What are terpenes and what do they do?

One of the best things about cannabis is its infinite variety. When you're relaxing after work or going on an adventure, you can pick the perfect cannabis strain to match your mood. What's the secret behind cannabis' countless flavors and aromas? Terpenes are responsible for things like the fruity flavor of Guava Gelato cannabis and the herbal notes of Lavender Haze strains. They also have some other surprising effects on how cannabis works. Understanding what terpenes are helps you create your ideal cannabis experience.

Terpenes definition

Terpenes are naturally occurring organic compounds that are present in a variety of plants. These special compounds are responsible for producing intense aromas and flavors and have some practical functions. In the natural world, plants use terpenes to attract pollinators and prevent bacterial infections. Luckily for humans, they also make some of our favorite products smell and taste delicious. Citrusy orange, spicy mint, and piney cannabis scents come from terpenes.

What are the different types of terpenes?

Did you know there are over 20,000 different types of terpenes? New terpenes are being discovered every day, so there are constantly new flavors to explore. Most types of terpenes fall into one of these categories:

  • Sweet terpenes: These terpenes are often reminiscent of baked goods. Common sweet terpenes include myrcene and carene.
  • Sour terpenes: Tangy, citrusy aromas are frequently present in terpenes such as limonene and citronellol.
  • Spicy terpenes: Terpenes like caryophyllene, linalool, and beta-pinene have a peppery, sharp flavor.
  • Bitter terpenes: Bitter terpenes include options like humulene and thymol. People often describe these terpenes as herbal, pungent, or musky.

What terpenes are in cannabis?

Every cannabis strain you pick has different terpenes that will affect its final flavor and scent. With over 100 different terpenes naturally found in cannabis, the possibilities are endless. Depending on the strain you select, you might encounter one or more of these common cannabis terpenes:

  • Myrcene
  • Limonene
  • Linalool
  • Beta-caryophyllene
  • Eucalyptol
  • Humulene

What does terpenes mean in CBD products?

If you see CBD products with a "terpenes" label, it means that the CBD has some of the classic terpenes found in cannabis. This ensures the CBD smells as delicious and rich as traditional high-THC cannabis. It also means your CBD product is closer to natural cannabis. Instead of just being plain cannabidiol, CBD with terpenes contains a blend of the other oils and compounds found in freshly grown cannabis.

How do terpenes impact your experience?

Of course, the biggest impact terpenes have is their scent. Without terpenes, we wouldn't have that signature cannabis aroma so many people enjoy. Furthermore, terpenes are also responsible for a lot of the subtle fruity, herbal, and earthy flavors that make certain strains so distinctive. These scents are a huge part of any cannabis experience, so you can thank terpenes for all the great tastes you enjoy.

Some researchers also theorize that terpenes may impact the way your body processes cannabinoids. Cannabis is an incredibly complex substance that contains THC, CBD, terpenes, and other compounds. When you consume all these compounds simultaneously, you experience a mechanism called the "entourage effect." Terpenes start to change the way cannabinoids are absorbed into the brain and enhance certain reactions.

What are the effects of terpenes?

Since they're found in a variety of non-psychoactive plants, it's no surprise that terpenes don't alter your perception in any way. By themselves, they don't have a huge effect on humans. Research indicates that terpenes don't bind with your brain's cannabinoid receptors or have any other noticeable impacts. If you were to vaporize pure terpenes, you'd probably only notice the aroma, similar to an essential oil.

However, that doesn't mean terpenes are entirely ineffective. After all, plants produce terpenes because they're helpful. Certain terpenes can inhibit the growth of fungi, bacteria, and other microbes. Furthermore, the smells produced by terpenes are popular for aromatherapy, while their flavors are used in cooking. These valuable effects ensure that terpene-rich plants have plenty of uses.

Terpene profiles in top cannabis strains

Cannabis cultivars make exploring all the different flavors and aromas of terpenes easy. Each strain has its own special blend of terpenes that gives it a distinct flavor. Here are some of the terpene profiles for popular cannabis strains.

  • Pineapple Express: This uplifting Sativa cultivar gets its distinctive pineapple scent from a precise balance of ocimene and limonene.
  • Blue Dream: An award-winning Sativa, Blue Dream's signature flavor comes from myrcene and pinene combining to create an earthy, blueberry flavor.
  • Tahoe Rose: Known for having a classic, spicy aroma, Tahoe Rose contains high levels of myrcene and limonene.
  • Lemon Cake: erpinolene and myrcene combine to create a sweet yet creamy flavor in this hybrid cannabis strain.
  • Mochi Cookies: This hybrid strain has a careful blend of caryophyllene and limonene that gives it an earthy, spicy taste.

Ultimately, terpenes have a huge impact on your cannabis experience. Their ability to impart distinct flavors to different strains makes it even easier to customize your cannabis experience. Whether you love fruity, floral, herbal, or sweet flavors, there's a terpene profile for you. Grab your PAX vape pen, pick up one of our ERA pods, and find your new favorite.

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