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Terpenes 101: Demystify them and understand their effects



Have you ever heard of the famous terpenes when talking about cannabis?


Cannabis connoisseurs rely heavily on the aromas of their herbs to determine which strains they prefer, as well as judging them by their flavors.


In reality, what these cannabis enthusiasts are evaluating are the terpenes found in the plant.


In the following lines, we help you FINALLY demystify everything surrounding terpenes and unravel the main terpenes that are present in the cannabis plant as well as their effects on human health.



What are terpenes exactly?


Terpenes are aromatic molecules with a very pronounced odor that give various plants, flowers and trees a wide range of scents and flavors. They are found almost everywhere in nature, where more than 20 000 varieties of terpenes coexist.


The cannabis plant itself naturally produces more than 100 different terpenes, all of which are gathered in its trichomes (the tiny, transparent hairs found on cannabis flowers and leaves). Originally, these molecules serve as a defense mechanism against insect and animal pests, in addition to attracting pollinating insects (1).


Terpenes are mainly responsible for the different aromas of cannabis such as lavender, citrus and earth smell, and even the classic skunk smell (2).


Comparable to essential oils (3), they are traditionally recognized for their important virtues and can have many beneficial effects on health, by acting directly on the brain cells to modulate their activity (4). The terpene profile is therefore a very important element to consider when you buy your cannabis, especially to know if the cannabis strain you chose will have energizing or sedative effects (5).


Terpenes are a key part of what makes every strain of weed unique. These molecules act in symbiosis with cannabinoids to create specific and often very promising medical effects (6).



The main terpenes and their benefits


As mentioned above, more than 100 varieties of terpenes exist in the cannabis plant. We have chosen to present you the 7 main ones, taken from the book CanDrinks: Cocktails & Cannabis, which are found most often in the weed plant.


1- CaryophylLEne or « bEta-caryophyllene »


Aromas: Peppery spices and wood

Effects: Stimulant


Caryophyllene is a terpene that reminds of the spicy smells of cinnamon, cloves and wood. It is a very particular terpene because it is also able to interact with receptors of the endocannabinoid system in the human body. It thus plays on the perception and the regulation of the pains and the inflammations (7). We can therefore say that in addition to being one of the main terpenes of cannabis, it could almost be considered a cannabinoid.


Many potential beneficial effects are associated with caryophyllene:

  • Analgesic properties ;

  • Anti-inflammatory properties ;

  • Pain relief ;

  • Stress reduction

  • Treatment of anxiety and depression ;

  • Treatment of inflammatory bowel disease ;

  • Treatment of ulcers (8).


A study conducted in China in 2014 (9) has shown that the use of this terpene could offer very promising results in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (10). It can also combat the symptoms of arthritis and other neuropathic pain (11).


Although almost all strains of weed contain caryophyllene, you can find a high concentration of this terpene in strains of cannabis such as:

  • Bubba Kush ;

  • Chemdawg ;

  • OG Kush ;

  • Rockstar ;

  • Skywalker OG ;

  • Sour Diesel (12).

Note that beta-caryophyllene is also found in basil, oregano, black pepper and cloves (13).



2- Humulene


Aromas: Wood and earth

Effects: Sedative


Humulene is the terpene responsible for the distinctive smell and flavor of the beer. Its aromas are similar to those of caryophyllene and both terpenes are frequently found in the same plants. Humulene is very often used in medicine: experts tend to increase the humulene content of certain herbal medicines to ensure their effectiveness.



The main potential beneficial effects of humulene on the body are as follows:

  • Antibacterial and antimicrobial properties ;

  • Anti-inflammatory properties ;

  • Appetite-suppressant properties ;

  • Facilitates sleep ;

  • Treatment of certain types of cancer (14).


Here are some cannabis varieties that contain humulene:

  • Candyland ;

  • Death Star ;

  • Girl Scout Cookies ;

  • Headband ;

  • Original Glue ;

  • Pink Kush ;

  • Super Sour Diesel ;

  • White Widow (15).


Humulene can also be found in ginger and ginseng (16).



