Cannabis Terpenes: What Are They and What Do They Do?

You’ll often hear about cannabis terpenes in regards to the scents and aromas of different strains of cannabis flowers. While it is not exactly incorrect, there is a common misunderstanding that terpenes and aromas are interchangeable. In fact, terpenes are responsible for much more than just the distinct scents of your favourite cannabis flowers! So what exactly are cannabis terpenes, and what do they do? 

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds found in and produced by plants, fruits, herbs and even some animals. They are responsible for the way these organisms smell and taste, and can also affect their appearance as some terpenes are associated with colour. While the majority of plants contain terpenes, people usually tend to encounter them with citrus fruits or aromatic herbs (like sage, basil, thyme and lavender). They are also widely encountered with cannabis!

Terpenes in Cannabis

Terpenes can be found in the trichomes of cannabis plants. These trichomes are the sticky, crystal-like structures that mostly form atop of the plant’s buds, but can also be found in trace amounts on the leaves and stems. They are what ultimately contain the resin glands that produce the fragrant terpene oils.

Cannabis plants can contain over 150 terpenes, and together, they create unique and distinct scents and flavours! However, some are much more prominent than others, while some can be found in only small trace amounts which can have a lesser effect on the overall scent and taste.

Common Terpenes and Their Effects

Some of the most common terpenes found in cannabis include: 

  • Myrcene: Relaxing with antifungal and antibacterial properties; could also have sedating properties. Also found in mangoes and lemongrass.
  • Caryophyllene: Antiviral and provides relief from inflammation. Could also be beneficial for managing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Found in herbs such as cinnamon and rosemary. Also found in black pepper.
  • Limonene: Calming and de-stressing with anti-anxiety properties. Research suggests it may potentially have anti-cancer properties. Has refreshing and uplifting citrus notes. Found in rinds of citrus fruits, as well as ginger, peppermint and juniper. Very abundant and common in fruity cannabis strains.
  • Pinene: Assists with pain, anxiety and inflammation. Common in other herbs like basil and dill, and plants, mainly coniferous trees and shrubs. Extracted for antidepressant medication. Like limonene, it is also possible for this terpene to carry anti-cancer properties.
  • Terpinolene: Energizing, uplifting and calming with antibacterial and antifungal properties. Found in apples, lilacs, cumin and tea tree. A fresh scent, it is often used as an additive in soaps and cleaning products.
  • Linalool: Calming and stress relieving. Found in lavender and popular in aromatherapy. Often extracted for use in antidepressant medicines.
  • Humulene: Promotes pain relief and energy. Found in ginseng, a traditional plant that has long been incorporated into folk medicines.

The levels of terpenes in cannabis plants differ from strain to strain. This is why there is such a range of aromas and flavours found in cannabis! They are the reason why a strain like Girl Scout Cookies gives off a vanilla and nutty cookie scent, while something like Diesel or its derivatives give off pungent, fuel smells. It is also the reason why some strains may be similar to others, like the gelato and sorbet strains. It is because they carry similar terpenes!

What Else Do Terpenes Do?

It is believed that terpenes help ward off predators, and can also help offer protection from harsh weather conditions by triggering responses to the surrounding environment. In a way, they are sort of support or immune system for plants. For example, the terpenes terpinolene and linalool help with spreading pollen as they attract insects and other small creatures that pollinate. There is still much research to be done on how they affect humans, and their usage in medicine is particularly gaining traction. With rising practices like aromatherapy that allow you to bask in calming scents and comforting vibes, more people are starting to pay more attention to cannabis terpene profiles for desired effects when shopping for strains rather than THC content alone.

Shopping For Weed and Concentrates with Terpenes in Mind

Terpenes are most fresh, fragrant, raw and authentic when you’re using cannabis flowers rather than concentrates or extracts. This is because terpenes are fragile and volatile, and extraction processes for concentrates often include heating. Such methods of extraction or production destroy the terpenes. As awareness of the value and benefits of compounds are growing, however, such processes are becoming modified or remastered to be more careful and retain as much of cannabis terpenes as possible. A concentrate like live resin is one example of how terpenes can be retained through extraction. This way, live resin users a more potent experience that doesn’t take away from the aromatic experience of cannabis!

Learn About Terpenes with Green Society

Green Society makes your cannabis and terpene shopping easier by detailing the unique aromas and flavours of each cannabis flower strain available in the Green Room shop! Whether you’re a fan of energizing and fruity terpinolene or seeking the calming and therapeutic benefits of linalool, we’ve got you covered! Seeking for a bit of extra strength? Shop online for live resin and other concentrates to use alone or to complement your fragrant and aromatic cannabis flowers!

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