Terpenes are the chemical compounds which give many plants – including cannabis – their unique scents and flavors.
For example, if you love the smell of lavender or pine, you have terpenes to thank for it.
They’re also the reason why essential oils are so aromatic.
In the marijuana industry, terpenes are currently very “in”…
It’s easy to see why – they can dramatically affect the flavor and aroma of cannabis concentrates and marijuana-derived products such as vape oil.
Cannabis-derived terpenes – which are a little different to those found in other plants – are often the choice for those who want to get the most from their marijuana. But natural terpenes found in many other plants are increasingly finding their way into cannabis products, offering a wealth of different flavor options.
If you’ve been pondering questions like “what are cannabis terpenes?” and “why do they even matter?”, this article is for you…
What are terpenes in cannabis?
Terpenes are organic chemical compounds found in all kinds of plants, including cannabis, as well as in some insects.
The reason why many plants produce terpenes is to create an appetizing aroma for pollinators and an off-putting smell for any herbivores which might be in the area. Some are also designed to lure in helpful predators who might keep those herbivores at bay.
Over 20 000 terpenes are currently known to exist. Cannabis contains high levels of them – and more than 100 different ones. Hence its often pungent aroma.
The aroma and flavor of each individual strain of marijuana is determined by the types and levels of terpenes found within the plant, which can include:
- Limonene: this terpene, which produces the classic citrus smell, can be found in some cannabis strains as well as lemons and oranges.
- Pinene: alpha-pinene, better known as the smell of fallen pine needles, can also be found in some strains of cannabis. So can beta-pinene, which smells more like some herbs commonly used in food preparation and aromatherapy.
- Linalool: found in lavender and known for its calming properties, this terpene is brilliant when found in certain cannabis strains, which it often is.
Plant-derived and cannabis-derived terpenes
Terpenes have taken the marijuana industry by storm in recent years. But the terpenes in cannabis are comparatively harder (and thus more expensive) to extract than those in other plants…
This has led to an interesting development:
Many producers of cannabis concentrates like CBD oil or THC oil are now starting to use terpenes derived from other plants, herbs and even fruit to lend interesting flavors to their cannabis products.
Because the process of extracting terpenes from other plants can be done more cost-effectively than with cannabis, it’s easier to buy larger quantities of these elsewhere and then combine them into a cheaper final product.
But for the creators of higher quality products, cannabis-derived terpenes are usually preferred. We’ll get to the reasons why in just a moment…
When are terpenes produced in the cannabis plant?
Elements which can effect how much and when terpenes are produced in the cannabis plant include:
- The genetic provenance of the particular strain
- The amount of lighting the plant is kept in
- The quality of the soil the plant is grown in
- The correct amounts of environmental stress being present
- The temperature the plant is growing in
The difference between terpenes and cannabinoids
Cannabinoids and terpenes are produced in the same part of the cannabis plant. They also share biosynthetic pathways. Cannabinoids are, technically, terpeno-fenolic compounds.
More important than any difference between terpenes and cannabinoids though is the ways in which they can work together…
That’s because terpenes – specifically cannabis-derived terpenes – can magnify or reduce the effect of cannabinoids like CBD or THC (which play the major role in determining the medicinal and psychoactive strength of any given strain) when taken at the same time.
Here’s roughly how it works:
1) The entourage effect
A cannabis terpene and a cannabinoid such as THC or CBD are more likely to create a compound effect when taken into the body at the same time.
Chemicals in the cannabis plant interact with the cannabinoid receptors in your body to create increased medicinal or psychoactive effects if the right compounds combine in the right way.
This is sometimes referred to as “whole plant theory” and is the reason why most high-quality cannabis concentrate products – such as the K.I.N.D. Concentrates Nectar range – contain cannabis-derived terpenes as opposed to those distilled from elsewhere.
This is in order to maximize both the medicinal value. Terpenes from other plants, while often flavorful, will not produce the same effect.
2) The medical benefits of terpenes
Proponents of the healing qualities of essential oils and aromatherapy have known about the medical qualities of terpenes for a very long time.
The main ingredients in all essential oils are terpenes.
This means that those cannabis strains which produce high levels of terpenes can have the same qualities as aromatherapy oils:
Limonene is often suggested in aromatherapy for its anti-depressant and energizing qualities.
Linalool is sometimes recommended in aromatherapy when a reessential-oilslaxing effect is required.
The majority of the major terpenes in cannabis are either pain-relieving (analgesic) or anti-inflammatory.
Why terpenes matter
All of this should go to show exactly why terpenes – especially cannabis-derived terpenes – matter in your selection of the right cannabis concentrate for you.
Do you need to know more about what cannabis-derived terpenes are? Comment below and let’s chat!