As we all know, cannabis has a very distinct smell (grassy, skunk-y, herbaceous, weedy are just a few descriptors people use) as is true with many other plants; we can thank terpenes for creating those odors. Terpenes are fragrant oils that are produced and secreted from trichomes, the same glands in the cannabis plant that produce cannabinoids. Terpenes not only give the plant its odor and flavor, but also increase the cannabinoids’ efficacy.
As is true with other plants, the qualities that terpenes bring to cannabis are impacted by climate, soil composition, and other agricultural factors. Scientists have identified over 200 terpenes in the cannabis plant – which is pretty amazing on a biological level. Each strain has its own unique blend of terpenes, which explains why one strain can taste very different from another.
What are Terpenes Good For?
In the plant world, terpenes protect a plant from harsh weather, repel insects and other predators, and attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. In the human world, terpenes have antioxidant effects and have been reported to have therapeutic and healing properties. They can play a role in a cannabis plant’s medicinal impact because of the way they interact with cannabinoids and help them enter the bloodstream. Scientists have found that when terpenes and cannabinoids work in partnership, their effectiveness in improving pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, and infection is enhanced. Terpenes are also an essential part of aromatherapy, a healing treatment that utilizes a plant’s essential oils to promote emotional and physical well-being.
Types of Terpenes
Myrcene is one of the most common cannabis terpenes; it can also be found in hops, mango, and lemongrass. Its smell is best described as floral or herbal. Myrcene is reported to impart calming qualities and relax muscles. One of its most important qualities is that it increases a cell membrane’s permeability, which allows for a larger uptake of cannabinoids and therefore stronger effects.
Pinene, another very common terpene in cannabis, can also be found in basil, dill, rosemary, and pine needles. The scent and flavor can be described as forest-y or piney. Because pinene is a bronchodilator, it may help improve airflow to the lungs. It is also reported to provide relief for pain and inflammation and aid in memory retention.
Linalool is found in lavender and birch bark and has a floral scent. Linalool is used to promote calmness and relaxation, which is why so many personal care products contain lavender. It’s also known for its antimicrobial properties and its ability to help the immune system fight stress.
Beta-caryophyllene has a peppery taste and smell and is present in black pepper, oregano, cloves, and cinnamon. It is the only terpene that can act as a cannabinoid and interact directly with our endocannabinoid system. Beta-caryophyllene is reported to have anti-inflammatory properties. \
As its name suggests, limonene can be found in the rinds of citrus like lemon, lime, and grapefruit, as well as in rosemary and peppermint. Research has shown limonene’s potential for relieving stress, fighting fungus and bacteria, and relieving heartburn.
Humulene is not only present in the cannabis plant, but it is also found in cannabis’ botanic cousin, hops. Humulene smells woody, spicy, and earthy. Scientific and medical research on Humulene has shown that it may be effective in treating cancer, especially when combined with other terpenes and cannabinoids. It may also have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Ocimene is found in orchids, mint, basil, parsley, bay, and tarragon. This terpene smells citrusy, earthy, herbal, and woody. In terms of therapeutic benefits, ocimene is used to help with congestion, viruses, and inflammation; it can also improve cognition because of its stimulating effects.
Cannabis Derived Terpenes vs Terpenes Derived From Other Plants
While terpenes can be found in many other plants beside cannabis, in cannabis products, it’s best that the terpenes are derived from cannabis given the unique relationship they have with cannabinoids and the benefits they bring in concert with the cannabinoids.
What Cannabis Products Contain Terpenes
Many products on dispensary shelves contain terpenes, but it’s important to find out, if you can, whether the terpenes are derived from cannabis, or derived from another plant.
How Terpenes and Cannabinoids Interact
While both terpenes and cannabinoids can be found in the cannabis plant, they are very different chemical compounds. Where terpenes create a plant’s scent and flavor, cannabinoids interact with receptors in the Endocannabinoid System in the brain and body that regulate our body’s systems and functions.
When cannabinoids and terpenes work hand in hand, they create each cannabis strain’s unique flavor profile and physiological effects, a relationship known as the Entourage Effect. Terpenes and cannabinoids both impact a consumer’s experience, so the next time you’re shopping for a cannabis product, ask the budtender about terpenes.