What Are Terpenes and Why Do They Matter?

What Are Terpenes and Why Do They Matter?
February 23, 2018 Noa

What Are Terpenes and Why Do They Matter?


One of the greatest benefits of cannabis legalization is that consumers have more choices than ever regarding which cannabis strains to buy. If you’re new to legal medical or recreational cannabis, you may even think, “what’s the difference? As long as it works!” But, if you aren’t delving at least a little into the science behind the how and why, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Have you ever wondered why a strain you’ve tried before affected you differently when you bought it again?

Or, why different batches of the same strain can smell and taste so differently?

Or, why a strain with moderate THC affected you more than a hard-hitting 20%+ THC strain?

The answer is cannabis terpenes.

Terpenes are temperamental, highly aromatic molecules that occur naturally in floras, including the wonderful cannabis plant. They are the basis of aromatherapy and responsible for all the variations in taste and smell from plant to plant, strain to strain.

There are hundreds of terpenoids but only a handful appear in large enough amounts in cannabis to make their presence known outside of laboratory testing.

Terpenes are important for much more than the delightful aromas they provide. They have therapeutic effects too. Linalool, the primary terpene in lavender as well as many purple and floral-smelling cannabis strains, is calming and helps with sleep and relaxation. It can also help with insomnia and anxiety.

Terpenes work in conjunction with compounds like THC and CBD to enhance the effects. This is called “the entourage effect” and is the reason why CBD-only products are not as effective as those containing terpenes and THC.

Some of the most common terpenes in cannabis are:

Caryophyllene – smells like black pepper or cloves, helps arthritis, ulcers and gastrointestinal issues.

Limonene – smells like citrus and lemons, boosts mood, helps with depression and digestion and is also antibacterial, antifungal.

Linalool – smells like flowers and candy, calming, helps with anxiety, insomnia, and depression.

Myrcene – smells earthy and musky, good for muscle pain, tension, insomnia and is anti-carcinogenic.

If you’re not achieving the desired effects from a strain, it’s probably because the terpene profile doesn’t suit your personal body chemistry. Let your nose guide you! The strains that smell the best to you most likely contain the terpenes you need.

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