What’s a Terpene?
The cannabis plant is a complex creature, filled with thousands of unique compounds that vary from strain to strain. While a lot of attention is paid to the cannabinoids present, such as THC or CBD, more and more is being learned about terpenes, which are responsible for the unique aroma and flavor of any given cultivar. If you’ve ever been drinking an IPA and thought to yourself, “This smells dank in a very familiar way,” it’s because hops (the plant beer is made from) and cannabis share certain terpene profiles.
There are currently over 100 known terpenes present in cannabis and a handful have been identified as having certain effects.
When looking at the sativa strains versus indica strains, there tend to be similar characteristics on either side but the unique genetics of the individual strain will determine which terpenes will manifest. There are currently over 100 known terpenes present in cannabis and a handful have been identified as having certain effects. Citrusy strains with Haze in the name are typically chock full of terpinolene and myrcene while Kush varietals lean heavy on the earthy-smelling pinene.
Here are some of the terpenes most commonly found in cannabis and their potential effects:
Alpha-Pinene: This terp, which conjures up visions of a fresh pine forest, promotes memory retention and alertness. Alpha-pinene is most often found in cannabis strains Dutch Treat and Strawberry Cough but is also present in conifer trees and herbs such as basil and parsley.
Myrcene: One of the more earthy terpenes, myrcene is also found in mangoes (you may have heard the urban legend that eating mangoes after consuming cannabis will prolong the effects). It’s known for its sedative effects and would be useful for those looking for relief from insomnia or pain. Probably the most common terpene, myrcene is present in several popular strains including White Widow and AK-47.
Limonene: A citrusy terpene used to treat anxiety and depression, limonene offers elevated moods with a tart kick. It is often found in sativas but also present in the indica-leaning Hindu Kush. This terpene is also found in fruit rinds, rosemary, and peppermint.
Beta-Caryophyllene: Known for its spicy aroma, beta-caryophyllene is also found in black pepper and cinnamon. It’s typically used mostly for stress relief but has also shown efficacy in the treatment of ulcers. This terpene can be found in several indica strains but is especially rich in Death Star.
Linalool: This floral terpene has a variety of potential benefits, including insomnia, neurodegenerative disease, and inflammation. Also found in lavender, linalool is popular in aromatherapy and can often be found in essential oil blends. The cannabis strain Granddaddy Purple is chock full of this terp, as is LA Confidential and Amnesia Haze.
Terpinolene: Considered the “least common” of the common terpenes, this piney and herbal smelling compound is also present in nutmeg, tea tree, and even some varieties of apples. Known for its relaxing effects, terpinolene is also touted for its antioxidants and antibacterial benefits. Seek out sativa strains such as Jack Herer or its derivatives if you want high concentrations of this terp.
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Rachelle Gordon is a Minneapolis-based writer and graduate of Hamline University. She enjoys writing about the many benefits of cannabis, and has particular interest in its potential in treating neurological conditions. When not writing, Rachelle enjoys watching The Price is Right and playing with her dogs, Fonzie and Puddy.