3- Limonene


Aromas: Citrus and fruit

Effects: Stimulant


Limonene is one of the most popular terpenes among cannabis users. It is easily recognized by its sweet citrus scent and is found in abundance in a wide variety of cannabis strains. When consumed, it offers a very pleasant and refreshing flavor as well as a highly energizing effect.





Most cannabis users love the euphoric effects of limonene. The main benefits of this terpene are as follows:

  • Increases concentration ;

  • Antifungal and antibacterial properties ;

  • Anti-inflammatory properties ;

  • Increases concentration ;

  • Mood regulation and feeling of well-being ;

  • Treatment of anxiety and depression (17).


Limonene is the second most common terpene found in different strains of cannabis. Among the strains that contain it the most are the following:

  • Banana OG ;

  • Berry Whte ;

  • Black Cherry Soda ;

  • Do-Si-Dos ;

  • Lemon Haze ;

  • MAC ;

  • Wedding Cake ;

  • White Fire OG (18).


Apart from the cannabis plant, limonene can be found in citrus fruits, rosemary and peppermint (19).



4- Linalool


Aromas: Sweet flowers, herbs and citrus

Effects: Sedative


Linalool is the terpene whose aromas are the most easily recognizable of all the other terpenes. It is also frequently used in the cosmetic industry and can be found in a variety of fragrances and products. Its main aroma is lavender and it is linalool that is responsible for this incomparable fragrance.





The main potential beneficial effects of linalool on the body are as follows:

  • Analgesic and antiepileptic properties ;

  • Anti-inflammatory properties ;

  • Facilitates sleep

  • Reduction of hyperactivity ;

  • Treatment of anxiety and depression ;

  • Treatment of certain types of cancer ;

  • Treatment of neurodegenerative diseases (20).


The main strains of cannabis where linalool can be found in high concentrations are the following:

  • Durban ;

  • Deep Purple ;

  • Mazar ;

  • Red Haze ;

  • Rainbow Belts ;

  • Wedding Mints (21).


Linalool is also found in mint and laurel (22).



5- Myrcene


Aromas: Earth, ripe fruit and natural musk

Effects: Sedative


In cannabis, myrcene is the most common terpene present and is considered one of the ten main terpenes. It has a fairly earthy smell, very reminiscent of cloves. Myrcene also contains strong flavors of red grape, balsamic and spice.





This terpene also has many medicinal properties:

  • Analgesic properties ;

  • Antibiotic and antibacterial properties ;

  • Anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties ;

  • Facilitates sleep ;

  • Pain relief ;

  • Promotes muscle relaxation (23).


Furthermore, myrcene has been shown to be a great help in the absorption of cannabinoids by the body, thus promoting the therapeutic effects of cannabis (24).


The main varieties of cannabis composed of myrcene are the following:

  • 9 Pound Hammer ;

  • Blue Dream ;

  • Remedy ;

  • Grape Ape ;

  • Harlequin ;

  • FPOG ;

  • OG Kush ;

  • Tangie (25).


The myrcene terpene is also present in mango, bay leaf, thyme, cardamom, hops and several other plants (26).



6- Ocimene


Aromas: Flowers, sweet fruits and herbs

Effects: Stimulant


Ocimene, which has a sweet, woody smell, is very rarely the main terpene in a cannabis strain but is often found as the second or third most abundant terpene. It plays a defender role to protect the various plants, by guarding them against harmful elements such as the aphids and the other insect pests.





The main beneficial effects that ocimene can have on the human body are the following:

  • Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties ;

  • Antiviral, antifungal and antiseptic properties ;

  • Facilitates decongestion (27).


You can find ocimene in these cannabis strains:

  • Clementine ;

  • Dream Queen ;

  • Dutch Treat ;

  • Golden Pineapple ;

  • Green Crack ;

  • J1 (28).



7- Pinene


Aromas: Earth and forests

Effects: Stimulant


Pinene is the most common terpene found in plant varieties, so it is also very commonly found in cannabis. It is responsible for the comforting pine and spruce smell, as well as providing delicious sensations and flavors. Pinene also has multiple uses in the medical field.





The main potential beneficial effects of pinene on the body are:

  • Anti-inflammatory properties ;

  • Pain relief ;

  • Treatment of anxiety ;

  • Treatment of asthma ;

  • Treatment of certain types of cancer ;

  • Treatment of ulcers (29).


