No two cannabis strains make you feel quite the same way. Each strain has its own aroma, effects, and therapeutic benefits. Some strains are relaxing and help you sleep, while others boost your energy, creativity, and focus. There are strains that are specifically good for pain management, some for depression, and others for epilepsy. All these qualities are a direct result of the plant’s terpene profile.
Gone are the days when you choose a strain based solely on its THC content. Now we can customize our cannabis experience by choosing strains containing the terpenes that best suit us individually.
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants. Each terpene has its own distinct aroma, with flavors like citrus, berry, pine, and mint. These scents can clue us in on what effects they might have on us.
These chemical compounds have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, and their medicinal properties have been validated by Western medicine time and time again in clinical trials and studies. They have been proven to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidepressant, analgesic, anticonvulsive, anxiolytic, anticancer, anti-mutagenic, anti-allergic, antitumor, antibiotic, anti-diabetic, and neuroprotective qualities.
There are more than 20,000 terpenes discovered in plants throughout nature and scientists have found more than 100 of them present in cannabis. Terpenes are found in the trichomes —the mushroom-shaped crystals that form on the bud as harvest approaches. They are meant to be a defense mechanism for the plant, luring in pollinators and repelling harmful insects and animals.
You may have noticed that oils and cartridges don’t provide the same kind of high as flower does. That’s because they contain a THC distillate that has concentrated the THC but removed the terpenes in the process. Terpenes work with cannabinoids to create the entourage effect. Together they bring all their unique qualities to the table to create a fuller effect than just THC or CBD on their own. Some terpenes will make you feel relaxed or focused, while others can intensify or downplay the effects of cannabinoids.
Read also: Exploring the Cannabis Entourage Effect
Some companies are even marketing their products based on terpene profiles and mood-based branding. They label their products with descriptions like “happy,” “relaxed,” or “focused.” By focusing on how their flower or vape cartridges make you feel, the consumer can tailor their experience to meet their specific needs. This is especially helpful for medical patients who need to treat multiple symptoms.
They can find a strain with a terpene profile perfectly suited to treat their specific issues.
Although cannabis contains more than 100 terpenes, there are a handful that stand out. The following terpenes are the ones commonly found in cannabis and in the highest concentrations in most strains.
Myrcene is the main terpene in cannabis and can make up 65 per cent or more of the plant’s terpene profile. It’s what gives cannabis its signature earthy, herbal scent and can be found throughout nature in hops, mangoes, lemongrass, thyme, citrus fruits, bay leaves, and eucalyptus.
Cannabis strains with high levels of myrcene include Granddaddy Purple, OG Kush, Blue Dream, White Widow, Chemdawg, Agent Orange, Skunk XL, Cherry Pie, and Fire Alien Kush.
This terpene is sedating, relaxing, and has an overall calming effect. It is a powerful analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antioxidant, and antibiotic. It is helpful as a sleep aid and muscle relaxant. It boats anticarcinogenic properties and studies have shown it prevents peptic ulcers.
Limonene is the second-most abundant terpene in cannabis, although it is not found in all strains. It is known for its potent antifungal and antibacterial properties and is often used in commercial cleaning products. It can also be used for fungal infections or as a natural insecticide.
Limonene is easily absorbed by inhalation and assists in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and other body tissues, such as the digestive tract.
Read also: How Cannabis Topicals Benefit the Skin
Limonene can also be found in citrus fruit rinds, peppermint, rosemary, juniper, and several pine needle oils. It is commonly found in cannabis strains with a lemony, citrus scent, such as Sour Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, Tangerine Dream, Green Crack, Girl Scout Cookies, Jack Herer, Jack the Ripper, and Pre-98 Bubba Kush.
Strains with limonene are great for elevating your mood, tackling anxiety, and relieving stress. Limonene-rich strains are also good for treating pain and inflammation, easing nausea, and reducing the size of tumors. High concentrations have even been shown to cause cell death in breast cancer cells.
