What if I told you that general talk of Indicas, Sativas and Hybrid strain preferences are soon to be replaced with our favourite terpenes? You would probably call me crazy! But as our knowledge of cannabis develops we are realizing that Indica, Hybrid and Sativa are general classifications of a very complex plant anatomy, and that the unique cannabinoid profile as well as terpenes are what’s responsible for the different ways you feel when you consume cannabis.
Each strain of cannabis contains unique compounds found in the glandular trichomes on the plant (aren’t they pretty?!). These compounds are made up of cannabinoids (i.e. THC, CBD, CBG, CCN, THC-A, etc.), terpenes and flavonoids (the smell and taste). Like cannabinoids, terpenes also bind to the receptors in our brain and cause a chemical reaction in our bodies that is responsible for our overall experience
There are over 20,000 documented terpenes in the plant-based world, 200 in the cannabis plant (32 currently recorded). Ironically, if you’re smelling these terpenes, you’re losing them! All of the compounds found in cannabis have different evaporation temperatures where they start to break down, and lessen the positive affects on the body. This is why so many people are switching from smoking cannabis to vaporizing. By regulating the temperature with a vaporizer, you protect the oily resin that contains all of the magical, medical properties of the plant. Some terpenes are volatile below room temperature and evaporate faster like myrcene and limonene and heavier terpenes like caryophyllene don’t evaporate as quickly. Make sure to handle your cannabis carefully to preserve the compounds and store it in a cool, dry, dark place in a sealed or air tight container.
These are some of the most common and easiest to identify in cannabis. (Thanks to THC Design for this quick reference chart)
Myrcene: Looking for couch lock, or a relaxing sedative high? Add in some skunky or musky smelling bud to your routine! One of the more popular terpenes, myrcene helps some other cannabinoids and terpenes pass through cell membranes. This allows THC to reach brain cells easier, thus increasing the potency of cannabis. It’s the perfect example of the entourage effect, where both terpenes and cannabinoids work together synergistically to produce or enhance a particular therapeutic effect that could not be obtained from a single compound alone. In food, this has been referenced as a “symphony of nutrients” working together to provide many health benefits, instead of isolating compounds. (Think taking a Vitamin C supplement as opposed to eating an orange – I’ll choose the Orange every time!)
D-Limonene: This terpene is great for it’s uplifting and mood enhancing properties, so is found more in Sativa dominant strains! Limonene increases serotonin and dopamine naturally in the body, it’s an analgesic (decreases pain), helps reduce anxiety, is an anti-depressant and cancer inhibitor.
Beta-Carophyllene: Beta- Caryophyllene is most commonly found in black pepper. It is known to be an anti-inflammatory, helps reduce anxiety, and protects the lining of the digestive tract.
Linalool: This terpene is most commonly found in floral plants and coriander. The Linalool terpene has been known to help reduce stress, fight depression, sedating, and pain relieving and is found in more Indica dominant strains.
a-Pinene: a-Pinene is most commonly found in pine trees, thus the strong piney scent. It frequently acts as an anti-inflammatory, a bronchodilator and expectorant (helps improve airflow to the lungs and clear flem/stagnation), an anti-bacterial, and memory aid that helps with mental alertness.
There are many other terpenes, but these are some of the most common. Keep in mind – terpenes interact with one another to produce a modulated over-all affect. So, if a particular strain had a very high amount of myrcene and low amount of a-pinene, you may not experience the alertness than if it was combined with a strain with high limonene. Once you get comfortable with the terpenes found in cannabis, it’s best to look at the entire chemical composure of the terpenes to find your desired effect while treating your symptoms. If you’re interested in looking up your favourite strain’s terpene profiles, check out Leafly or this handy Terpene Wheel
What are your favourite terpenes? Comment below!