In my last column I talked about the endocannabinoid system within our bodies. We learned what the endocannabinoid system is and where cannabinoids are found on the marijuana flower (in the viscous resin structures called trichomes). But it’s not just cannabinoids that are found in the trichomes, terpenes are also present. The second most important thing to know after looking at the cannabinoid profile of the flower you look to purchase is its terpene profile.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are the volatile oil compounds responsible for the way most plants smell. They are abundant in the cannabis plant as well as many other plants, fruits and herbs. I want you to imagine cutting open a fresh lemon, I bet you can already smell it in your mind’s eye as you’re reading this. When you cut up a lemon you can almost instantly smell its terpenes. Terpenes are the volatile oils that give those lemons its district smell. In the case of a lemon the terpene you can distinctly smell is limonene. Limonene is the major component in the terpene profile of most citrus fruits like oranges and limes.
Limonene and its effect on the endocannabinoid system
Limonene is also very predominant in cannabis strains, specifically those that are categorized as sativa strains such as Mike’s Hard Lemon Haze, Super Lemon Haze or Jack Herer. It is found much more frequently in sativa strains and in higher concentrations versus hybrid or indica. Limonene interacts with the endocannabinoid system and produces an effect described as mood elevating and some studies have shown that it reduces stress. With that said, limonene isn’t the only terpene that’s involved in cannabis. Cannabis flowers can contain some of the most predominant terpenes like Limonene, Caryophyllene, Pinene, Terpinolene and Myrcene.
Other common Terpenes
Did you know that Pinene is the most common occurring terpene in natural plant life on Earth? Next time you’re in a pine forest think about all the Pinene you are smelling. Or did you know that Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis? Which is where you mostly find Myrcene in nature. To give you an idea of Myrcene smell it is that earthy, musky smell, some even describe it as that skunky smell. Remember when you first were introduced to cannabis and it all had that skunky, earthy smell to it, that’s mostly likely Myrcene. Myrcene is the terpene most commonly associated with indica strains such as Afghan Kush, Granddaddy Purple and Northern Lights. Myrcene is known to contribute to indica’s sedating or also known as “couchlock” effect.
The “entourage effect”
You find these important terpene molecules in the trichomes of cannabis, most commonly on the flower itself. When you consume cannabinoids and terpenes together you experience what we call in our industry the “entourage effect”. Terpenes not only convey the smell of different cannabis flowers but also have some therapeutic abilities, either by themselves or as a co-activating agent, enhancing the beneficial activity of cannabinoids on humans and creating these distinct euphoria’s which is why we call it the entourage effect. Cannabis euphoria is so much more than just THC. There are 400 known terpenes in cannabis which makes all the different strains and its effects understandable and plausible in combination with cannabinoids. And then taken into account each person’s unique endocannabinoid system and you being to understand why each strain effects each individual differently and why its important to know cannabinoid and terpene profiles and once you have this information you can choose the right strain for you.
Shopping with your nose
So next time your are shopping at my Wasilla dispensary ask one of my friendly budtenders what the cannabinoid and terpene profile is on the product you’re interested in. Smell the marijuana flower for yourself, start with what smells the best to you and your bodies chemistry and start your journey to choosing strains wisely. With this knowledge in your mind, you’ll never pick the wrong strain again.
Author: Bailey Stuart
Adjunct Professor UAA
Green Jar | Owner