Terpenes: Cannabis’ Taste and Scent Makers

by Holly Highlife

Have you ever had a strain that tastes so amazing that when you find some, it is like running into an old friend? For me, there is a taste in some Hawaiian strains that I absolutely love. For others, it is the taste in Tange or the aroma of Durban Poison. Those tastes and smells are from terpenes in the plant.

Terpenes are not exclusive to cannabis plants. In fact, they surround us in daily life. They are any of a large group of volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants, especially conifers and citrus trees. The aroma of beer and the citrus tang of lemonade are the result of terpenes. They are found in strong smelling plants including herbs like mint, basil and lavender, citrus fruits, pepper and hops.

Until the emergence of the cannabis industry, only perfumers, beer brewers and food flavoring companies paid attention to plant terpenes. Now these terpenes and their properties are being studied in cannabis.

Cannabis flowers contain nearly 200 terpenes, and the medical benefits of these compounds are very interesting. It appears that various terpenes modify the way THC interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in the body.

It is important to realize that none of these statements have FDA approval. Legal cannabis studies by the federal government have been hindered by the drug’s Schedule 1 status – meaning it has no medicinal use. Other legal issues also thwart cannabis studies.

“I think cannabinoids (THC and CBD) get all the attention,” says Maka Kala’i. “We do terpene profiles on all of our strains. When someone seeks specific relief, we can go to a certain flower to address the problem.” Terpenes, also known as terpenoids, may hold as much medicinal value and THC and CBD.

One of the identified terpenes, Myrcene, is also found in hops, mangos and lemongrass. It acts as a sedative, muscle relaxant and antidepressant when combined with THC. Some OA strains with high Myrcene level include: ACDC, BC Mango, Blueberry, Blueberry Gum, Blueberry Haze, Cindy 99, Love Triangle, Old Town Cookies, Pre-98 Bubba Kush, Shark Shock and Trinity.

My friend Al is a huge believer in Shark Shock for managing his muscle spasms. The pungent, earthy aroma of these strains is due in part to their Myrcene content.

Terpinolene, also found in apples, lilac and coriander, works as a digestive aid, reduces pain and is a sedative. Kala’I recommends strains heavy in terpinolene for insomnia, pain management and anxiety.

OA strains testing high for terpinolene include: Durban Poison, Golden Goat, Jack Flash, OG Haze, Purple Kush and Soul Train.

I could go on about the many terpenes and their properties but your best source for information is your OA bud tender. They are experienced in directing you to the right flower.

If you’re a fan of vape pens, it is good to know the following: In vape pens that use CO2 extraction, the terpenes must be added back into the product to produce the familiar taste and effect. A glance at the ingredient label will give you the answer. RX Green cartridges contain “a proprietary blend of terpenes.” Butane extracted products retain their terpenes.

If you find a strain you really like but want some variety, look for another with the same terpenes. Your bud tender will know what to suggest. And the next time you break into a big smelly bud of Super Skunk, appreciate the terpenes!

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