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Terpenes: Everything You Need to Know

Terpenes: Everything You Need to Know

Terpenes play a crucial role in making each cannabis strain unique. In fact, some argue they’re the star of the show. When it comes to the flavors, colours, and aromas you search for in a high-quality cannabis strain, terpenes are behind the scenes working to make all this magic happen. 

So, where to begin? How should one select a strain of cannabis, based upon its terpene profile?

First, it’s helpful to understand the biological makeup of any given cannabis strain. Many components that come together to make cannabis as potent, pretty, and enjoyable as it can be.

When shopping for a new strain to try, most of us make selections based upon one of three choices: indica, sativa, or hybrid strains. But, while it’s true that genetics affect the way each strain makes you feel, terpenes play a bigger role in the mood of your high than we previously realized. You just might find your new favorite strain by exploring new terpene profiles.

What are cannabis terpenes?

Even newbies know different strains of the sacred plant look, smell and taste different from others. In fact, it’s almost as if no two strains are alike.

The great variety we see among different strains of the cannabis plant is in part due to terpenes, naturally occurring chemical compounds that are found not just in cannabis, but also in herbs, citrus fruits, and fragrant plants. The terpene profile of each cannabis plant works hand-in-hand with the plant’s cannabinoids to create the aromas, flavors and colors we love in quality strains of cannabis, which alter the way each strain makes the overall smoking experience feel.

What exactly do terpenes do?

Modern science still has much to learn about the effect of terpenes in a plant's biological makeup, and how these interesting compounds act and react with human biological systems. What we do know, is that there have been easily more than one hundred varieties of terpenes observed in the cannabis plant alone. 

Each terpene has been proven to affect the flavor, smell, and color of the plant, and experts have observed that no two strains of cannabis are identically genetic. What this means for the end user, is you can try many strains of cannabis, and each will have a different THC level, different aroma on the exhalation, different color profile among the leaves, and more. The possibilities for customizing your smoke sesh are unlimited, and with so many varieties of strains, there’s truly a strain for everyone.

How do cannabis plants develop their terpenes?

The cannabis plant requires certain conditions in order to flourish while it grows. The climate, soil type, and amount of water used will all determine the health, potency, and even terpene profile of the cannabis plant. 

While certain conditions must be met in order to produce a healthy cannabis plant, subtle variations within these conditions allow for terpene profiles to differ from crop to crop. Depending on the unique growing conditions of each plant, one strain may produce a more citrusy flavor profile than another, or a more musky, skunky aroma than another. When you take note of the fresh smell or colorful appearance of a strain, you’re appreciating terpenes hard at work. 

What are the most common terpenes in cannabis?

While there are over 150 different terpenes found in cannabis, there's a few that you'll see most often!

Caryophyllene: Caryophyllene is commonly found in many household herbs and spices such as rosemary, oregano and even black pepper. Caryophyllene is responsible for that earthy, peppery spice you sometimes taste on the inhale when you smoke. 

Myrcene: This is one of the most frequently occurring terpenes in today’s cannabis strains. Myrcene is fairly potent and is responsible for that earthy, skunk flavor profile that we associate with strong cannabis strains. Almost every strain has a touch of myrcene in the flavor profile.

Limonene: Limonene is the secret behind those juicy, citrusy buds with tropical flavors. This fruitful terpene occurs naturally in lemon and lime peels, which is why it gives certain strains a zesty, almost orange-flavored taste. Sativa strains with limonene, in particular, are popular for their energizing effects.

Eucalyptol: Eucalyptol, as you may have guessed, is a terpene found abundantly in eucalyptus plants, but it also occurs naturally in tea tree and sage. This terpene makes for a herbal, cool mint flavor.

Pinene: A sharper, fresher terpene found in rosemary, basil, dill, and of course pine needles, this common terpene delivers that wonderful outdoorsy, camping-reminiscent, wild smell in cannabis.