Terpenes in cannabis plants can be overlooked. This is because cannabinoids like THC and CBD are the main focus of many growers. Terpenes bring smell and flavour to your cannabis, but they also have some medicinal properties too.
In this guide, we will explain what the most common terpenes in a cannabis plant smell like, taste like, and how they work.
You will see that there is so much more to a cannabis plant than cannabinoids. Each strain has its own “Terpene Profile” and brings different effects after using it. Terpenes bring flavour and smell, but they also improve the high from cannabis too.
There is still a lot to learn when it comes to how terpenes work in a cannabis plant. But from what we can tell so far, they play an important role in giving strains their characteristic high and aromatic compounds.
For example, let’s take a look at 2 strains, Northern Lights and Night Queen, both of these are 100% indica but they taste different and express different kinds of highs. This is because of something called the “Entourage Effect” which is basically the composite effect of the different compounds found in each of the two strains. Terpenes enhance the entourage effect and intensify therapeutic benefits.
By combining cannabinoids like THC and CBD with terpenes, each strain of cannabis will express different effects when it is consumed. Though terpenes are not a psychoactive compound like THC, they work in similar ways.
Instead of stimulating the endocannabinoid systems like cannabinoids do, terpenes instead stimulate the serotonin and dopamine systems. They complement each other, and together they bring us some amazing flavours, smells and highs to our cannabis.
Terpenes come mainly from two things, plants, and some insects. They are hydrocarbons, and give off certain fragrances. They are designed to either attract pollinating insects, or deter them.
They give off a certain fragrance depending on what terpene it is. These terpenes can be isolated and used in perfumes, and many different types of fragrances.
Cannabis plants have been found to produce over 200 terpenes. Which is one of the reasons why the plants have so many different varieties. But many other plants like conifer trees, roses, oranges, grapes and even vegetables contain terpenes.
Though smell and flavour are a big part of a terpenes function, there are also many medical uses for them too. Each terpene can have a different medicinal effect on its user. Research is now taking place to build certain terpene profiles to suit different medical problems.
There are a lot of terpenes, but there are a few that are prominent in cannabis plants. Here is a list of the most popular terpenes in a cannabis plant:
Has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Also an appetite suppression. Tastes earthy, and woody.
Smells like pine trees. Alpha-pinene is a bronchodilator. Which means it helps open airways and can be used for treating asthma. It is also antibacterial, and a natural insecticide.
Geraniol gives us the smell of roses, geraniums, and many other scented flowers. One of the best properties is that it is an antifungal. So it can be used as a mosquito repellent.
Can be used for antidepressant and antianxiety medication. As the name suggests, this terpene can be found in lemons and other citrus fruits. It can also be found in many commercial insect repellents.
Found in lavender and mint, linalool is a sedative and great for anti-anxiety. It can also prevent nausea.
A powerful antioxidant that also has pain killing effects. Myrcene has a peppery, spicy kind of smell to it, and can be found in thyme and parsley.
Found in tropical fruits, ocimene gives a strong fruity sweet flavour. It is not just antifungal, but also anti viral, so can be used for fighting many viruses.
There are of course many more terpenes in cannabis plants. These are just some of the most popular.
Choosing the right terpene profile can make a big difference to how you experience a strain. Make sure you explore many and see what’s right for you.
To get the very best out of your cannabis plants, you need to harvest them at the right time. There is a point in a cannabis plant’s life cycle, where it will reach peak cannabinoid and terpene production.
Harvesting when the plant is mature and ripe, will always bring you good cannabis. But there are more steps you can take to preserve the terpene profile of a strain.
Terpenes are volatile, and they can easily be damaged. Some terpenes will not survive if they reach certain temperatures. Some growers will reduce the temperature of their grow room towards the end of the grow.
This gives the plant a chance to make more terpenes that will not be damaged by high temperatures. This also applies to drying the cannabis.
Moisture will also damage terpenes. To preserve the terpene profile of a strain, you should dry slowly, at cool temperatures. At least a week is recommended, from when you chop the plant down, to when it goes into jars for curing.
If your cannabis is not properly dried before it goes into the jars, you could again damage the terpenes. The moisture will seep out from the centre of the buds and wet any terpenes on the outside that have already dried. This can seriously affect the flavour.
Make sure buds are snapping off the branches before they go into airtight containers for curing.
Once dry and in jars, you should cure the cannabis for at least 2 weeks, but the longer you do it, the better. Some growers will not touch their cannabis unless it has been curing for over a month!
Take your time when drying the cannabis after harvest. Try to reach temperatures between 15ºC and 18ºC to preserve the less stable terpenes. Once dry, cure the buds properly, and you will have cannabis with an excellent terpene profile, with some strong cannabinoids too.