Terps? Terpenes? Terpenoids?

“What’s that?” You may ask. 

Some of our favorite ways to assess the quality of flower or the taste of our vapes is through the aroma and flavor a particular strain may have. From skunky to diesel, citrus to pine, there are a variety of scents and flavors associated with cannabis, and we have terpenes to thank for that! 

“Terpene” is a term you may have encountered during your cannabis browsing or shopping, but you may not know what the word actually means. In a previous article, we briefly touched on terps, but now is our chance to go a little more in-depth.

So, what are terpenes, and what purpose do they serve? 

Terpenes are aromatic, organic compounds that can be found in all plant life. They’re responsible for the plant’s smell and serve to attract bugs for pollination or repel bugs that could cause harm. Terpenes differ from terpenoids through their chemical composition, with terpenoids having the presence of oxygen. 

Cannabis plants clock in with around 400 known terpenes, making them one of the plants with the most known amount of terpenes (as of publication). Research on terpene effects has been limited due to years of legislation issues, criminalization, and stigmatization of cannabis. However, there’s also preliminary evidence of terpenes having biological and pharmacological benefits for tokers. 

In cannabis, terpenes are responsible for the effects and aromas a particular strain might have and are located in the plant’s trichomes (i.e., the frosty white coating found on cannabis buds). The other chemical compound in trichomes is cannabinoids, which can be found in both cannabis (phytocannabinoids) and the human body (endocannabinoids). Together, these organic compounds contribute to what is known as the entourage effect.

The entourage effect was first proposed by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam (the same researcher who discovered THC) and Dr. Shimon Ben-Shabat in 1998 to explain the creative masterpiece behind the scenes when you get high. When trying to understand the entourage effect, it helps to picture an artist mixing colors to create a painting. Cannabinoids would be your pencil, terpenes your color, the outcome of the painting would be the strain itself, and the interpretation of the art by the viewer would be the effect a particular strain has on the toker. In the same way that there are a vast amount of color combinations to create a different pictorial experience for the viewer, there are hundreds of terpenes and cannabinoids that come to life to give off the therapeutic effect we seek when we consume cannabis. In this case, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” 

Among the hundreds of terpenes found in the cannabis plant, there are at least six worth noting: myrcene, caryophyllene, limonene, alpha-pinene, terpinolene, and linalool

Myrcene (MUR-seen) is a terpene found in lemongrass, hops, and mangoes and is used as a popular aroma agent and food additive in foods and beverages. It carries a mildly sweet flavor and a spicy, pepper scent. Cannabis strains high in myrcene content are likely to induce the soothing, sedative effects typically associated with indicas, whereas strains low in myrcene content can induce a more energetic high. While the evidence is limited, preliminary research has shown that myrcene alone may also increase the effects of other terpenes and cannabinoids (which include THC and its psychoactive effects) by encouraging absorption across the blood-brain barrier. Myrcene can help with pain relief and work to provide an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effect.

Caryophyllene or Beta-caryophyllene (cary-OFF-uh-leen) is a terpene found in pepper, oregano, and cinnamon and carries a spicy, warm scent. Caryophyllene is also the only terpene to double as a cannabinoid, an organic compound that interacts with our innate endocannabinoid system – something we’ll talk a little bit more about in future articles to come. Commonly reported effects of the caryophyllene terpene include anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and neuroprotective, and this terp is noted for its physical highs.

Limonene (LIM-o-neen) is a terpene found in lemons, oranges, and mint and carries a citrusy, fruity scent. Located in everyday products such as cleaning supplies or cosmetics, limonene is a terp we’ve all come across at one point or another. Commonly reported effects of the limonene terpene include an uplifted mood, pain relief, and encourages the absorption of other cannabinoids and terpenes into the body. 

Alpha-pinene (PIE-neen) is a terpene found in pine needles, rosemary, and basil and carries a pine scent with a woody flavor. Alpha-pinene is also the most abundant terpene found in nature and plays a key role in the fragrance and flavor industry. The alpha-pinene terpene has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, neuroprotective, and gastroprotective effects.

Next up is terpinolene (tur-PIN-o-leen). Terpinolene, while found in many strains of cannabis, is typically not found in huge quantities, with only 1 in 10 strains being terpinolene-dom. Found in nutmeg, lilac, or cumin, terpinolene carries a diverse aromatic and taste profile. From piney to floral to citrus, the one thing you can guarantee with this terp is the fresh scent and smell it comes with. Commonly reported effects of the terpinolene terpene include an uplifting and energizing high that features pain relief and anti-inflammatory effects. However, more research on particular effects terpinolene is associated with is still needed.

Finally, we have linalool (lin-UH-lool). Linalool may be the most easily identifiable terpene with its lavender scent and is so widely used that even without consuming cannabis or purchasing an overtly lavender purchase, 2 grams of the terpene is consumed through food, such as fruits and spices. Linalool is found in apples, avocados, and basil and has a natural, floral taste profile. Commonly reported effects of the linalool terpene include anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, sedative, and anti-inflammatory. 

Our floor supervisor, Arty, has a great way of remembering the terpenes listed above by using a driving analogy. Bear with us through this extended analogy and imagine each terpene we discussed were driving a car on an empty highway. 

Myrcene would be a speedy, aggressive driver who isn’t afraid to hit the gas when the light turns green. This terp’ll beep at you if you don’t move fast enough and almost always drives alongside a squad of cars. For all that aggression, though, myrcene will also be the first to flash their lights at you to let you know they’re giving you a break in traffic. 

Caryophyllene would be the defensive driver. The driver who went through a formal driving school program and still takes backroads to avoid that hectic rush hour. They drive for two and can keep calm in even the worst traffic conditions. They drive safely, never recklessly. Ironically, this driver would also most likely fall asleep at the wheel. 

Limonene would be the driver most likely to say, “Road trip!”. They’re the hype queen who isn’t in your face; the driver who has the right tunes and arsenal of snacks to match the mood. They’re great for doing a leisurely Sunday morning drive. 

Alpha-pinene is like a diet blend of limonene and caryophyllene. The laid-back hype queen. The one who’s lived the party life and is ready to settle down but still knows how to have a good time. This terp drives like a soccer mom. 

Then, there’s terpinolene. Oh, terpinolene. Straight-up, terpinolene drives like a Masshole. Period. This terp is a terp with a purpose and will chug their black coffee while weaving through traffic to get to where they need to go. 

Finally, Linalool. Honestly, this terp isn’t driving. Linalool gives off that super relaxing, ready-to-be-snuggled-up in a weighted blanket vibe. They’re the commuter who takes advantage of the cruise by taking a nap on the bus. 

All in all, terpenes are pretty great. They’re what add to the sensory experience that comes with cannabis. Through aromas, flavors, and medicinal benefits, terpenes enrich our smoke sesh. If you’re looking for products rich in terpenes, then I recommend exploring brands that list their terps with their product, such as Simply Herb, Modern Flower, and Mass Alternative Care (flower) or Maven Kind, Fernway, Church (vapes), all of which we have in-store! Click here to explore our online menu and see for yourself what we have to offer.

That’s a wrap on terps for this week. Next week we’ll be going over cannabinoids. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, our store’s been open for a little over a month. How are we doing? Let us know by leaving us a Google review!



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