When we consume pinene, our respiratory tracts open up and this can help fight cold, flu and asthma (30).


The following cannabis varieties have a high concentration of pinene:

  • Cherry Bomb ;

  • Cherry Gorilla ;

  • Diamond OG ;

  • Mandarin Zkittlez ;

  • Mandarin Sunset ;

  • Pink Death Star ;

  • Pink Runtz (31).


Some spices such as sage and rosemary, as well as some trees such as pine, conifer and spruce, are also composed of pinene (32).



The power of the entourage effect


Between the different cannabinoids


Simply explained, the entourage effect is the synergy between the different cannabinoids that are present in the cannabis plant. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the combination of several cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBG, CBC, etc.) would considerably increase the power of their effects, compared to the effect of a single cannabinoid acting alone.



Between terpenes and cannabinoids


When studying the medicinal properties of cannabis, the entourage effect is of particular interest, not only between the different cannabinoids in the plant but also between the cannabinoids and the variety of terpenes that are found in the plant.


Terpenes are thought to significantly increase the effectiveness of CBD and THC by also acting on cannabinoid receptors (receptors that help the body interact with various chemicals, including cannabinoids).


Choosing a terpene-rich cannabis strain is an excellent idea if you want to increase the well-being you feel when you use it and add a whole range of sophisticated flavors and aromas (33).


The possible combinations are infinite and this is what makes cannabis such a complex plant with exponential medicinal potential!



How and where to find terpenes?


Seeing all the potential that terpenes create for cannabis, it is clear that choosing a cannabis variety according to the terpenes it contains is a wise idea and is much more accurate than relying solely on the popular classification: sativa, hybrid and indica (34).


But then, how do you find the terpene consistency of the cannabis strains you're shopping?


Well, whether it is at the SQDC if you live in Quebec, or at licensed retailers elsewhere in Canada or in the world, information on the terpene profile of weed varieties is available. If not, your budtender can certainly provide you with this information.


More and more, cannabis producers and retailers are understanding the importance of terpenes in the effects of cannabis. Many companies are even beginning to list the terpene composition of cannabis directly on their packaging to help consumers make a more informed and considered selection (35).



To learn more about terpenes


This blog post gives a brief overview of the main terpenes found in cannabis. Of course, many other terpenes with interesting potential exist and if you wish to deepen your research and knowledge on this subject, you can consult the following resources.


We have used the book CanDrinks: Cocktails et Cannabis to concoct a list of the most important terpenes in this blog post.


In the book, our team has combined terpenes with cocktails to multiply the effects felt and to enhance the flavors of the different recipes.



Leafly is an excellent source of information for all things cannabis. Most of the detailed information on each of the terpenes presented comes from this multifaceted resource.



L’AQIC (Association Québécoise de l’Industrie du Cannabis) published in 2020 a guide on cannabis and an entire section is dedicated to the presentation of terpenes.



  • Medical cannabis companies


Medical cannabis clinics, as well as licensed medical cannabis producers, are an excellent source of information about terpenes. We suggest you visit the website of Shopper’s Drug Mart for specific information on the key role terpenes play in the medicinal properties of cannabis.




Try the unique experience of mixing terpenes and cannabis cocktails with one of the 50 CanDrinks recipes! Get the book now, available in French and English on CanEmpire's online shop!



 

SOURCES


(1) SQDC

(2) CanDrinks: Cocktails & Cannabis, p. 28

(3) SQDC

(4) Sélection.ca

(5) Ontario Cannabis Store

(6) CanDrinks: Cocktails & Cannabis, p. 28

(7) Saveurs CBD

(8) CanDrinks: Cocktails & Cannabis, p. 30

(9) National Library of Medicine

(10) Sélection.ca

(11) Saveurs CBD

(12) Wm

(13) Leafly

(14) CanDrinks: Cocktails & Cannabis, p. 31

(15) Finestlabs

(16) Saveurs CBD

(17) CanDrinks: Cocktails & Cannabis, p. 32

(18) Leafly

(19) Saveurs CBD