Have you ever wondered what makes cannabis stand out from other plants?
Most people think it’s purely about the unique effects cannabis flower offers consumers. They assume it’s the cannabinoids like THC and CBD that are the stars of the show.
But it turns out there are hundreds of other compounds within weed that make it so special. This includes flavonoids, lesser-known cannabinoids, and omega fatty acids. Some of the most important chemicals in cannabis are called terpenes.
You may be hearing more and more about cannabis-derived terpenes—and that’s a good thing. It turns out terpenes (also called terps) influence the cannabis experience in a big way, and are far more indicative of the effects you may feel.
Curious about cannabis-derived terpenes and why they matter? Read on for a full breakdown.
The magic of terpenes
Terpenes are molecules present in all plants that are responsible for their aroma and flavor. When you catch a whiff of a lilac bush or a fresh Christmas tree, the scents tickling your nostrils come from terpenes.
There are thousands of terpenes in the natural world. They’re often extracted and turned into essential oils for use in cleaning products, perfumes, and other household goods.
When it comes to weed, terpenes do more than just provide that familiar taste and odor—they also play a big part in how certain cannabis strains will affect you. Let’s take a deeper dive into how terpenes factor into your sesh.
Why terpenes are important in cannabis flower
Terpenes are a crucial component of cannabis. They not only offer a pleasant smell but also determine how different strains of weed will make you feel.
If cannabinoids like THC are the engine, then terpenes are like the steering wheel: they take you where you want to go.
Many believe that the categories of indica, sativa, and hybrid will tell you what the effects of a weed strain will be. The truth is it’s actually all about the terps.
There are several terpenes prevalent in cannabis, all offering their own effects. Some make you feel more relaxed while others may energize you. This is often why aromatherapy oils are typically categorized by their effect—the terpenes inside call the shots.
There’s also a misconception that cannabinoid percentage is the way to decide which cannabis flower is best. Just because strains of weed have over 30% THC doesn’t mean they’ll get you higher. All of the plant’s active ingredients work together to create your experience.
The role of the entourage effect
You may wonder why it takes all of the cannabis plant’s parts to feel the true effects. The answer is the entourage effect.
The entourage effect is the theory that weed’s diverse blend of ingredients work synergistically, and actually enhance one another’s abilities. When the body processes cannabis through the endocannabinoid system, it will react according to all of the compounds present.
This explains why a cannabis strain with lower amounts of THC may actually get you higher than one testing at 35%. It’s because there may be more terpenes present and the combination of terps, THC, and other compounds work more effectively.
Terpenes and cannabis concentrates
Weed needs to be dried and cured before it can be smoked, but the process may lead to some terpenes evaporating.
When cannabis concentrates have the word “live” in the name, it means the flower used to create them was freshly harvested and has not been cured. Live resins and rosins have all the terpenes the cannabis flower expressed, resulting in an ultra-terpy experience.
What are the most prevalent cannabis terpenes?
While there are over 20,000 known terpenes on the planet, there are eight or so that are usually found in strains of cannabis.
One of the most common cannabis terps, myrcene is known for its relaxing effects. It has an earthy and slightly fruity flavor. The urban legend that eating mangoes gets you higher likely stems from the fact that the fruit has a high concentration of myrcene.
Pinene is found in many cannabis strains but also pops up quite frequently in the natural world—especially in the forest. It tends to make consumers feel happy and light on their feet.
This peppery terpene is found in many indica-categorized cannabis strains. It tends to have a sleepy, chill effect making it great for the end of the day.
Considered one of the most psychoactive terpenes, terpinolene is present many old-school strains like Jack Herer and Silver Haze. It’s also among the rarer terps, making it highly sought-after by fans of a more cerebral buzz.
One of the dankest terpenes, humulene is also found in hops (used to make beer). This explains why strong IPAs smell like weed. The terpene is often found in hybrids and indica strains alongside its cousin caryophyllene.
Uplifting and bright, limonene is a citrusy terp often found in sativa-dominant strains. It’s also found in lemon and orange rinds, often ending up in household cleansers.
One of the rarest cannabis terpenes, ocimene has a fruit-forward nose and powerfully sedative effects. Many breeders are seeking to create new strains featuring ocimene due to its relaxing nature and ability to ward off pests in the field.
Another terpene you’re likely to find around the house, linalool has a floral scent best known for its calming effects. Linalool is typically not the most prevalent terpene in cannabis but it often shows up in smaller concentrations in indica-leaning strains.
What’s the difference between botanical terpenes and cannabis-derived terpenes?
You may notice that many cannabis products like weed pens and pods contain either cannabis-derived terpenes or botanical terpenes. What’s the difference?
Weed pods with cannabis-derived terpenes were extracted directly from cannabis and hemp plants. Botanical terpenes come from other plants. For example, linalool is also found in lavender. Therefore, the linalool in your scented shampoo is likely a botanical terpene.
The best strains of weed and the highest-quality cannabis products will always have decent terpene percentages in the 3-5% range. Extracts that have cannabis-derived terpenes will always be preferred thanks to their natural ability to harness the entourage effect.