Terpenes, or “terps” as they’re affectionately known, are essential compounds that exist within many plants. The cannabis plant has over 150 naturally occurring terpenes, although only a few of them are noteworthy in their prevalence.
Terpenes are essential for an excellent cannabis experience. Each strain has its own beautiful balance of terpenes that help to shape a smoke session in a unique way. Terpenes may play an influential role in the experience, but how exactly do they contribute? More importantly, do they get you high?
What Is a Terpene?
Terpenes are aromatic compounds that give flowers, vegetables, fruits, and herbs their unique flavors and aromas. You’ve smelled a lot of terpenes throughout your life, likely without even realizing it. Every time you eat a bowl of fruit salad or wash your hands with a bar of fancy floral hand soap, terpenes are a significant percentage of what you’re smelling.
Why Do Terpenes Occur in Nature?
Plants have no way of defending themselves or finding mates. They’re stuck where they grew, and they can’t fight off predators. Plants, like all living things, have a desire to stay alive and replicate. Without claws or teeth, this job is a lot more complicated.
Terpenes are a plant’s way of controlling its environment. A plant’s terpene balance sends signals to insects it wants to attract and predators it wants to repel. A plant’s natural pollinators will be drawn to its flowers because of its terpenes. The pollinators help the plant reproduce, and some of them will even eat the pests harming the plant.
Some terpenes act as negative signals, deterring foraging animals from attempting to eat the plant. They think it smells foul and don’t want to go anywhere near it. Lavender might remind you of a relaxing spa day, but to a moth, its terpenes are a signal to get as far away as possible.
Plant compounds can have similar effects on humans. Consider controversial herbs like cilantro. Some people adore its refreshing flavor, while others swear it tastes like dish soap and adamantly assert that it ruins every burrito within a ten-mile radius.
An Overview of the Most Common Terpenes in Cannabis
Cannabis naturally contains an astounding amount of terpenes. Many of them occur in amounts so insignificant that they aren’t perceptible to humans, but they’re still present. About two dozen terpenes will occur in measurable quantities, and their balances vary depending on the particular strain of cannabis. There are almost 800 recognized strains of cannabis, and more are created every day. Each strain’s terpene profile is unique.
All cannabis plants contain at least a small amount of detectable myrcene. It is the most common terpene in cannabis plants. Myrcene also has a sour, earthy warmth in its flavor and aroma. Mango and lemongrass get their signature tart kick from this terpene.
Pinene occurs in pine trees and smells like pine. This is a very easy terpene to remember. It has a crisp smell that will simultaneously remind you of an autumn hike, a lumber yard, and a clean house.
Caryophyllene is very warm and spicy. Black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon contain substantial amounts of this terpene. It’s where their bitter warmth originates.
Limonene is a bright and intense terpene that occurs in citrus fruits. Lemon, lime grapefruit, orange, and mandarin contain high amounts of limonene. This terpene is very easy to identify by smell. When limonene occurs in conjunction with pinene, the end result is a strain that smells a lot like the neon yellow pine-scented cleaner you use to mop your floors or the furniture polish with the yellow cap.
Linalool is a floral terpene that dominates the aroma of lavender. It can also be found in jasmine, rosewood, basil, and thyme. The fragrance will remind you of a luxury bath and body product or a luxury perfume.
Terpinolene smells sweet and slightly fruity. You’ll find it in lilac and apples. In cannabis, it almost always makes a strain taste like candy. This flavor is even more noticeable when terpinolene and limonene work together to form the backbone of a strain’s terpene.
Humulene is the dominant terpene in Humulus lupulus, otherwise known as hoppy. Beer is made from hops, and the hops plant is the only other plant in the cannabis plant family. As beer and cannabis are cousins, strains high in humulene often smell and taste a little bit like a draught beer.
Eucalyptol is the dominant terpene in the eucalyptus tree. Eucalyptus has a very distinctive smell that’s cooling, soothing, and vaguely medicinal. The aroma translates the same way in cannabis.
Geraniol is a crisp and fresh floral terpene found in geranium, rose, citronella, and other flowering plants. It’s commonly found in the original cannabis landrace strains that naturally appeared in the Hindu Kush mountain range. Small amounts of this terpene can be found in strains that directly descended from unadulterated ancestral cannabis.
Do Terpenes Get You High?
There are currently 113 recognized cannabinoids and 150 terpenes in cannabis. THC is the most known cannabinoid known for its psychoactive effects.. Other cannabinoids like CBD may positively impact the way you feel, and terpenes may work to guide your experience with cannabis, but they don’t bind to your receptors and cause psychoactive effects.
Then Why Are Terpenes Important?
Throughout the years, people have written cannabis off as something people use to get high. Only one small part of the plant contributes to that function. The rest of the plant’s properties work in unison to deliver each strain’s effects.
They Flavor Cannabis
Many casual cannabis users develop their preferences around a strain’s flavor. It’s not hard to understand why strains like Wedding Cake and Zkittlez have developed large followings. Many people enjoy the strain’s effects, but they ultimately choose to stick with a strain because they enjoy its flavor.
They Have Aromatherapeutic Value
Terpenes play a key role in aromatherapy. Their fragrances stimulate the olfactory system and send messages to the limbic system, influencing how we feel. If floral smells make you feel dreamy or romantic and citrus smells make you feel alert and awake, you’ve experienced these effects firsthand.
They May Play a Role in the Effects of Particular Strains
Our current scientific understanding of cannabis suggests that there should be absolutely no difference between the effects of certain strains besides the inebriation people experience from the THC. Cannabis users have known for a long time that this could not possibly be further from the truth.
Some strains make you want to get up and build your own large hadron collider. Other strains make you fall asleep with half a piece of pizza stuck to your chest. These experiences have nothing in common, and neither do the terpenes in their strains.
This has not yet been scientifically proven, but many cannabis users believe that this is Occam's razor solution to why strains produce such distinct highs.
They’re a Vital Part of the Entourage Effect
Terpene and cannabinoid ratios may work together to make each strain unique. Researchers still aren’t exactly sure how it works, but at least some evidence suggests that the sum of the cannabis experience comes from the presence of all of its parts. That’s the theory behind The Entourage Effect.
Cannabis wellness products are more effective when they’re made from whole (full spectrum) cannabis extracts. Cannabinoids and terpenes interact with each other. They appear to be more effective at executing their functions if they’re allowed to remain in unison as they existed within the plant.
Protect Your Precious Terpenes with Stori
Terpenes are extremely delicate. Your cannabis has already lost more than half of its terpenes by the time it gets to you. Properly storing your flower prevents the remaining terpenes from degrading or evaporating. A zip-top bag in the back of your sock drawer won’t do much to protect these valuable compounds.
That’s where Stori comes in. Our cannabis storage case holds six food-grade aluminum storage pods with color-coded caps. They’re designed to work with Boveda packs. When outfitted with a Boveda pack, each pod turns into a humidor that lays down a micro shield of moisture that keeps your terpenes locked to your cannabis.
Your cannabis will stay fresh inside of your Stori pod for up to 14 months. The terpenes will be just as tasty as the day you purchased your cannabis, even if months have passed. Take care of your precious terpenes with Stori.