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Terpenes – What Are They

Smell that cheese?! Or as a vegan would put – the scent of nutritional yeast?

One whiff of a cannabis flower perks you up with its lemon scent, yet another reminds you of a lavender essential oil your yoga teacher luxuriously massages your tense neck muscles with.

Why does each strain of cannabis smell differently? And do different fragrant correlate with anything else, like the plant’s benefits?

The answer to your scent-related questions can all be answered by exploring one thing – terpenes!

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes, similar to terpenoids, are a combination of carbon and hydrogen that naturally occur in cannabis plants. Let’s refer to them as “hydrocarbons”.

What’s the difference between a terpene and a terpenoid?

Terpenoids are essentially terpenes that have been dried out via a chemical modification, which alters the oxygen compound, whereas terpenes are the organic, naturally occurring combo of hydrogen and oxygen before any alterations.

Terpenes are birthed in the trichomes of the cannabis plant. What are the trichomes?!

Trichomes are the crystal-like part of the plant, on the outside of the plant’s leaves and buds. The trichomes’ duty is to protect the plant from invaders, like insects and animals.

Trichomes are smart and have the same idea as nasty-smelling skunks – they create pungent odors (terpenes) to repel outsiders. According to this review here, they are

As terpenes repel the bad guys, they also lure in pollinators.

Different Types of Terpenes

The creation of terpenes are influenced by the plant’s environment – weather, time of day, soil, fertilization, maturation, etc.

Just as different essential oils perk you up or mellow you out, effects of terpenes vary.

There are two basic types of terpenes, sativa terpenes and indica terpenes. Sativa terpenes smell bright like an orange or lemon and tend to boost your energy. The opposite, indica terpenes, are more soothing, with scents similar to a pine cone.

Terpenes are broken down even further according to their specific smell and benefits. Here are the most common:

  • Limonene – smells like a citrus fruit, and is also found in… you guessed it – citrus fruits! Some benefits include treatment for anxiety, depression, pain and inflammation.
  • Beta-caryophyllene – fragrances like spices – black pepper, pine, cloves and cinnamon. A few benefits include easing pain, ulcers, and anxiety.
  • Linalool – smells like florally plants such as lavender, with similar benefits – relaxation.
  • Myrcene – the most commonly found terpene is also found in fruits like a mango! Effects of myrcene are similar to the old tv commercials of cartoons melted into a couch – they have a sedating, calming effect.

Further Benefits of Terpenes

Terpenes are not only found in the cannabis plant – they are found in just about every plant!

Therapeutic effects of terpenes rise even more when mixed with cannabinoids like THC and CBD.

Strands of the cannabis plant vary dependent on the terpenes, which correlate with an array of benefits, depending on the plant’s scent.

The more you train your nose, the easier it is to identify terpenes, thus identifying different strands of cannabis! Finally, your nose gets a chance to participate in the cannabinoid fun.


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Written by Nat Sauteed

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