What are terpenes and why do they matter?
What are terpenes?
When you're learning about the compounds in cannabis, you'll notice that there is a lot of focus on cannabinoids. While compounds are helpful, they're not the only ones you should know about. Terpenes are another type of naturally occurring compound that can have a huge effect on your experience. Check out this guide to learn everything you should know about terpenes.
Terpenes are a type of organic compound. If you've ever smelled an orange, sniffed lavender essential oil, or appreciated the complex scent of a strain of cannabis, then you've interacted with a terpene before. Terpene compounds are the chemicals that cause most of the strong smells you notice in the plant world.
Plants produce a terpene compound to help ward off hungry animals, infectious germs, and other natural predators. In some plants, they can also attract pollinators and help regulate temperature. Conifer trees, hops, and cannabis all have terpenes in very high levels, but other flowers and fruits also produce them. These compounds get extracted from plants in the form of essential oils and other concentrated liquids.
Different types of terpenes
Terpene compounds have a variety of different functions in the natural world. So, not all terpene categories have the same effects. With over 20,000 terpene variants in existence, scientists aren't even sure what all of these compounds do yet.
When you're looking at terpene types, one of the first things you should think about is their scent profiles. Most terpene types smell sweet, sour, spicy, or bitter. Sweet terpene types are often described as smelling fruity, flowery, or tropical. Meanwhile, sour terpene types can smell citrusy, and spicy terpene types smell herbaceous or sharp. When you sniff bitter terpene types, you'll notice a nutty or vegetal scent.
The function of a terpene isn't just scent. After all, plants produce them to help protect themselves and boost growth. Some terpene types are believed to be antimicrobial. Plants produce options like limonene to ward off various fungal and bacterial infections that could hurt the plant. Meanwhile, terpene compounds like myrcene are actually attractors. Plants use them to get bees and other pollinators to help spread pollen around. A final type of plant terpene is the kind meant to repel pests. They might smell great to us, but types like linalool and pinene smell horrible to ants, beetles, and other critters.
What terpenes are in cannabis?
There are over 100 terpene types found in various cannabis plants. Different strains have all sorts of different profiles. These are some of the most commonly available terpene types that you'll encounter:
- Myrcene: Myrcene is present in cannabis flowers, hops, thyme, and lemongrass.
- Limonene: This terpene has a citrusy smell similar to lemons. It's associated with antibacterial and stress-reducing properties, according to CannaCon.org.
- Linalool: Linalool is the terpene that gives cannabis its signature spicy and floral smell.
- Beta-caryophyllene: Caryophyllene is an unusual terpene because it also binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
- Eucalyptol: This terpene slows bacterial and fungal growth. Though it's mostly found in eucalyptus trees, this cool, minty-smelling terpene is also present in some strains.
- Humulene: This terpene has woody, earthy scents, and you'll find it in things like cannabis, sage, and black pepper.
Do terpenes impact your experience?
With the compound's presence in cannabis, you're probably wondering if a terpene will impact your experience. The reality is that terpene compounds aren't really proven to be associated with many noticeable changes to mood or perception. Research to date indicates that most of them don't even bind with cannabinoid receptors in the brain to alter brain chemistry. On their own, a terpene may not cause many noticeable sensations. If you steadily breathe in super-concentrated amounts of straight terpene, you might feel a little weird from the lack of oxygen, but that's about it.
However, this doesn't mean a terpene will have no influence on your experience. Instead, terpene compounds help contribute to the so-called "entourage effect." Essentially, this theory holds that these chemicals can affect the way your body reacts to THC and CBD. Just like you probably behave differently when with an entourage of friends, it is believed that THC and CBD interact with your brain differently when there are terpenes hanging around. Researchers haven't analyzed this effect in depth, but they've noticed some terpene types seem to enhance certain reactions.
Terpene profiles in top cannabis strains
When you're picking out cannabis strains, terpene profiles are among the main things that distinguish them from each other. Since a terpene profile really influences smells, it's what gives cannabis its signature scent.
For example, strains like White Widow and Special Kush get a slight fruity smell due to the presence of myrcene. Meanwhile, strains that'll seem a bit sour to you, such as O.G. Kush, Super Lemon Haze, and Sour Diesel, get this scent from limonene. Peppery strains, like Skywalker and Super Silver Haze, have caryophyllene to give them their spicy note. If you're interested in the woody, earthy scents from humulene, consider strains like Headband, Pink Kush, and GSC.
Ultimately, terpene compounds are responsible for lots of the scents and tastes that make cannabis so appealing. Understanding what terpenes are helps you more easily find Era™ pods near you that suit your flavor preferences. Now that you know all about terpene types, it'll be even easier to find cannabis strains you love.