The most important marijuana plant components are contained in the trichomes, which are the sticky crystals on the buds’ surface. Trichomes contain cannabinoids, which are primarily responsible for the effects of marijuana. They also contain terpenes, which many people relate to essential oils. Marijuana terpenes are responsible for creating the unique flavors and aromas of different strains, and now we understand the importance of terpenes is even more significant.
What Is the Entourage Effect?
As you learn about the subtleties of marijuana, you may come across a concept called the entourage effect. Put simply; this is the theory that cannabinoids will interact with the body differently depending on which terpenes are present. It gets this name because some people behave differently depending on the entourage they bring with them. This is a big part of the reason different strains are associated with different effects, even when they have the same levels of cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
What Are Terpenes, Exactly?
Terpenes are organic compounds found in the marijuana plant. When you notice that a particular strain smells like pine, citrus, spice, or something else, you appreciate its terpenes. Beyond the aroma, you’ll also be able to pick up on the presence of terpenes in the flavor of your product. Strains that smell, especially dank or loud, have high terpene levels, which is what you should expect from premium marijuana. If you want to find top-shelf marijuana, you can follow your nose.
Where Else Can You Find Terpenes?
If you’ve ever used essential oil, you were using terpenes. These aromatic compounds help a variety of plants regenerate, oxygenate, and manage their immune systems. Essential oils have been extracted and enjoyed for thousands of years for various purposes, so it makes sense that people would appreciate them so much in the marijuana plant.
There’s no real difference between a terpene in marijuana and the same terpene in another plant based on current research. For example, caryophyllene is found in both hops and marijuana, and it’s the same in both plants. The difference is that caryophyllene will have different effects based on whether it’s with the cannabinoids in marijuana or the compounds in hops. It all ties back to the entourage effect.
Why Do Plants Contain Terpenes?
Terpenes help with oxygenation and regeneration, but they also offer protection from environmental factors. For example, a certain terpene may repel or attract certain insects and animals. The most interesting thing here is the way terpenes help a plant with its immunity. Many people speculate that terpenes could also have an impact on the immune system of human beings.
Why Do Some Strains Produce Different Terpenes?
More than 200 unique terpenes are found in marijuana plants, but some are much more prevalent than others. Containing a diverse selection of terpenes gives plants various ways to evolve their defenses and abilities. In recent years, the human cultivation of marijuana strains has also had an impact on terpene diversity. Some terpene profiles are especially desirable, and plants with those terpenes are often bred. The new strains created will naturally inherit some of the terpene profiles from their parents.
How Can We Preserve the Terpenes in Marijuana?
Terpene expression will change depending on how a plant is grown, harvested, cured, stored, and enjoyed. Some terpenes are incredibly delicate, so it’s important to carefully handle the plant at each stage of the process if you want to preserve as many of these aromatic compounds as possible. Even things like the nutrients in the soil can affect the final terpene profile in a plant.
Next, it’s important to harvest marijuana at the right time, when the buds have the highest levels of terpenes. When the trichomes are distinct and shiny, it’s a sign that they’re healthy and full of both terpenes and cannabinoids. Finally, the temperature is critical. Some terpenes are extremely sensitive to heat and cold. As a result, growers are careful when they grow, cure, and store the flower. Some consumers even like to activate their marijuana flower at very precise temperatures to optimize terpenes’ release.
What Do Terpenes Do?
We need more scientific research before we can say with absolute certainty the specific effects of each terpene. That said, we have a good deal of anecdotal evidence based on what people have reported from their experience with essential oils and different marijuana strains. The entourage effect can have a big impact on the effects of a given marijuana strain.
This is why some strains are associated with feelings of deep relaxation and relief, while others are associated with bursts of energy and creativity. This is important for recreational consumers, but especially so for medical marijuana patients. People who receive their marijuana cards for some conditions may find that they’re drawn to specific terpene profiles. Keep in mind that low temperatures will maximize both the flavor and the effects of marijuana.
Even though there are hundreds of different terpenes in marijuana, the following are among the most prevalent:
- Caryophyllene – Also found in pepper, cloves, and rosemary, this terpene has an herbal aroma and is associated with anti-inflammatory properties.
- Pinene – This piney terpene is also found in evergreen trees.
- Myrcene – Associated with anti-inflammatory properties, myrcene is also found in mangos.
- Limonene – Prevalent in both citrus plants and marijuana, limonene is found in many of the best tasting marijuana strains.
- Linalool – If you like floral aromas, you’ll appreciate this terpene that’s also found in bergamot, jasmine, and lavender.
- Featured Image: Shutterstock / Gleti