s the consequence of the fact that some cannabis strains contain high concentrations of terpenes regularly found in blueberries. It’s the same story for cannabis strains branded as having a cheese-like flavor. While cannabis is clearly non-dairy, it can make terpenes that are distinctly reminiscent of “cheddar.”
Are There Any Health Benefits Of Terpenes?
Cannabis is highly prized for its THC and CBD content, compounds that numerous scientific studies link to pain-relief, anxiety reduction, and better control of epilepsy. But could terpenes be another source of beneficial compounds for the body?
While there is still a need for more research, some terpenes, like myrcene, may have anti-anxiety properties of their own, independent of CBD. Many cannabis brands like to emphasize the myrcene content of their plants, pointing out the possible sedative and anti-inflammatory properties it may offer.
What Are The Most Common Cannabis Terpenes?
While there are dozens of cannabis terpenes, researchers have now characterized the properties of some of the most common varieties. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Myrcene is a phytochemical found in a variety of foods, including mango, hops, lemongrass, and thyme. Researchers believe that it is the most common of all terpene precursors and is found in practically all medical marijuana.
It may be a good thing that myrcene is so common. Investigation shows that the chemical helps to improve the permeability of cell membranes, allowing other beneficial constituents of the cannabis plant to enter cells and do their good work. Myrcene may also be responsible for helping more THC reach the brain when people smoke or eat marijuana for medical purposes.
Just like Myrcene, A-Pinene, or just Pinene for short, is distributed across the plant kingdom. You can find it in pine needles, dill, parsley, and basil.
Pinene gives cannabis a kind of pine-nut taste and aroma. Furthermore, smoking high-pinene-content marijuana can make the surroundings smell a bit like a pine forest, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since it’s the same chemical.
Pinene is believed to have a variety of beneficial effects on the body, including improved mental focus, better retention of memories, and higher levels of energy. It’s also a topical antiseptic, meaning that it’s excellent for cleaning wounds.
Caryophyllene is one of the most highly prized terpenes in cannabis plants, owing to both its unique flavor and alleged therapeutic benefits.
Caryophyllene is rare among terpenes because of its ability to bind to the CB2 receptor in the brain and nervous system, just like THC. There is strong evidence that caryophyllene may be an independent contributor to better health, even though it does not have any discernible side-effects. Researchers believe that it may inhibit the growth of cancers and help people become less dependent on substances like alcohol.
Caryophyllene is found in black pepper, hops, and oregano. It, therefore, has a distinctly musky, peppery taste, and smells spicy. Cannabis strains offering caryophyllene in high quantities include Pineapple Express and Bubble Gum.
Remember we talked about particular cannabis plants tasting citrusy? Well, blame it on the limonene. Limonene is a chemical found throughout the plant kingdom, but in unusually high quantities in citrus fruits, juniper, and basil.
Limonene is prized for its orangey, lemony aroma when smoked. Manufacturers often add limonene to medicinal ointments and creams for its ability to penetrate and protect the skin.
Humulene originally got its name from hops – a plant used in beer, due to it being the predominant terpene. You can also find it present in a variety of cannabis strains, including Sage N Sour, Tangerine Dream, and Cush.
Humulene has become a prevalent terpene over the years because of its appetite-suppressant qualities. Many people taking medicinal cannabis who worry that it might induce weight gain use humulene as a natural appetite suppressant, helping to counteract the munchies.
Again, humulene possesses similar anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties of many other terpenes. It’s also famed for its woody, herbal, spicy smell.
Linalool is the chemical compound in lavender responsible for giving it a floral, sweet, and luscious scent. Linalool is a natural relaxant and sedative. It may also offer a degree of pain relief, making it an important component of medicinal cannabis. You can find linalool in other plant species, such as mint and cinnamon.
The Health Effects Of Terpenes
While the evidence is still coming in, more people than ever before believe that the benefits of cannabis extend well beyond its THC or CBD content. Research suggests that terpenes might in fact be the driving force behind the perceived benefits of the plant.
Ed Rosenthal, an experienced cannabis grower, points out that when you break down the chemicals in cannabis, you find a soup of possibly beneficial compounds that may work together in ways that promote health.
This feature of the plant might be why so many veteran users lead with their noses, selecting leaves and flowers based on their smell. What they’re detecting are the terpenes.
Cannabis Strains Have Different Terpene Ratios
The vast majority of cannabis strains on the market today are myrcene-dominant. This term means that they are highest in myrcene and contain different levels of the 100 or so other terpenes typically found in cannabis strains.
You can, however, get select varieties of cannabis that are high in different terpenes. For instance, some strains are caryophyllene-dominant and limonene-dominant, meaning that they contain less myrcene. Pinene-dominant strains are much rarer, but they exist.
Thus, to get the best experience out of cannabis, you need to know what the most common terpenes are and how they can positively affect your body.
If you want to know more about terpenes and the effect that they have on flavor and health, then come and find us at our Las Vegas dispensary. We’ll happily show you the different strains that we have on offer and provide you with a rundown of their terpene content.