What is the Big Deal with Terpenes?

What are they and why have you been hearing your bud tenders brag about the terp percentage of their favourite buds? Well, that’s what we’re here to break down today. While cannabinoids such as THC and CBD have received a lot of attention for their effects, terpenes also play an important role in the cannabis plant’s unique properties and effects.

Terpenes are a diverse group of organic compounds that are found in many plants (not just marijuana). They are responsible for the plant's aroma and flavor. For example, almost all citrus fruits contain high amounts of the terpene limonene (think lemon, lime, etc.) giving them their signature sour quality. There are over 100 different terpenes found in cannabis, and each strain has a unique combination and concentration of terpenes, which gives it a distinct smell, taste, and is believed to contribute to its therapeutic effects.

Some of the most common terpenes found in cannabis include myrcene, limonene, pinene, caryophyllene, and linalool. Myrcene is present in all cannabis plants and is responsible for its musky, earthy aroma. It is also found in other plants such as lemongrass and hops, which is why some people compare the smell of marijuana to that of beer. Indica strains (such as OG Kush) are often dominant in myrcene giving them the signature “couch-lock” effect.

Limonene, as mentioned above, has a citrusy aroma and is found in high concentrations in strains such as Lemon Haze and Sour Diesel. Limonene has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and may help relieve stress. Limonene is also believed to elevate mood, and can be found more often (but not exclusively) in sativa strains.

Pinene is another common terpene found in cannabis, and as its name suggests, it has a piney aroma. One of the most popular strains on the market, Blue Dream, is often high in pinene. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects and help to open one’s airways. Think Vick’s VapoRub. It may also help with memory and concentration.

Caryophyllene has a spicy, peppery aroma and is found in high concentrations in strains such as Girl Scout Cookies and Bubba Kush. It is unique among terpenes in that it can also bind to the CB2 cannabinoid receptors in your immune system, which may contribute to the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects that are experienced. 

Linalool has a floral aroma and is found in high concentrations in Lavender and strains such as LA Confidential, Granddaddy Purple, and Do Si Dos. It is believed to have sedative effects and can help calm an overactive nervous system. This calming effect makes strains high in linalool useful for sleep and winding down at the end of the day.

An excellent way to find what terpenes work for you is check your packaging and keep track of what works for you and when. Almost all of the craft brands we carry have started printing the percentage breakdown of the top 3 or 4 terpenes included on the back of the packaging. Not only will this help reduce the chance of smoking something that will knock you out when you’re trying to party on, this knowledge may help you more thoroughly understand why you enjoy the strains you do. You may be surprised to learn that all of your favourite strains have a similar terp profile.

In conclusion, terpenes are an important but often overlooked component of marijuana. While more research is needed to fully understand the role of terpenes in cannabis, it is clear that they play an important part in the plant's unique properties and our unique experiences with it.