Understanding Cannabis Terpenes and Their Purposes

June 10, 2021

Terpenes Infographic

The aroma of cannabis plants acts as a first point of contact with our senses. Whether it’s a fruity, citrusy scent from strains like Tangerine Dream, or a skunky, earthy smell from cracked buds of Jolly Rancher, these smells make us more excited to toke up and enjoy the corresponding flavours and their effects. The compound in cannabis plants responsible for these smells is terpenes. So what exactly are terpenes and what do they do?

Terpenes are compounds secreted in the same glands that produce cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. In definition, terpenes are aromatic oils that give cannabis varieties their colours and distinctive flavours. Understanding terpenes and their purpose will give you a stronger appreciation for the cannabis plant and informative insight if you’re still trying to navigate your way around the world of this growing industry.

Let’s take a deeper look into what exactly terpenes do for the cannabis plant. 

What Are Terpenes And What Do They Do?

Generally speaking, terpenes are chemical compounds found in plants and in some animals. Terpenes are responsible for the flavours, aromas, and even colours that are associated with many types of vegetation. When it comes to cannabis plants, terpenes are the compounds that make certain strains smell and taste differently.

While all known plants contain terpenes, the most common sources include:

There are over 120 classifications of terpenes identified in the cannabis plant, but only several have been studied and linked to certain effects. Each strain develops a unique terpene composition and type. To make it easier to understand, a Blueberry-like strain will inherit the fruity smell of berries, while strains like Garlic Breath will bear a funky, pungent crushed garlic smell.

Terpenes act as the cannabis plant’s way to repel predators and lure pollinators for adaptive purposes. Climate, weather, maturation, fertilizers, soil type, and specific time of day are factors that influence the plant’s development of terpenes. 

Terpenes may also be responsible for the different effects of cannabis strains, putting a question into the traditional belief that indica and sativa are the only key differentiators of these effects. However, it is believed that more studies are needed to understand this claim, and to what extent. 

a dried cannabis flower being examined

How Are Terpenes Differentiated?

While general differences of terpenes can be subtle, terpenes add a great layer of depth to the horticultural art of cultivating cannabis. Terpenes are also believed to add therapeutic value to strains, based on unique medicinal properties available to each one. 

Terpenes are differentiated in colours, with darker colours representing sedative properties and bright colours offering energizing effects. The most common examples of terpenes found in commercial cannabis is Myrcene, which is said to have calming effects with a pungent, earthy, and floral scent. Strains like Blue Dream, Granddaddy Purple, OG Kush, and Cherry Pie are rich in Myrcene. Depending on the concentration of Myrcene in the strain, it can either induce sleep or produce an energizing effect (concentration of less than 0.5%). 

Terpenes possess unlimited combinations of potential synergistic effects, hence opening up new doors for medical and scientific opportunities for cannabis research. There are several hypotheses surrounding the research of terpene effects, with the main one stating that the dominant terpene profiles work together with the cannabinoid content, which is represented by the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other cannabinoids, to produce effects that consumers associate with different strains. 

To put it in layman’s terms, terpenes might explain why two different strains with the exact same level of THC can give different experiences and effects. 

Can Terpenes Make You High?

Some of you might wonder if terpenes can make you feel the intoxicating effect associated with THC. The simple answer depends, as terpenes won’t necessarily make the consumer feel high, but some terpenes are considered to be psychoactive as they affect the brain. On their own, terpenes are not intoxicating, but they do impact the effects of THC. 

Budtenders and cannabis enthusiasts believe that consumers place too much importance on the THC content of strains, and suggest that they should understand terpene profiles to achieve their desired effects. 

As an example, a preliminary study suggests that some terpenes could have benefits for certain mental health concerns, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. 

Understanding Terpenes, Compared to THC and CBD 

THC and CBD are the most well-known and well-researched cannabis compounds called “phytocannabinoids,” but they are only two of more than 100 cannabinoids found in the plant. Cannabinoids and terpenes can provide insight into what to expect from a cannabis product, and they all interact with each other in what cannabis experts call the “entourage effect.”

This famous hypothesis suggests that the full spectrum of cannabis plants, including terpenes and cannabinoids, work together to produce certain effects and sensations, compared to when they are consumed on their own, as in CBD-based products or THC-dominant strains. 

The Healing Properties of the “Entourage Effect” Theory

Several articles of research and studies state that consuming phytocannabinoids and terpenes together can provide additional healing benefits. The review of studies in the British Journal of Pharmacology revealed that taking phytocannabinoids and terpenes together could be beneficial for:

The ongoing and ever-evolving research on medical cannabis also applies to studying the entourage effect theory and the roles that terpenes play in it. The next time you choose a strain for its flavour and smell, you can thank its terpene profile for it!

Seven Point branded lighter

Need More Answers on What Terpenes Can Do For You?

Visit Seven Point at our new location in High Park between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. from Monday to Sunday, and talk to one of our budtenders about terpenes. We will happily answer any of your questions regarding each strain’s terpene profile and the effects it can have on your toking experience. 

You can also choose to browse our wide selection of flowers and other smoking essentials online, delivered right to your door through our same-day delivery service. Contact us today to learn more about terpenes and our many strain offerings.

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