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Terpenes - Exploring Your Weed’s Fingerprint


For a while now, you’ve probably heard the term “terpenes” being thrown around by budtenders behind the counter of your favorite dispensary. Like most, you also probably shook your head in agreement to feign being “in the know” when one of those budtenders asked about your favorite terpene profile. You know these terpenes are a part of your bud, you know they do something, and you know they’re important, but if asked to define them, you may come up with a case of cottonmouth. Let’s take a moment to explore what exactly terpenes are. 

Have you ever felt really badass because you were able to identify your bud’s strain based on smell? This impressive party trick isn’t simply a show of olfactory finesse. The same part of the cannabis plant that produces cannabinoids like THC or CBD is also responsible for also producing terpenes. Terpenes are not only the aromatic oils emitted by the cannabis plant which give strains their infamous scent, but they’re also responsible for a sundry of other effects. 

The reason we refer to terpenes as your weed’s fingerprint is because they’re the main contributing factor behind each strain’s unique taste, scent, and in many cases, effects. In fact, third party-labs oftentimes treat a plant’s terpene profile just as they would a human’s fingerprint, given how unique a terpene profile can be. With over 200 terpenes in the cannabis plant that have already been identified by researchers, it is easy to see how the combinations are basically endless. Strain names like Lemon Cheesecake or Pineapple Express may sound like they were pulled out of thin air, but if you actually compare the scent profiles of these strains (or any strain for that matter) beside each other, it is obvious how their names were derived. 

What’s the purpose of terpenes?

While scientists don’t (and may never) have the complete answer as to why the cannabis plant has such a wide array of terpene production abilities, most evidence points to the fact that each terpene is produced with a purpose-driven intent. For example, some terpenes are irresistible to pollinators, and as we know, more pollinators result in a wider spread of germinated cannabis plants (thanks, bees!) On the other hand, there are terpene profiles that act as effective repellants against pests. 

Now where things get really interesting are when you consider some of the more intricate abilities of terpenes. Researchers have identified certain terpene profiles that protect the plant in a different way. Some terpenes maintain the ability to assist the plant in regenerating damaged parts of itself. Others have shown to function as sort of a secondary immune system for the plant, helping fight off disease. As you may imagine, the amount of research currently being conducted on the ability for humans to benefit from these naturally occurring compounds is astounding. Imagine for a moment if scientists were able to harness the immune-boosting or regenerative properties of terpenes and utilize those in humans! 

Do terpenes affect me?

All signs point to yes! Of course, as with all things science-related, we can’t definitively say for sure if terpenes affect the human body without crazy amounts of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, but early evidence is certainly reassuring that terps do in fact play a role in your cannabis experience. 

The most commonly accepted term for this role that terpenes have is called the “entourage effect.” This is the school of thought that consideres which terpenes are present and the amount of each terpene actually present in your bud (AKA: terpene profile), results in different types of highs that you may experience. In the past, canna-sseurs more commonly used “sativa” and “indica” to describe these effects. You were likely led to believe that, generally, indicas would promote relaxation or help you sleep while sativas promoted a more energetic or creative high. As we’re learning more about the cannabis plant, the labeling of indica and sativa is sort of going by the wayside in lieu of terpene profiles. 

Common Terpenes

With over 200 terpenes discovered to date, it is likely that you’ll never experience some of the more obscure variants. However, as far as cannabis goes, there’s a selection of terpenes that are much more commonly found compared to some of the rare ones like caryophyllene, which has a spicy, woodsy profile.

Limonene

One of the most well-known terpenes, limonene is easily identifiable by its lemon/citrus scent. According to this study, limonene has given scientist enough evidence to further research its ability to potentially be an anti-diabetic, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory agent. Of course, there’s a lot of additional research needed to be able to figure out how to fully harness these characteristics, but this looks like a promising start! 

Myrcene

Another terpene that you’re likely to find with not only cannabis, but in many other plants as well. A study published by the Department of Medical Pharmacology at the University of Inonu concluded that Myrcene was beneficial in lab rats in terms of reducing brain damage following ischemic strokes. Although rodent studies don’t necessarily translate directly to humans, they’re a great starting point to let scientists know where potential benefits lie and where they should focus additional research. 

Pinene

A popular terpene found in numerous cannabis strains as well as pine trees (with a name like Pinene…go figure, right?). Pinene’s potential anti-inflammatory traits and possible ability to battle germs paints an entirely new perspective if you were one of those people who turned your nose up at the scent of Christmas trees. Besides, what sort of grinch does that?!

Linalool

If you’re a fan of the scent emitted from lavender, it is safe to say that you’re into linalool. A commonly used terpene by those who practice aromatherapy, linalool is known for its ability to ease the mind and relax the body. As if its soothing scent wasn’t enough to entice you, early evidence suggests that linalool may also pack a punch in terms of anti-microbial, neuro-protective, antidepressant, and anxiolytic properties. That’s quite the resume considering linalool is just 1 of over 200 terpenes that researchers have identified. 

How do I use this information?

We get it, you’re armed to the teeth with fancy sounding terpenes that you’ve practiced saying in the mirror, but you’re not sure what to do with that info. Remember the budtenders we mentioned back in the beginning? Bingo! Head to your favorite dispensary, practice your new terms a few last times in the parking lot before heading inside, and then simply tell them what you want to try! Most decently stocked dispensaries will be able to point you to strains with the highest terpene profiles of whatever you desire! 

One last tip…terpenes are sensitive to temperature….really sensitive. That butane jet lighter you use on your bud will absolutely destroy your weed’s terpene profile. You can avoid this by taming your flame with something like a Twisted Bee hemp wick. If you don’t believe us, give it a shot just once. We’re that confident that it will be a game changer for your cannabis experience!

References: 
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0009279717310487 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24972849/ 
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0927776518305253

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