The term terpenes, or sometimes just “terps” has been circling the cannabis community for a while with no signs of going away. This is for good reason. We now know that the quality of a high we get from different strains is not just associated with THC content, but is closely tied to the terpene profile of a given strain.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are organic compounds produced by many types of plants. There are more than 150 different terpenes found in the cannabis plant and lots more present in other plants. Terpenes are responsible for the unique aromas produced by plants, and distinct terpene profiles can be found in different cannabis strains as well as plants like basil, parsley, lavender, citrus fruits, and many other fragrant organisms.
This all seems nice, but what makes terpenes so special when it comes to weed? The key is their ability to synergize with other compounds present in cannabis to boost one another’s effects. This symbiosis between terpenes and cannabinoids like THC and CBD causes a phenomenon called “the entourage effect”.
Put simply, we now know that all of the plant parts work better together than in their individual forms. Focusing on just THC content will not provide you with as much information about the quality of your high as looking at the terpene profile will.
Additionally, terpenes can help target specific effects, especially in the medical context. For example, beta myrcene, a common terpene found in cannabis, is known for its anti-inflammatory effects and may even be useful for treating migraines and related conditions.
Caryophyllene has been shown to have pain-relieving qualities, making it beneficial for managing a number of conditions. Seeking out a strain high in these terpenes will be more likely to provide pain relief than just seeking out a strain with high THC.
Savor the flavor
If you’ve ever noticed distinct flavor differences between different strains, it’s because of the unique terpene profile of the strain. Cannabis that tastes particularly citrusy probably has high limonene content. Limonene is a terpene that smells like citrus fruits and is used as an additive in many scented products from perfumes to cleaning supplies.
Caryophyllene, one of the terpenes with analgesic properties, has a peppery, spicy kick to it. It’s found in cannabis as well as cinnamon, cloves, and rosemary among others. Another common fragrant terpene is pinene. As its name suggests, pinene smells like pine trees (and is found in large amounts in them) as well as herbs like basil and parsley.
Listing off all of the terpenes and their effects would take far too long and there are probably some terpenes out there we have yet to identify. Still, the many terpenes most prominent in cannabis are providing us with ways to identify and adjust our highs without relying solely on THC content.
Terpene final thoughts
Terpenes are responsible for the distinct aromas and flavors in cannabis and other plants. Different terpenes are associated with different effects, and paying attention to the terpene profile can help you choose the best strains for your unique purposes.
Next time you’re at your favorite Seattle cannabis dispensary, you can inquire about the terpene profile of certain strains to better understand the high that comes with it. If you’re looking for a specific effect from your cannabis, focusing on strains with high terpene profiles correlating with that effect is a good way to go.
Gone are the days of just paying attention to THC content and whether a strain is indica or sativa. Terpenes are a big part of the future of cannabis.