Terpenes: The Aromatic Ingredient of Cannabis

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Lemony, earthy, floral, spicy… the scent of a cannabis product can tell you a lot about its potential effects and benefits! 

The general effects of cannabis will depend on (1) the chemical makeup of your chosen strain and (2) the way it interacts with your unique body chemistry. Your personal experience and the benefits you receive are largely a result of the terpenes and cannabinoids in your cannabis. Cannabinoids include tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC), which can have a psychoactive effect, and cannabidiol (aka CBD), which may offer benefits such as inflammation reduction and pain relief. But what are terpenes, and what are their effects? 

What are Terpenes?

You may not realize it, but you encounter terpenes on a daily basis. Terpenes are hydrocarbon molecules present in both plants and animals. Terpenes give flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs their signature scent. The bitter smell of a lemon, the woody scent of a tree, and the sweet scent of a rose: terpenes! Terpenes offer natural benefits by both helping to attract pollinators and deter potential threats. Terpenes are used in essential oils and help create the enjoyable scents of perfumes and aromatherapy. When terpenes are oxygenated, they yield terpenoids like retinol, aka vitamin A, a valuable nutrient. 

Terpenes do far more than create pleasant scents: they interact organically with the body to deliver an array of effects, depending on the type of terpene. When you smell lavender aromatherapy oil, for example, you may feel more relaxed. This is not simply because it “smells nice”: a chemical reaction is at work! In this case, the terpene linalool is assisting in your relaxation.

About Cannabis Terpenes 

Terpenes are the aromatic element of the cannabis plant. A wide number of factors dictate what terpenes are present in cannabis plants, including the type of light, soil, and nutrients the plant receives. For example, greenhouse-grown cannabis tends to have different terpene profiles than outdoor-grown cannabis.

The terpene profile of a cannabis strain can impact the way it affects your mood and energy levels. Terpenes can also play a role in how quickly edible products are absorbed, as well as the longevity of their effects. 

The nose knows! The scent of your cannabis can help clue you into its potential psychoactive and therapeutic effects. While there are many types of terpenes and unique cannabis strains, there are some characteristics to consider when seeking your preferred cannabis experience. In general, fruity and citrusy-smelling cannabis strains are associated with energizing, more uplifting effects. Strains with more herbal, woody scents can relieve stress and offer other positive health benefits. The way you experience these terpenes will be unique to you.

The presence of terpenes throughout nature speaks to their value.

Many people find peace of mind knowing that terpenes are naturally-occurring. The information we have today about cannabis terpenes is promising, but there is still much we can learn. Ongoing principal component analysis is helping scientists to better understand the effects that can be achieved with certain cannabis terpene profiles.¹  

Types of Terpenes

There are over 140 types of cannabis terpenes (and counting)! Many of these terpenes are naturally occurring in plants and fruits, as well. Certain cannabis strains are known for having particular terpene content, though strains will vary slightly based on their growing conditions.  Below are some of the most commonly-occurring cannabis terpenes: 

Limonene

Found in lemon rind and juniper, Limonene has a signature citrusy scent. Its potential effects include anxiety relief, mood improvement, pain relief, and help with depression.

Myrcene 

Myrcene has a musty, earthy, clove-like scent. This terpene also occurs in hops, thyme, lemongrass, and mango. It has potentially relaxing properties. Some people find that it helps them with pain and inflammation. 

Terpinolene 

When you smell Terpinolene, you think of pine trees and fresh flowers. Found in apples, nutmeg, and lilacs, strains with Terpinolene can have antibacterial and antioxidant properties. You may find that you feel happier and more carefree after experiencing strains containing Terpinolene. 

Pinene

Pinene is the most common terpene in nature: it is found in pine needles, rosemary, and even parsley! Pinene possibly helps with memory retention, pain, and inflammation. As the name implies, Pinene is known for having a pine-like scent.

Terpineol

Terpineol has a floral scent with a slight hint of citrus. Its scent lends to its use in perfumes and food flavoring. Cannabis strains with Terpineol can have a very relaxing effect as well as antioxidant benefits. If strains like Girl Scout Cookies help you unwind, you can thank Terpineol!

