You don’t need to use your eyes to know the difference between a pine tree or a rose; the smell alone is enough to distinguish the two. These distinct aromas are produced by terpenes, the fragrant oils that give a wide variety of plants - in particular, cannabis plants - their unique flavors, scents, and even effects.
Whether you’re a medical or recreational cannabis consumer, it’s important to know what terpenes are and how they can improve your experience. Terpenes are hydrocarbons that are secreted by the same glands that produce the cannabinoids THC and CBD, and are a naturally occurring combination of hydrogen and carbon. They are responsible for the taste, smell, and even the effects of each specific strain. Cannabis, like most other strongly scented plants, developed terpenes for adaptive reasons, like attracting pollinators and deterring predators. There are many factors that influence a cannabis plant’s production of terpenes, including weather, climate, and soil type.
The combined delivery of terpenes and cannabinoids has an interesting effect: the permeability of the blood-brain barrier is increased, allowing larger molecules (like THC and CBD) through.
In effect, terpenes are the key to unlocking the brain’s “doors” and allowing the effects of cannabis to be felt more strongly. Once you understand how terpenes affect your individual biochemistry, you can use them as an ingredient list when seeking a desired effect.
While there are roughly 20,000 known terpenes in existence, over 100 different terpenes have been identified within the cannabis plant. Each cannabis strain has specific terpenes, which give them their distinct effects and scents. Knowing which terpenes you’re interacting with when consuming cannabis plays a huge role in understanding how your body will react to them.
There are a handful of different terpenes to be on the lookout for when picking your cannabis. We’ll go into detail about two here, but you can view a longer list of terpenes here.
One such terpene, called myrcene, is one of the most prolific terpenes in cannabis. Myrcene is of particular importance because its presence can be indicative of whether a strain has a more indica or sativa dominant effect. Myrcene has a relaxing and pain-relieving effect with aromas of musk, clove, herbs, and citrus. Look for mycerne in indica-dominant hybrids like In The Flow’s Glue and Fine Wine.
Another, called pinene is most commonly found in pine trees. It has an anti-inflammatory effect and has been shown to improve memory and alertness. Asthma patients who wish to vaporize cannabis may benefit from vaping a strain with high amounts of pinene as it functions like a bronchodilator, improving airflow to the lungs. Pinene comes in two forms: alpha and beta. Alpha pinene, the most common terpene in nature, is the compound that creates the distinct pine scent we all particularly love around the holiday season. Beta a-pinene has notes of rosemary, parsley, and dill. You can find pinene through In the Flow strains like Blue Dream and Mob Boss.
Only you truly know the experiences you have with cannabis, so logging your encounters with different strains - and their terpenes - could help you find your perfect match. Pay particular attention for similar effects in strains with similar terpene profiles. You can even bring your notes to your budtender so you can talk through what you love and get new recommendations.
At In The Flow, we feel it's extremely important to know the terpenes that exist in all of the strains we grow. This is why we get our strains lab-tested for terpene content so we can share this information with our budtender partners and the customers they guide. Find more information on how to choose the right strain for you at intheflowco.com.