Cannabis often gets written off for having a “skunky” scent, but as any connoisseur could tell you, there are many more aromas to enjoy. Each strain comes with a unique aromatic profile made up of hundreds of compounds called terpenes. If you’ve delved into the science of weed, you may have heard of them. What are terpenes exactly, and how do they help you enjoy your favourite strains?
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes aren’t unique to cannabis – they are the aromatic compounds that give many plants and herbs their smell. They are the reason that lavender and pine trees smell so distinctive, for example, and they can even be found in some animals! Many companies isolate terpenes to make flavours and scents for perfumes, body washes, foods, and other everyday products.
As you can expect then, terpenes are also responsible for the smells of various weed strains. They are behind the signature sweetness of Blueberry weed, the fuel of Sour Diesel, and the floral aromas of Lavender. Many factors, from the climate and weather to the fertilizers and soil type, influence the aromatic compounds. But why do cannabis plants give off these smells in the first place?
The Purpose Of Terpenes
Terpenes come out of the plant as an oil in the resin glands of the cannabis flower called trichomes – the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Producers will dry and cure the flowering buds to preserve the terpenes and ensure the product sold keeps these aromatic compounds intact.
Terpenes have a useful evolutionary purpose – they repel predators and attract pollinators. Some terpenes protect the plant and help it recover from damage; others can play a role in a plant’s immune system, keeping infectious germs at bay.
Terpenes may even influence how THC and CBD work in the body. Research is looking into how terpenes and cannabinoids affect the mind and body differently, and a lot of encouraging studies show that terpenes and cannabinoids enhance each other through something called the Entourage Effect.
What Are Some Common Terpenes?
While there are literally hundreds of terpenes in nature, you’ll find seven distinct types in cannabis:
- Myrcene is found more in Sativas than Indicas, carrying a scent that’s musky and citrusy. It’s believed to reduce muscle tension, inflammation, and physical pain.
- Pinene is the most commonly encountered terpene in nature, and some kinds of weed are no exception. You’ll smell its abundance in coniferous forests, but also when you spark up strains like White Widow and Blue Dream.
- We’ve mentioned lavender already twice here, and the smell of that comes from a terpene called linalool. It gives strains like Purple Kush a pleasant floral aroma.
- Caryophyllene is a part of many plants, including cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. As you can expect, any weed with high levels of this terpene will give off a spicy, peppery aroma.
- Many strains have a strong citrusy scent, and this comes from a terpene called limonene. Also responsible for the strong aroma and bitter taste that naturally occurs in citrus rinds, limonene is popular in almost every branch of food science and pharmaceuticals. You’ll also find it in strains with “lemon” in the name.
- Both being members of the Cannabacea family, cannabis is genetically related to hops, i.e. the plant that gives a lot of IPAs their aroma. As such, many strains contain the hoppy terpene humulene, including Bubba Kush, Chemdawg, Rockstar and Sour Diesel.
- Finally, one of the lesser-known terpenes you may encounter is bisabolol. It’s a primary component of chamomile, making it a regular ingredient in cosmetic and skincare products. Weed with bisabolol often has a sweet, floral aroma.
Many plants produce more than one of these terpenes. The terpene profiles you end up with can be affected by temperature, sunlight, nutrients and soil profile, even if the plant is grown outdoors versus indoors.
What Is “Terp Sauce”?
There is a kind of cannabis extract called “high terpene full-spectrum extracts,” but you might know it better as terp sauce. It concentrates all the terpenes in a runny liquid, separating these aromatic compounds from cannabinoids to make a very fragrant liquid concentrate. Users can then combine the terp sauce with THC and CBD in various forms, including vaping and dabbing.
These terpene-rich preparations have very high levels of terpenes – higher even than the level of cannabinoids. A terp sauce can be 30% THC and CBD, with the remaining 70% being terpenes. Many users enjoy it for highlighting the wonderful aromas and tastes the compounds can offer!