Terpenes are so much more than flavour or aroma. Terps, to us, are by far the foremost aspect of the cannabis plant. They are so often overlooked and their benefits are attributed to cannabinoids. They aren’t only the most noticeable compound, they also have their own effects which in turn can completely flip your cannabis experience on its head.
From a sticky, sleepy couch-lock indica or a feisty head-racy sour haze the difference is, most of the time, terpenes.
We want to give these unbelievable compounds a little bit of love and detail everything you need to know about terpenes, what they do and how they can enhance your cannabis experience for the better (or worse).
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes (terps) are a non-psychoactive aromatic compound found in plants. They are naturally produced and they create the aromas for all kinds of plants: flowers, spices, herbs, fruits and cannabis. You know that light energising scent of freshly peeled orange, or a bath with soothing lavender? Or (my favourite) a long walk in an ancient pine forest? Everything that your nose loves, is thanks to terpenes.
There are thousands of different kinds of terpenes but we’re going to focus on those which are more prominent in cannabis: Pinene, Limonene, Linalool, Caryophyllene, Humulene, Ocimene, Myrcene and Terpinolene. You’ll get to know these guys real well.
Cannabis Terpenes (& Their Effects)
We think that cannabis terpenes are a tiny bit more interesting than normal terps. They are found in weird and wonderful combinations which create beautiful floral flavours and aromas, or heavy diesel.
What makes terpenes so fantabulous for cannabis, is the way they affect what your body does with the other powerful cannabinoid compounds. The effect of cannabis completely depends on what the terpene ratios in each strain are. Over the years, what has been put down as a strain being indica/sativa, is now being better understood as the effects of terpenes. Some strains are relaxing, others give you get up and go.
Interestingly – studies have shown that terpenes can actually impact the way in which cannabinoids are used by your body and can even interact with your Endocannabinoid System. There are so many unknowns when it comes to cannabis terpenes, which makes this all the more exciting to learn about.
We’re going to break down the cannabis terpenes into two groups Primary Cannabis Terpenes and Secondary Terpenes. Primary being the major influence on how the plants looks, tastes and smells; and Secondary being the underlying terpenes which ad depth, layers and more subtle effects.
Primary Cannabis Terpenes
Pinene: is almost exactly what you’re thinking. Pine. Pinene (c10H16) can be split into two structural isomers: α-pinene and β– pinene. Both are naturally formed in nature and are found in various concentrations in cannabis. The compounds are essential constituents of pine resin, camphorweed and big sagebrush.
This terpene has a wonderfully deep, rich earthy woody aroma that grabs you right in the back of the throat. You’re most likely to encounter Pinene in woody shrubs and herbs such as Rosemary, Basil and Dill.
Strains: OG Kush, Haze Berry
Boiling point: 166.111°C
Effects: Anti-bacterial, anti-inflammation
Humulene (which can be identified in two compounds α-humulene or α-caryophyllene) is a monocyclic sesquiterpene (C15H24) chemical that is produced in nature. For all the science geeks reading this, the compound consists of 11 membered rings and consists of three isoprene units that contain C=C double bonds (unconjugated). It is also an isomer of β-caryophyllene (which we will talk about later) so it is not uncommon to find the two terpenes living together.
The aroma Humulene gives off is almost quintessentially ‘cannabissy’. It has a very distinct hoppy, woody, earthy flavour and aroma which you should expect from an IPA. You;re likey to find the terp in almost every hop variety, basil, corriander, ginger, cloves and gensing.
Strains: Gelato, Sour Deisel.
Boiling Point: 106˚C
Effects: Anti-inflammation & appetite sepression.
Also referred to as ß-myrcene, Myrcene is an alkene natural hydrocarbon which can more accurately be identified as a monoterpene. While the natural myrcene compiunds are found in the essential oil of Adenandra villosa, bay leaves and hops, the compound (for industrial use) is synthesised semi-syntheticlly from Myrcia, which explains the terpenes name.
