The smell that you pick up as soon as the weed hits your hands is terpenes. Yes, that signature woody or sometimes dog shit esque odor actually is essential oils that leak out of the marijuana (essential oils can be found in many natural things all over). Knowing what they are is important to decide which strain you buy, because each scent is linked with different effects. Terpenes are secreted through the same pores that produce cannabinoids and are used by marijuana plants to repel predators and lure pollinators. Climate, weather age and maturation will affect this process as well as the fertilizer being used and time in general. There are over 20,000 terpenes identified so far, with fewer being found in cannabis (around 200 though most of them are not in substantial amounts), though each strain has a unique type and composition.
David Watson was among the first to emphasize the importance of terpenes and went on to make the foundational hybrid Skunk #1. These can be broken down to mono-terpenes, diterpenes and sesquiterpenes depending on the number of repeating units of a five carbon molecule called isoprene, which is the structural hallmark of all terpenoid compounds.
What is more amazing than the smell and taste is the way that terpenes influence cannabinoids. Newer strains in the past few decades have been selectively bred to produce more THC, which resultantly lowers the other cannabinoids such as CBD,CBC,CBN. Because of this, it is believed that the terpenes are what give the individual effects of cannabis strains. Terpenes not only can affect the amount of THC that passes through the blood brain barrier, they also bind to the same receptors that THC will, affecting their chemical output. These terpenes can even affect dopamine and serotonin by altering the rate of destruction, movement, production and availability of receptors.
One of the most common terpenes found in cannabis is the alpha pinene and is the most common in the world. Pinene promotes alertness, memory retention, inhibits metabolic breakdown of acetylcholinesterase, a neurotransmitter in the brain that stimulates these effects. Myrcene relaxes muscles, sedates, hypnotizes, anti-inflammatory, and pain killing. It is most famous for its couch lock effect. Limonene can dissolve gallstones, improve mood, relieve heartburn and gastrointestinal reflux. It has also been shown to destroy breast cancer cells and is a powerful antimicrobial against pathogenic bacteria.
Each terpene has different benefits, but more research is needed to fully understand these. Myrcene induces sleep, limonene elevates mood, caryophyllene has gastroprotective properties, etc. Here are some profiles for a few terpenes:
Effects:memory retention, alertness, counteracts some THC effects
Medical value: antiseptic, asthma
Found in: pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley, dill
musky, earthy, cloves, hints of tropical fruit
Effects: sedating, couch lock, relaxing
medical value:antioxidant, muscle tension, sleepiness, pain, depression, inflammation, anti-carcinogenic
found in:mango, lemongrass, hops, thyme
Effects: elevated mood, stress relief
Medical value: anti-carcinogenic, anti-bacterial, dissolves gallstones, mood-enhancer, gastrointestinal benefits, depression, heart burn
Found in:fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint
Best strains: OG Kush, Super Lemon Haze, Jack the Ripper, Lemon Skunk
peppery, spicy, woody, clove aroma
Medical value:gastroprotective, arthritis, anti-inflammatory, ulcers, autoimmune disorder
Found in: black pepper, cloves, cotton
Best strains:Hash Plant
aroma is floral, citrus, candy
Effects:anxiety relief, sedation
Medical value: anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, anti-depressant, anti-acne
Best strains: G-13, Amnesia Haze, Lavendar, LA Confidenial
Now, just by smelling your nughugs, you’ll be able to get an idea of what they are about to do to you. It isn’t just about the THC anymore, kids! My only problem is that some drug dealers out there might start dousing their marijuana in terpenes to get more money for them!