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene has a peppery, woody scent. This terpene has shown to engage the endocannabinoid system, possibly achieving anti-inflammatory effects. Its potential benefits include pain, stress, and anxiety relief. Caryophyllene is also found in black pepper and cinnamon.  

Linalool

Found in lavender, Linalool has a floral scent. It may improve mood, help calm you, alleviate insomnia, and provide anti-inflammatory properties.

The effects of cannabis terpenes can vary from person to person. Looking for a particular medical or recreational benefit from your cannabis? The budtenders at Medallion Wellness will be happy to help you find a cannabis product with a terpene profile that lends to your desired experience.

The Entourage Effect

Have you heard of the “Entourage Effect”? It has nothing to do with the hit HBO TV show! The Entourage Effect refers to the way that terpenes and cannabinoids interact to create the unique experience of a particular cannabis strain.² A certain terpene profile could deemphasize the effects of cannabinoids or compliment and intensify them. The energizing versus calming properties of cannabis often come down to the Entourage Effect. 

Whether you are a medical or recreational cannabis user, the budtenders at Medallion Wellness can answer your questions and help you choose the strain that’s right for you! 

Temperature & Terpenes

Cannabis terpenes break down at high temperatures. In order to enjoy an ideal cannabis experience, you will want to avoid consumption methods that lead to terpene carbonization and degradation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before consuming your cannabis: 

  • Do not vaporize at a high temperature. If possible, use a vaporizer with a temperature control. A temperature between 350° and 400° F should adequately heat your cannabis while preserving the benefits of your terpenes.
  • If you will be smoking cannabis flowers, consider using a hemp wick, instead of a butane lighter. 
  • If you will be dabbing, consider using a quartz or ceramic nail. Quartz terp pearls and a carb cap that allows for adequate passage of air will also help heat your wax, shatter, or oil safely but effectively. 

While concentrates and extracts can be excellent ways to consume cannabis and reap the potential benefits of terpenes, some manufacturers can diminish the potency of the terpenes during the extraction process. Medallion Wellness partners with manufacturers who take care to preserve the protective components of the cannabis. This results in a purer, more efficacious concentrate of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Terpenes and Edibles

Are edibles your preferred method of cannabis consumption? Edibles manufacturers take steps to make sure terpenes are present in their products, but when it comes to terpenes, not all edibles are created equal. Labeling and testing protocols are still currently under improvement nationwide. At Medallion Wellness, we carry edibles from cannabis experts who understand how to preserve and infuse the many benefits of terpenes within their edibles.

How to Store Your Cannabis

If cannabis is not stored properly, carbonization can occur. This can diminish the potency of your terpenes. Cannabis flower and its components begin to degrade at the moment of harvest, but a process known as curing helps to stop this process in its tracks. Well-cured cannabis can keep its properties long after trimming. Storing your cannabis the right way will help prolong the life of your terpenes so that you can enjoy the full benefit of your consumption. 

Cannabis storage best-practices include:

  • Keep your cannabis airtight. 
  • Store your product away from bright light.
  • Do not expose your cannabis to high heat. 
  • Use a humidifier or humidity pouches to preserve quality.

Terpenes & Your Experience

Do you want to relax, improve your mood, or reduce your discomfort? Terpene profile can make a difference in your cannabis experience just as much as your ratio of THC to CBD. 

Medallion Wellness is dedicated to offering quality cannabis products. If you are looking for a certain effect from your cannabis, our knowledgeable staff will be happy to answer your questions and suggest the cannabis products that can deliver your desired effect.* 

We are here to help you find the cannabis experience that is right for you! Contact us to learn more about terpenes, cannabis best practices, and other useful cannabis information. 

*Everyone’s experience with cannabis will be unique. 

FAQ

Are terpenes legal?

Yes. Terpenes are naturally-occurring and are used in common products such as perfumes and natural flavoring.  

Will terpenes get you high? 

Terpenes are not psychoactive and therefore cannot get you high.

References

  1. Giese, Matthew W., Giese, Laura, Lewis, A. Mark, Smith, Kevin M. (2015) Development and Validation of a Reliable and Robust Method for the Analysis of Cannabinoids and Terpenes in Cannabis. Journal of AOAC International, 98 (6). 1503-1522. 10.5740/jaoacint.15-116
  2. Russo, B. Ethan. (2011). Tamic THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163 (7). 1344-1364. 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.
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