Pinene is the most abundant terpene in nature. There are two structural isomers of pinene: α-pinene and β-pinene. α-pinene, as its name suggests, is found in pine needle oil and is responsible for the fresh pine smell of the forest, while β-pinene’s aroma is found in rosemary, dill, and parsley. Pinene can also be found in basil, sage, citrus peels, and turpentine.
Cannabis strains with high pinene levels include Jack Herer, Snoop’s Dream, Strawberry Cough, Blue Dream, 9lb Hammer, Dutch Treat, Romulan, Critical Mass, Vanilla Kush, Cookie Cross, Lavender, and Island Sweet Skunk. The pinene in these strains will leave you feeling energetic, alert, and focused.
Pinene is used in traditional Chinese medicine for its anti-cancer properties and studies have backed up this medicinal benefit. It is a strong bronchodilator, opening up the airways in your lungs, and can be beneficial for asthma. Pinene is a strong anti-inflammatory and is ideal for treating chronic pain, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcers.
If you want to feel calm and relaxed, then you’ll want to make sure to find a strain high in linalool. Linalool is the terpene most prominent in lavender and is responsible for lavender’s calming effects.
This terpene’s floral, citrusy, sweet scent is also found in mint, cinnamon, coriander, and birch bark. Cannabis strains high in linalool include Amnesia Haze, Bubble Gum, 9lb Hammer, Sour Diesel, Special Kush, OG Shark, Zkittles, and LA Confidential.
Read also: Sweet Sleep: How Cannabis Can Get You There
Their high linalool content makes these strains ideal for treating anxiety, depression, insomnia, epilepsy, pain, inflammation, and neurodegenerative diseases. People have sipped lavender tea before bed for centuries to help them get a good night’s rest.
Studies suggest linalool is a powerful immune booster and can restore cognitive function in cases of Alzheimer’s. It has also been shown to significantly reduce lung inflammation in cigarette smokers, which may indicate linalool’s role in reducing the harm caused by inhaling cannabis smoke.
If you need to de-stress, then you need to make sure you find a cannabis strain that contains caryophyllene. This is the only terpene known to act like a cannabinoid by interacting with CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Because of this, caryophyllene has powerful anti-anxiety and analgesic properties. Strains with high levels of this terpene are ideal for making topicals for this reason too.
If you are searching out these benefits, you’ll want a cannabis strain that has a spicy, woody, peppery aroma like those in black pepper, cloves, and cinnamon. Girl Scout Cookies, Super Silver Haze, Skywalker, Gorilla Glue #4, Tangerine Dream, and Pineapple Express are all good options.
Along with treating pain and anxiety, caryophyllene is effective for people with ulcers, going through cancer treatments, and who have digestive issues. It has even shown promise for treating alcoholism. When tested on mice, scientists discovered this terpene reduced their voluntary intake of alcohol.
The woody, herbal, earthy aroma that gives your beer that distinct “hoppy” flavor comes from humulene. It can also be found in coriander, cloves, basil, sage, and black pepper.
Also known as α–caryophyllene, humulene is often blended with β–caryophyllene as a potent remedy for inflammation and has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. Not only is it a strong anti-inflammatory and pain reliever, but humulene is also anti-tumor, antibacterial, and suppresses the appetite. Research has suggested humulene is anti-proliferative, which means it prevents cancer cells from growing.
Cannabis strains high in humulene include Girl Scout Cookies, Sour Diesel, Gorilla Glue #4, Green Crack, White Widow, Headband, and Skywalker OG.
Read also: Terpene Sauce: An Elite Concentrate
There is more to cannabis than THC and CBD. Those beautiful crystal trichomes and their terpenes add a wealth of healing properties to your favorite flowers. Medical patients, particularly, can benefit from knowing which terpenes best treat their ailments, and then choose their medicine accordingly. Armed with this knowledge, you can customize your cannabis experience to suit you and your needs best.
What is the maximum heat for each terpene before carbonization destroys it?
- Myrcene: 332°f
- Limonene: 348°f
- Pinene: 311°f
- Linalool: 388°f
- Caryophyllene: 266°f
- Humulene: 222°f