Terpenes & Why They're Important

What is all the hubbub about these little aromatic compounds called terpenes, don’t they just give cannabis its scent?

The answer is actually no. Not only do terpenes give each strain its distinctive smell but they can also play a very active role in how THC and other cannabinoids work in our body, thus swaying the effects of cannabinoids while also having their very own benefits to offer. This is called the entourage effect and can be very important when considering which sativa strain you want to take home with you to study, or which indica you want to use to help you sleep tonight. 

Often times terpenes are listed on the back of cannabis packaging, like this Pearl cartridge label.

Often times terpenes are listed on the back of cannabis packaging, like this Pearl cartridge label.

Terpenes are becoming so significant that even some companies are changing the way they label and market their products to show the terpene profile of their strains. There is also talk about how we can better choose products for our needs or wants as consumers by categorizing cannabis by its effects instead of the old Sativa/Hybrid/Indica classifications. For example, Focus, Happy, Energy, Relax are just some of the effects that could be categories. This would be a big game changer in the industry and part of this huge change would be recognizing terpenes and the vital part they play in creating these very effects. 

So let’s get to the very definition of what a terpene is. Terpenes are a group of organic fragrant compounds found in the essential oils of plants. In cannabis, these essential oils are actually housed in the same trichomes that carry the cannabinoids like THC and CBD. You can find terpenes in your everyday life, as they are in common plants and foods like lemons, pine needles, black pepper, mangoes and lavender.

Here are some of the main terpenes that are found in cannabis and the benefits that they offer:

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Limonene

This is one of the most recognizable terpenes since the very distinct citrusy scent immediately gives it away. The name is a good indicator of other places you can find this terpene which would be lemons, oranges and other citrusy fruits or herbs. It’s well known for its uplifting effects and ability to elevate the mood, therefore it can be very useful for stress-relief. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and can be very helpful for anxiety and depression. This terpene is great for a good pick-me-up after a long day! Some strains that contain higher limonene content are Lemon OG, Hindu Kush and Dirty Girl.


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Alpha-Pinene

Most widely found terpene in nature and can be found in pine needles, rosemary and numerous other coniferous trees, giving them that notorious piney smell. This terpene possesses a great power, which is that it can pass through the blood/brain barrier far easier than other terpenes. It has been known to improve memory and focus and can even increase energy depending on the strain. What has also been noted is that it can counteract some of the effects of THC. As a result, A-Pinene can help us be more alert when consuming cannabis. The effects that it gives makes it great for studying, working out or for someone that wants to enjoy the benefits of cannabis without too much of that hazy feeling. Jack Herer and Dutch Treat are just a couple strains that normally have higher levels of this terpene.


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Myrcene

One of the most prevalent terpenes in cannabis is Myrcene, which has been found to give strains that more traditional musky scent that cannabis is known for. It also gives the more sedative effects that we like to call couch-lock. Of course, having myrcene in a strain does not always mean you will get that heavy body sensation. Depending on the level of myrcene and the other terpenes and cannabinoids in that particular strain, this terpene could just lend a more relaxing aspect to your high instead of a ‘melting-into-your-couch’ one. It has also shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. White Widow is a great example of a strain that is usually high in myrcene.


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Linalool

Think floral! This terpene is in many different flowers and spices but one of the most recognized is lavender. You can also find it in coriander, cinnamon and birch trees. Linalool is another terpene that is fantastic for it’s relaxing and mood-elevating effects so it can be very beneficial for anti-anxiety, anti-depressant as well as some sedative benefits. It also has been shown to help with inflammation and pain. Some strains that can have a higher quantity of linalool are LA Confidential, Amnesia Haze and Purple Kush.

These are just some of the terpenes that are present in cannabis and there is always more research to be done to see what these amazing compounds can do. For the future, terpenes could play a very large role in how the cannabis industry grows and changes. It could transform the way we think and talk about cannabis, the way that we categorize strains or even how we sometimes consume cannabis, as every terpene has a different boiling point. It will be very exciting to see in the coming years how terpenes will shape the over-all cannabis community as we push for more reform.

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