Cannabis Terpenes: What’s the Big Deal?


Cannabis has come a long way in the last couple of decades. What was once a skunk-smelling bag of brown leaves and stems has turned into a new market of endless aromas, flavors, and benefits. With the recent legalization in various parts of the world, cannabis connoisseurs are becoming as common as those of wine and craft beer.

There is a lot about the wonder plant that professionals and researchers still don’t understand, but it has become obvious that cannabis is much more complicated than once believed. Now, a prospective buyer can walk into a dispensary and browse for cannabis based on the type of high they want, the medical factors they need to treat, and what flavors and smells they prefer.

While these factors have a lot to do with the type of strain and balance of THC/CBD, another popular component to consider are terpenes.



What are terpenes and are they actually important?

Terpenes are a chemical compound naturally found in many types of plants, such as flowers and herbs. They are responsible for the taste and smell of these plants, meant to either draw in pollinators or fend off predators.

Another benefit that terpenes offer their plants is as an antimicrobial, which protects the plant from harmful bacteria and mold.

This same feature has made terpenes useful to humans as well. For example, Linalool, which is a terpene that can be derived from lavender (as well as many cannabis strains), has been used to make cleaning products for decades. Between its sweet lavender smell and antimicrobial properties, it has become the perfect solution.

This isn’t where the benefits of terpenes end. They can benefit cannabis users in a variety of ways and add value to other chemical compounds within cannabis.

The “entourage effect” is a theory that states that different cannabis compounds work together to create different effects that individual compounds could not create on their own.

While there is still little research on the subject, a 2010 study examined the use of a THC-only extract on patients with cancer-related pain, compared to the use of a full-plant extract. In the tests with the THC extract, patients were unable to discern between it and the placebo. However, when testing the full plant extract, patients reacted favorably.

While this study hypothesizes CBD to be the important ingredient that the THC-only extract was missing, many cannabis users have noticed that different strains with the same THC-to-CBD ratios can have drastically different effects. This is commonly thought to be due to the terpenes, which seem to not only be effective as antimicrobials but as a treatment for anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or even lack of motivation.

This added factor has opened the doors to the possibilities of cannabis in both recreational and medicinal worlds.



What does this mean for Cannabis connoisseurs?

With formal research being slow to the draw, many cannabis users and professionals are taking it upon themselves to evaluate the benefits of various terpenes in combination with different THC/CBD ratios.

More and more dispensaries and grow facilities are starting to give a breakdown of terpenes in different strains so that customers can choose not just a specific flavor profile, but also the preferred effect on their body and mind.

Even if your local dispensary hasn’t gotten on board, you can still be your own scientist and do your own research. Start a cannabis journal and keep a record of the strains you try, what their THC/CBD content is, the terpenes they contain, and how they make you feel.

As you fill up the pages, you can start to understand your own preferences, make adjustments, and come to your own conclusion about the importance of terpenes in the cannabis experience.

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