What exactly are terpenes, and why are they so important?
When it comes to choosing a cannabis strain, many people assume that the difference between an energetic and uplifting high compared to a sedating and relaxing high is a result of whether that strain is Indica or Sativa, but terpenes have a far more contributing factor.
So what are terpenes? Terpenes are essential oils that enhance your "high" from cannabis, hold numerous medical benefits and are transforming our understanding of cannabis. A groundbreaking 2011 paper by neurologist and researcher Ethan Russo described the way cannabinoids and terpenes work together to boost and modulate the effects of one another in the body's endocannabinoid system. For a long time, THC was considered the only chemical of psychoactive importance in cannabis. Russo and his team helped reveal how other cannabinoids (like CBD) and terpenes can either increase or decrease the effects of THC and other chemicals in the body that interact with the ECS.
Myrcene, for instance, increases the effects of THC, induces sedation and provides anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and analgesic (anti-pain) effects. Limonene, on the other hand, is an energizing antidepressant.
Not all terpenes are present in every strain and the quantity and combination vary from strain to strain, meaning even an Indica strain could have a high percentage of Limonene, resulting in an uplifting high. By simply choosing strains based on whether they are Indica or Sativa could leave you wanting in terms of desired effects. By familiarizing yourself with the ‘terpene wheel’, you can better narrow down which strain is best suited to your needs.
In addition to being Mother Nature's medicine cabinet, Terpenes are a natural essential oil. What's more, the smell of terpenes is helpful for guiding you toward the cannabis your body wants. If a variety of weed smells good to you it could be your body telling you to dose with that cultivar.
Below you'll find a high-level guide to the smell, taste, and effects of major cannabis terpenes.
The most common terpene in cannabis. It is also known as the "couch-lock" terpene for its highly-sedative effects.
Common in citrus, it is highly energetic and a known antidepressant.
A smokey or woody aroma that is slightly sedative, antioxidant, anti-cancer and antibacterial.
Gastroprotective and a strong anti-inflammatory with a woody, peppery taste.
Energetic and therapeutic, this terpene is common in pine needles, of course.
The main constituent of hops is a strong anti-inflammatory agent and a hunger-suppressant.
Accounts for cannabis’ familiar odor, often associated with pine trees and turpentine. α Pinene is the most common naturally occurring terpenoid and acts as both an anti-inflammatory and a bronchodilator.
Frequently used in perfumes for its pleasant odor. In nature, this terpene contributes to a plant’s defenses and possess antifungal properties.
Present in Valencia oranges and contributes to cannabis’ citrus aroma.
Also present in geraniums, geraniol emits a rosy scent that makes it a popular perfume additive. It is an effective mosquito repellent and shows a potential protective effect against neuropathy.
Contributes to the “hoppy” aroma of cannabis. This terpene acts as an appetite suppressant and exhibits potent anti-inflammatory activity.
Has a floral scent reminiscent of spring flowers, but with spicy overtones. It possesses sedative properties and is an effective anxiety and stress reliever. It has also been used an analgesic and anti-epileptic.