If you love an Indica strain, then you’ll love Myrcene, because the two are closely connected. You’re likely to indentify the terpene by its herbal aroma which can be quite musky or earthy – much like a cardiman or cinnamon stick.
Strains: OG Kush, GSC
Boiling Point: 167˚C
Effects: Relaxation, sedation and euphoria.
Limonene, like a few of these compounds, is calssed as a cyclic monoterpene and is naurally found in citrus fruit peels. That strong friuty, vibrant smell of a freshly peeled orange or lemon zest is Limonene all over .The compound is mainly used in food manufacturing but is also used in cleaning products, perfumes and manufactured scents. It gets its name from the italian ‘Limone’.
You’re unlikely to miss Limonene when it is found in cannabis, but you’re also likely to find it in Peppermint, Juniper and Rosemary.
Strains: Wedding Cake, Super Lemon Haze
Boiling Point: 176˚C
Effects: Energising, relaxing, uplifitng, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety
Linalool is the name given to two enantiomers of a naturally ocuring terpene alcohol which can also be classified as an acyclic monoterpenoid. This fantastic terpene is one of the many that are widely used manfufacturing of foods (called coriandrol in food manufacture), fragrances, cleaning products and even insecticides. To smell Linalool you ill think of one thing: Lavender.
The aroma is floral, medicinal and herbal. You’re most likely to find Linalool in Nettles, Mint, Sage, Thyme, Corrander, Cinamon and Lavender.
Strains: Granddaddy Purple, Do Si Dos, Lavender, and Kosher Kush
Boiling Point: 198˚C
Effects: antimicrobial, anti- inflammatory, anticancer, anti-oxidant properties
We’ve saved the best for last. Caryophyllene is by far the most interesting to us because it is the only non-cannabinoid compound that has been found to interact with the Endocannabinoid System (namely the CB2 receptors), and modulate the CB2 activity. Known as ß-caryophyllene, this terpene is a bicycluic sesquiterpene that is usually found alongside isocaryophyllene (cis double bond isomer) and α-humulene (used to be known as α- caryophyllene).
In the natural world, you’re most likely to experience the true essence of the terpene in black pepper. The flavour in cannabis can also be indentified as peppery, spicy and woody. We don’t yet fully understand why, but it is one of the reasons we suggest eating black pepper if you get too high. It may help to sober you up. Otherwise, it is found in Cloves, Cinnamon, Hops, Rosemary and Oregano.
Strains: GG4, Iced Cream Cake, Sour Diesel.
Boiling Point: 245.5˚C
Effects: anti-anxiety, releaves pain, relaxing, anti-inflammatory (among other things when eaten)
Secondary Cannabis Terpenes
Ocimene- This terpene is famous for its sweet, woody and herbal aromas which are found in plants such as Mangoes and bergamont. The terpene has been noted as a decongestant and expectorant and can be found in strains such as: Dutch Treat & Super Lemon Haze.
Terpinolene – Terpinolene has a floral, herby pine aroma which is most likely to be found in apple skins, cardimon, tea tree oil and cumin. This terpene has antibacterial and antifungal properties alongside a plethora of anti-anxiety effects. Found in such strains as: Ghost Train Haze, Golden Goat and Golden Pineapple
Borneol- This terpene is known for its minty aroma and unusual underlying metallic flavour. Its medicinal effects are known to be anti-inflammatory and analgesic. High Borneol strains include Golden Haze, and Amnesia Haze.
Phytol– With huge floral tones, this terpene is well known for giving users a huge sense of relaxation, sedation and anti-anxiety. Whatsmore, it has antiinflammation properties. Expect to find Phytol in Cheese, Sour Diesel and Blue Dream.
Eucalyptol – Massive armos od cooling mint and menthol. Eucalyptol has both anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties along with making you feel relaxed. You can find this terpene in AC/DC or Headband strains.
Sabinene– Sabinene has a very peppery and spcey sent which smells like a sweet cardimon and cinamon bun. The medicinal use of this terpene is for anti-bacterial properties and is an antioxident. Super Silver Haze.