Cannabis is a complicated plant with over 400 compounds. One of the most important is terpenes, which are responsible for the distinct smell and flavor profiles of different cannabis strains.
This article will give you an in-depth look at what terpenes are in cannabis and how they interact with our bodies to produce their effects.
What are Terpenes?
The world around us has a unique fragrance thanks to the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or more precisely: terpenes! They aren't only found in cannabis and peppermint, citrus fruits, and pine trees - just to name a few.
The reason why their aroma is so powerful can be attributed to how big these molecules are. Terpenes are large hydrocarbons with double bonds between carbon atoms; each bond can react without changing its size or shape - unlike smaller volatile compounds (like isoprene) that are broken down and evaporate more readily.
Terpenes are also known as terpenoids due to the fact that they have a very similar molecular structure to steroids, with minor differences in carbon length and bonding.
Terpenes in Marijuana
A complex mixture of different terpenes and cannabinoids is found in each strain of cannabis, giving it a unique scent and taste.
Can you imagine if we gave you marijuana that smelled like chlorophyll? Not very appealing! Plant terpenes allow us to distinguish between different plants and strains of cannabis by giving them a unique flavor and aroma profile.
Effects of Terpenes on the body
Terpenes have been shown in studies to interact with our bodies and stimulate the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids (like anandamide) are neurotransmitters that react with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body and brain: they can help to regulate mood, pain sensation, motor control, and memory.
Terpenes help cannabinoids bind with our bodies' cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 & CB2 receptors, increasing their potency by up to 100x! This is also known as the "entourage effect," as cannabinoids and terpenes work in concert to produce their unique effects.
The most popular terpenes found in cannabis
There a different flavor profiles and effects from the numerous different types of cannabis terpenes. Here are the basics:
- Limonene is most commonly found in citrus fruits and gives them a distinct smell.
- Pinene (Alpha & Beta) are the two forms of pinene, both of which give off a pine scent. They are often used as mosquito repellant compounds.
- Terpinolene is found in lavender and thyme plants. It has a strong, sweet smell which many describe as clove-like.
- Linalool can be found in flowers such as lavender, cinnamon, oregano, coriander (cilantro), and basil. Due to its calming effects, it's often used in aromatherapy.
- Myrcene is most commonly found in mangoes, hops, bay leaves, and eucalyptus. It makes up over 50% of the essential oils you smell when shopping for terpenes at a dispensary!
- Caryophyllene can be found in black pepper and cloves. It has a spicy and woody smell.
Many marijuana strains will have a mixture of these five terpenes, but some have higher concentrations than others. This is what gives each strain its distinct flavor and aroma profile.
How to Make the Most Out Of Terpenes
Terpenes are fairly volatile and evaporate quickly. This is why most cannabis smells like burnt popcorn or a forest after you light it up. To make the most out of your terpene flavors, it's best to use a vaporizer.
When smoking a joint, the flame from your lighter often destroys many of the terpenes, so it's best to use a product with replaceable coils or a lighter that has an adjustable flame.
Also, pay attention to how you store your cannabis! The two most common ways to keep it out of the light are glass jars or an airtight plastic container. Humidity and oxygen can destroy many terpenes, so it's important to seal your cannabis tightly.
That's the basics! Next time you order from CAMMP, breathe in deeply and try to identify the scent of specific terpene compounds as they slowly evaporate off the plant matter.
Keep in mind that terpenes give off the aroma of a strain but do not necessarily predict the experience you will have. Enjoy!