The science behind your favourite strain is incredible, and much of it begins with the terpenes. Terpenes give different weed types their unique fragrances and flavours, but the complete range of effects is more complex. Their versatility and ability to work in a wide range of THC and CBD products make them very popular!
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are not unique to cannabis – they are a part of almost every kind of plant, including fruits and vegetables. The terpenes are the aromatic compounds, creating the characteristic scent of every plant. The profiles of these chemical compounds can be quite complex, especially in the cannabis plants grown today – it’s why different strains have different tastes and flavour profiles.
Terpenes serve more purposes than flavour and smell – they act as a natural defence system against invasive pests and bacteria that try to cause the plant harm while simultaneously attracting pollinators that help them reproduce. Resinous glands also release terpenes to act as a natural sunblock, protecting the buds from the sun’s harsh UV rays.
But, of course, terpenes also provide some services to us humans. They contain cannabinoids, the naturally occurring compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant that give cannabis its psychoactive and therapeutic properties. These are found in the largest amounts in the flowers of the female cannabis plant, making it one of the most important parts of the cannabis plant – the seeds will appear when the plant has been pollinated.
Many cannabis connoisseurs consider the terpene profile when choosing their strain. The number of different terpenes in a strain can get to over a hundred, and while many of them are exclusive to cannabis, many of them are also found in other plants. Terpenes are why we can describe some strains as earthy, musky, fruity, and other notes. Because of this, some strains resemble the taste and smell of citrus fruits (linalool and limonene), berries (terpineol), and even pine trees (alpha-pinene).
Why Are Terpenes So Popular Among Cannabis Consumers?
Terpenes are popular because they can be removed from the buds and sold as potent extracts. Many full-spectrum cannabis extractions, like diamonds and a sauce-like product called terp sauce, are some of the most potent products available. Consumers use them for dabbing, vaping, and sprinkling some extract onto their dried flower, giving a more complex experience.
Terpenes are also popular because cannabis companies are finding creative ways of using them. As producers began raising, investigating, and cross-breeding strains, they found that each one has a unique terpene and cannabinoid signature. Innovative breeders will add these flavourful compounds to products both to increase their potency and enhance the aromas and tastes of other strains.
Terpenes can also affect how therapeutic a strain is for medicinal and remedial products. Specific terpenes can be extracted and added to edibles, beverages, skin lotions, and more. There’s also the belief that cannabinoids and terpenes work off each other to enhance the overall effects of cannabis; this is called the entourage effect.
Even if you’re not a science person, terpenes are easy to understand – they give your favourite bud its unique characteristics. When you hear or read about the citrusy or earthy aromas or flavours in a particular strain, know this comes from the terpenes!