An Introduction to Terpenes in Cannabis
Welcome to our introductory guide, all about cannabis terpenes. In this article, you’ll learn what terpenes are, where they come from, if they are safe, and which ones you’re likely to find in your cannabis. By the end of the article, you’ll have a good understanding of how terpenes can affect your cannabis experience, and most importantly, you’ll be a more knowledgeable consumer! So, let’s jump right in.
- Introduction – What are terpenes?
- What is an example of a terpene?
- What are the benefits of terpenes? How do terpenes affect the body? Do terpenes have medicinal effects?
- Do terpenes affect the smell of my cannabis?
- Are terpenes safe?
- Is it safe to buy products with added terpenes?
- Cannabis Chemovars
Introduction – What are terpenes?
To understand what terpenes are, it’s essential to know that plants like cannabis contain many different molecules that make up various compounds. You already know this, whether you realize it or not! For example, you know that flowers have different smells. It is pretty obvious that these various fragrances come from different chemical compounds inside each type of flower.
The compounds that give flowers, herbs, and other plants their unique smells are called terpenes, but you may know them better by the term ‘essential oil.’ Essential oils are made up of many molecules of terpenes, giving them a highly concentrated smell. Terpenes are aromatic, organic compounds, meaning they contain carbon.
What is an example of a terpene?
Here are examples of terpenes that have scents you’ll likely recognize:
- Terpineol – present in lilacs
- Limonene – present in citrus fruits
- Linalool – present in lavender
- Pinene – present in pine trees
The more vibrant a plant’s fragrance is, the more terpenes it has in it.
Inside the cannabis plant, there are different terpenes as well. In fact, there are likely at least 150 of them, each with their own qualities and effects that can change your cannabis experience. The most well-known and abundant are:
- Myrcene – Earthy, citrus-like terpene that can have relaxing effects.
- Limonene – Sweet, citrus terpene found in citrus fruits and may have energizing effects.
- Pinene – Pinene is often found in pine needles and can have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects.
- Linalool – This floral terpene can help relieve mental stress and give an uplifting effect to your mood.
- Eucalyptol – An herbal, minty terpene that can have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
We find terpenes in many plants, and cannabis plants are especially rich in these and so many others. Most plants, and plant oils, contain a combination of many different terpenes. One great example of this is lavender essential oil. We recognize the smell of lavender. But the terpene profile of the lavender plant contains linalool, linalyl acetate, lavandulol, geraniol, eucalyptol, and others. This combination of many terpenes gives lavender oil its unique aroma and medicinal properties.
Terpene growth is susceptible, as their environments highly influence their development. So, two identical seeds can grow into two plants with very different terpene quality and quantities. Soil quality, location, sun exposure, or weather can affect a plant’s terpene profile.
What are the benefits of terpenes? How do terpenes affect the body? Do terpenes have medicinal effects?
Plants produce terpenes because their special effects (like having various aromas, antiseptic effects, and the ability to attract or repel other animals) protect or benefit it in some way. For thousands of years, humans have used the therapeutic benefits of terpenes to help heal wounds, manage pain and internal health concerns, and promote mental health and wellness.
But do they really work?
Consider this experiment that compared three varieties of lavender oil; each oil contained different amounts of terpenes and other components. The authors of the study attributed the differences in the oils to the location where the plants were grown. The study showed that the various oils each had different effects on bacteria. Some evidently had more of an effect on inhibiting the growth of bacteria than others.
What does this mean for us?
It means that substances containing terpenes have properties that positively or negatively affect living organisms and that these properties depend on the quantity and quality of the terpenes themselves.
When terpenes blend together or are added to oils or other natural supplements and products, the product’s effect on us can vary or be strengthened.
Here are researched potential effects some common terpenes can have on our bodies and mental state:
- Myrcene – Myrcene has antifungal and antibacterial properties and may also help users relax and sleep better.
- Beta-caryophyllene – This common terpene may be beneficial for improving or managing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Limonene – Limonene is the distinct lemon citrus smell in many familiar products. Some studies have show it to have potential anti-cancer and anti-anxiety properties.
- Linalool – Linalool is very abundant in lavender and has long been shown to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety symptoms.
- Pinene – Pinene could potentially offer anti-depressant and anti-cancer properties and may also function as an antibiotic.
- Humulene – This terpene likely has anti-bacterial effects as evidenced in this study. It’s also thought to be a potential treatment for shrinking tumors.
Most plants contain more than one terpene. In fact, many plants have dozens. And as we said earlier, cannabis contains at least 150. So, that makes cannabis a veritable terpene factory, and these aromatic compounds absolutely contribute to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.
