Cannabis terpenes dictate not only how a bud smells and tastes but also the experience it provides. In fact, many cannabis connoisseurs believe they can predict a flower’s effects by examining the bud structure and analyzing the aroma, much like wine sommeliers.
Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent primary and secondary terpenes in cannabis so you can start recognizing the smells that will lead to your ideal high.
What are Cannabis Terpenes?
Cannabis terpenes are fragrant oils produced in the flower’s resin glands, or trichomes, the same place cannabinoids like THC and CBD are created. Terpenes are the reason some buds smell like blueberries and others are as pungent and sour as a skunk. Every strain has its own unique terpene profile.
Cannabis terpenes work by binding to receptors in the brain to produce different effects. Similar to how cannabinoids interact with the body, cannabis terpenes also interact with the endocannabinoid system, serotonin, and dopamine. Plus, cannabis terpenes interact with each other and cannabinoids, often modifying their effects and creating whole new experiences. This process is commonly known as the “entourage effect” because it’s the interactions of all the compounds in cannabis that creates the experience.
There are over 100 different cannabis terpenes, and they’re categorized as either primary or secondary. But weed isn’t the only plant with terpenes; aromatic herbs, flowers, and fruit also contain terpenoids which give them their distinct smells. In nature, a plant’s terpenes have evolutionary purposes, such as to deter predators like insects or to protect plants from other environmental stressors.
What Are Primary Cannabis Terpenes?
Primary cannabis terpenes are those that are most common and have the most influence on how a strain smells. Many also believe cannabis’ effects are mostly driven by primary terpenes. There’s a saying in the cannabis industry comparing weed’s effects to driving a car: “If cannabinoids like THC and CBD are the gas pedal, then terpenes are the steering wheel.”
Most Common Primary Cannabis Terpenes
a-Pinene has a sharp, pine aroma. It’s unsurprisingly also found in pine needles but is present in rosemary, basil, parsley, and dill as well. It’s a bronchodilator so it can help with asthma, and it may also have therapeutic value for pain, inflammation, ulcers, anxiety, and cancer. a-Pinene can counteract some of THC’s effects as well as increase alertness and memory retention. This cannabis terpene is generally found in the strains Purple Kush, AK-47, OG Kush, and Jack Herer.
Myrcene has an earthy, musky scent and is also present in mangos, lemongrass, thyme, and hops. Myrcene is known as a downer because it produces the sedating “couch-lock” effect common to indica strains. This ultra-relaxing effect makes myrcene great for insomnia and anxiety, but it also has therapeutic value for pain and inflammation and has antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. What’s more, this cannabis terpene has the ability to enhance THC’s psychoactivity and is found in the strains Granddaddy Purple, Northern Lights, and Trainwreck.
Limonene has a citrus aroma that’s also found in fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, and peppermint. Limonene is known for its “upper” effects and helps to elevate mood and relieve stress. Therefore, it’s believed to be beneficial for anxiety and depression as well as inflammation, pain, and cancer. Limonene is prominent in the strains Super Lemon Haze, Sour Diesel, and Strawberry Banana.
B-caryophyllene is characterized by its spicy, woody, pepper aroma. It’s obviously found in black pepper but is also present in cloves and cinnamon. This terpene has a variety of potential medical values, including help with pain, anxiety, depression, ulcers, inflammation, muscle spasms, and insomnia. B-caryophyllene has stress relieving effects and may help treat addiction. It can be found in strains like GG4 (aka Gorilla Glue #4), White Widow, and Chemdawg.
Linalool is known for its floral, lavender scent. Lavender, the flower, is known to be relaxing because of the terpene linalool, which has calming, mood-enhancing effects used for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Linalool may also be used for inflammation, neurodegeneration, and convulsions. It’s an abundant terpene found in Headband, Kosher Kush, and of course, Lavender.
Humulene has a woody, earthy aroma that is common in hops, cilantro and basil. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can aid in pain relief. It’s also a known appetite suppressant, so it could be helpful if you’re avoiding the munchies. Humulene is found in the strains Death Star, Sour Diesel, and Headband.
Ocimene smells herbal sweet and woody and is found in mint, parsley, pepper, basil, and orchids. This cannabis terpene has antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. Plus, it may have medical value as a decongestant. Ocimene can be found in the strains Durban Poison and Sensi Star.
Terpinolene also has a pine aroma but smells more floral and herbal than a-pinene. Terpinolene can be found in conifer trees, as well as apples, cumin, and nutmeg. It has sedating effects and tons of potential medical value, including antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Terpinolene is commonly found in the strains Agent Orange and Dutch Treat.
What are Secondary Cannabis Terpenes?
Secondary terpenes are present in the cannabis plant in smaller amounts. They may not drive the experience as strongly as primary cannabis terpenes, but they definitely make a difference. Because of the entourage effect and the way secondary terpenes combine and interact with primary terpenes and different cannabinoids, they play an important role in dictating the type of experience a strain will provide.
Some common secondary terpenes include:
Weed is so much more than THC and CBD. The more you know about terps, the more expertly you can navigate the kind of bud you need to medicate properly and enhance your mood.