The smell of cannabis is absolutely unmistakable; if someone were to sit down beside you and light up a joint you’d know what was going on in a split second, as that characteristic aroma penetrates and fills every room that it’s in. Even then, this particular smell can vary from strain to strain, as some are sweeter, some are spicy and some can even smell like fruit or cheese. The differences between odors and flavors occur because of the different concentrations of terpenes in marijuana – cannabis terpenes can be found in every single plant, but in cannabis it has a more varied and complex function. This begs the question, what are terpenes?
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are volatile aromatic molecules that almost every kind of plant contains, and they are responsible for the plants’ flavor and aroma. One of their main functions is to keep predators away and increase resin yield. Cannabis can have up to 120 different terpenes, of which 100 are exclusively found in marijuana plants. Every different strain has a different concentration of terpenes, allowing for a never-ending combination of flavors and effects.
Scientists have recently begun discovering that terpenes don’t just affect the flavor and aroma of cannabis, they might also influence the effect you get from the cannabinoids in your weed. Until recently, it was thought that cannabinoids were the only part of the plant responsible for the “psychoactive” effect, but now scientists theorize that terpenes come into play with cannabinoids and can actually increase and intensify effects. Two strains with the same cannabinoids but with different terpenes may be able to produce much different effects as your body doesn’t ingest them in the same manner.
Terpenes in cannabis can actually affect the speed at which cannabinoids are absorbed into your bloodstream, making the process either slower or faster. Other terpenes have a more specific effect, such as Myrcene, which can increase cellular permeability and cannabinoid absorption. Limonene acts on serotonin production, something that can affect your mood, so strains with high amounts of this terpene will offer a very mentally happy effect, more so than strains with the same amount of cannabinoids but less of this specific cannabinoid.
In this article we’re going to go over some of the most common terpenes in cannabis plants and explain their most important properties, and how they affect our metabolism.
This terpene isn’t one of the most well-known terpenes, but it is the one that’s found the most in cannabis plants, appearing in percentages of up to 65% in some Skunks, White and Kush strains. It’s the terpene that produces mainly earthly and musky flavors. This terpene increases cannabinoid absorption, producing a much faster and more intense effect. It’s also indicated as an efficient treatment when it comes to fighting inflammation and chronic pain if animal studies are anything to go buy, possibly being efficient to treat the side-effects of chemotherapy.
This is another common terpene found in cannabis plants, mostly citric strains, which is why it has its name. It’s also commonly found in all types of citrus fruits. Most strains with “lemon” or “acid” in their name tend to have quite a lot of this terpene. Some of its medicinal properties are known to include antibacterial and antifungal effects. It’s also commonly used in household cleaning items and fragrances due to how citric it is.
This terpene is also found in high quantities in many strains. In animal testing, it has been shown to offer pain relief properties as well as the capability of affecting anxiety; it is thought that this particular terpene, when treated and dosed right, can be used to treat addictions such as alcohol and nicotine. It has a spicy, strong aroma that’s quite similar to cinnamon. This terpene can be found in herbs such as cloves and rosemary, which is why sometimes plants with high amounts of Beta-Caryophyllene tend to produce an almost incense-like aroma.
Linalool is one of the best smelling terpenes in cannabis – this is the terpene that causes that pure Old School cannabis smell that pretty much anyone can distinguish. It can also be found in cinnamon, lavender and mint, but in smaller amounts. It is hypothesized from studies that this terpene may be capable of helping treat depression, arthritis, insomnia, and even neurodegenerative diseases.
This terpene is known for its presence in various world-renowned strains, such as Gorilla Glue, Jack Herer and Skunk. It’s also found in pine trees, hence the name, and it can also be found in rosemary and parsley. It’s known for improving airflow to the lungs – it’s thought that it can even be used to fight asthma. As of now, research is being done regarding its anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and pain relief effects. There are some suggestions that it can also help to combat short-term memory loss that is sometimes associated with THC consumption.
This may be one of the most uncommon terpenes in cannabis. While it may be found in lots of different strains, it’s usually only found in very small amounts. It can also be found in pleasant-smelling plants, including apple trees, lilacs and herbs such as rosemary. Studies suggest that terpinolene can be used as an antioxidant, and other animal-related studies have seen it produce sedative effects. It’s theorized that in the future Terpinolene may be used to decrease cancerous cell growth and proliferation.
This is just a small list of some of the 100 terpenes that exist in cannabis plants – knowing what they are and what properties they have can allow you to choose the perfect strain for you whether it’s for medicinal purposes or recreational ones.
What are Terpenes – The Entourage Effect
You may have heard of the entourage effect in regards to cannabinoids and terpenes. The entourage effect is the idea that cannabis has more medicinal benefits when applied in its whole-plant state – this is to say, cannabinoids and terpenes interact with each other and modify the effect produced. While we know that THC can be impacted by small amounts of other cannabinoids, we’ve only recently started to truly investigate the idea that terpenes can modify the effect produced by cannabinoids.
In 2020, a study was published that indicated that there’s no evidence that any of the most common terpenes act alongside cannabinoids or bind to their body’s cannabinoid receptors. However, shortly after a study was done on mice in which they got three different cannabis terpenes, Pinene among them, to bind to the mice’s CB1 receptor – these receptors are in charge of bodily responses and are involved in the perception of pain.