Do terpenes affect the smell of my cannabis?
Yes, terpenes affect the smell of cannabis. Since a terpene almost always gives off an aroma, they are responsible for the smell of marijuana, and for how each different strain gives off a slightly different smell.
In particular, Myrcene is what gives pot its classic ‘skunky’ odour.
But does smell matter to users?
Just like all coffee varieties taste similar, all pot smells a bit similar, too. However, a study showed that frequent, long-term users of marijuana could identify at least 48 different smells ranging from ‘earthy’ to ‘tropical fruit’ to ‘blue cheese’ when comparing various pot strains.
As it turns out, the smell profiles of marijuana actually influence people’s perception of how strong a product is. The products identified as skunkier or earthier were perceived to have a higher THC potency. However, this conclusion is entirely false since THC doesn’t give marijuana its smell. The terpenes, instead, cause various cannabis odours.
Are terpenes safe?
The truth about terpene safety is that there is no conclusive evidence that terpenes are safe 100% of the time. More research is definitely needed before we understand exactly which terpenes are safe, how to use them most effectively, and how much we should consume.
For this reason, terpenes are used in consumable products in relatively small amounts. Many natural essential oils and their sources are considered safe by the FDA, but there are others that haven’t been studied for their safety.
When you consume or use terpenes or other organic compounds, you should always be sure they are properly diluted. Carefully read labels, follow the given directions, and make sure you purchase cannabis and other natural products from reputable sources. If you aren’t sure, avoid the products altogether.
When all precautions are taken, however, many, many studies have shown that not only are terpenes safe, but they may be exceptionally beneficial to our health.
Is it safe to buy products with added terpenes?
The short answer is yes, it is safe. However, as we explained earlier, terpene growth is challenging and complicated to control. Even two identical seeds can produce two plants with very different terpene profiles. So, to produce strains that are consistent in smell or taste and provide predictable effects or experiences, terpenes may be removed or added to balance out the product.
As long as the producers are using high-quality products, you can feel confident that added terpenes are safe for consumption.
If you’ve been on the site of an online cannabis store, you’ve seen multiple varieties of cannabis, commonly called ‘strains.’ These strains are technically called ‘chemovars’ and represent the various chemical makeup of different cannabis products.
But isn’t cannabis just… cannabis? How is it we can have many strains of the same plant?
Terpenes of course! As well as various other cannabinoids.
We already know cannabis strains contain different amounts and types of terpenes. But cannabis also contains cannabinoids and flavonoids.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that give medicinal properties to CBD and THC-based products. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol is a cannabinoid. Of course, it is the THC that gives you a ‘high’ feeling. But THC may also provide some therapeutic benefits for managing pain, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, and more.
There are at least 100 cannabinoids in cannabis, most of which have been studied and were found to have various medicinal properties. So, cannabis strains can be grown by developing seeds that are more likely to produce higher quantities of certain cannabinoids and terpenes.
Flavonoids are so abundant in cannabis that they may make up for at least 3% of the weight of dried flower. Flavonoids are chemical compounds that function as colourants and give buds their vibrant hues. They are also antioxidants and enhance the capabilities of marijuana’s potential health benefits. Flavonoids may enrich weed’s antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and disease-fighting properties.
Cannabis strains can also be developed by enhancing or adding compounds as necessary to create consistency.
It’s believed that marijuana products that contain a wide variety of terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids are more effective than any one of these compounds alone. The phenomenon is termed the ‘entourage effect,’ and is the theory that each compound is more powerful when it works alongside the other compounds.
Terpenes are a critical factor of the entourage effect and make them a compulsory component or addition to any cannabis product we sell.
Terpenes – A Welcome and Positive Addition to Cannabis
As you can see, terpenes are one of nature’s gifts to both the plant and animal worlds. They provide protection, medicinal properties, and mental health and wellness benefits, and provide pleasing (and sometimes not so pleasing) aromas that have the power to deter predators or enhance relaxation or even increase energy levels.
Terpenes are found in varying amounts in our strains, and we’re confident that our terpene profiles will enhance your smoking experience. To learn more about what benefits our strains provide, please read our product descriptions.
Here are a few of our best-selling dried flowers:
Blue Iguana – This strain has a strong THC potency with a bold skunky, earthy aroma and is said to have flavours of dried fruit, spice, and deep musk.
Grandpa’s Stash – This classic greenish-purple strain has a skunky smell and rich pine and incense flavours.
Tutti Frutti – Green nuggets coated in red, purple and golden hairs, this vibrant bud smells remarkably similar to a bowl of fruit loops and has sweet, citrus flavours.