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TerpenesBlogCover

Terpenes Explained: Flavors and Effects

It’s official: The world of cannabis has evolved from taboo counterculture to an area of legitimate scientific study. And along with it, our understanding of this amazing plant has grown beyond what was ever thought possible before. In this article, we’re going to go deeper into the fascinating compounds called terpenes – we’ll dive into what they are, how they shape the aroma and flavor of cannabis, and their influence on the overall effects.

And If you didn’t get a chance to read the first article on the subject, check out The Aromatic World of Cannabis: Terpenes for Beginners.

Cannabis flower growing under orange light.
The cannabis plant produces over 200 terpenes.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes (aka “terps”) are naturally occurring compounds found in the leaves, flowers, stems, and sap of plants. These organic oils are responsible for the wide variety of scents found in flora (and some fauna). In nature, they also play a role in the natural defense and immune system of plants.

In living cannabis plants, these compounds produce a range of aromas and flavors, anything from earthy and musky to citrusy and piney. When cannabis flower is dried and cured, many of the most volatile terpenes oxidize and become “terpenoids” – similar to terpenes, but with a slightly modified chemical structure.

However, the role they play extends beyond just the basic sensory experiences of smell and taste; they play an important role in the way that they interact in the human body.

The cannabis plant has over 200 different terpenes, which mostly fall into two categories.

Monoterpenes

Major monoterpenes include:

Limonene

Limonene, as the name suggests is a commonly found in citrus fruits. Alongside its desirable flavor and aromatic properties, Limonene is known for its mood elevating effects. It has also shown promise in anti-anxiety applications and as an anti-depressant. Limonene is one of the most common dominant terpenes in the cannabis plant.

  • Aroma: Bright, Citrus, Lemon
  • Effects: Mood Elevation
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-Anxiety, Anti-Depressant
  • Strains: Georgia Collider, Florida Orange, King Crasher
  • Found In: Citrus Fruits
  • Boiling point: 348.8F/ 176C

Myrcene (Beta-Myrcene/β-Myrcene)

Myrcene is well known for its musky, herbal scent. It has relaxing effects that make it great as a sleep aid. Myrcene has shown potential medical benefits for its anti-inflammatory properties and for pain fighting abilities.

  • Aroma: Musk, Herbal, Citrus
  • Effects: Body Relaxation, Sedation
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-inflammatory, Pain Relief
  • Strains: Zeebra Cakez, Purple Monarch, Blueberry Clementine
  • Found In: Mango, Lemongrass, Verbena
  • Boiling point: 334F/ 168C

Pinene (Alpha-Pinene/α-pinene)

Pinene is found prominently in conifer trees and in the herb, Rosemary and is commonly associated with creativity and euphoria. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

  • Aroma: Pine, Earthy, Fresh
  • Effects: Creative Boost, Euphoria
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-Bacterial, Bronchial dilator
  • Strains: TLC Dos, Crockett’s Dawg, Triangle Kush Fruity Pebbles
  • Found In: Pine Trees, Rosemary
  • Boiling point: 311F/ 155C

Linalool

Linalool is a floral terpene commonly found in lavender flowers and in mint. It may have mood elevating and stress relieving properties. For medical patients it has promising use as an aid in fighting anxiety and as an anti-spasmodic.

  • Aroma: Floral, Citrus, Spice
  • Effects: Mood Elevation, Sedation, Stress Relief
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-Anxiety, Anti-Epileptic
  • Strains: Buttermilk Biscuits, Banana Pudding, Cookie Dos
  • Found In: Lavender, Rosewood, Mint
  • Boiling point: 348.8F/ 175.5C

Humulene

Humulene has a distinctly woody and earthy aroma. Found in abundance in brewing hops and in coriander (cilantro), Humulene is an appetite suppressant and its anti-inflammatory effects.

  • Aroma: Wood, Earthy
  • Effects: Appetite Suppressant, Anti-Inflammatory
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-bacterial, Anti-inflammatory
  • Strains: Wanderlust, Georgia Pie, Hood Candyz
  • Found In: Hops, Coriander
  • Boiling point: 222.8F/ 198C

Terpinolene

Terpinolene has a sweet, floral and woody aroma. Commonly found in apples and in the herb sage, Terpinolene is a promising pain reliever known for its anti-septic properties.

  • Aroma: Wood, Floral, Sweet
  • Effect: Pain Relief, Sedation
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-bacterial, Anti-fungal, Anti-septic
  • Strains: Bear Dance, Mac & Cheese, Sour Tarts
  • Found In: Apples, Sage, Pine
  • Boiling point: 363F/ 183C

Ocimene (Beta-Ocimene/β-Ocimene)

Ocimene is a terpene with an herbal/floral aroma. Often associated with mood elevating and energizing properties, Ocimene shows promise as an anti-inflammatory and anti-convulsant in medical studies.

  • Aroma: Herbal, Sweet, Floral
  • Effect: Mood Elevation, Energizing
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-Epileptic
  • Strains: Manzano, Hawaiian Crown, Blueberry
  • Found In: Mint, Basil, Bergamot
  • Boiling point: 150F/ 66C

Sesquiterpenes

Major sesquiterpenes include:

Caryophyllene (Beta-Caryophyllene/β-Caryophyllene, E-Caryophyllene, Caryophyllene Oxide)

Caryophellene has a variety of forms in nature. The form commonly found in the cannabis plant is primarily β-Caryophyllene, which lends a peppery, spicy aroma. It shows promise as a sedative and has pain and inflammation relieving properties.

  • Aroma: Pepper, Wood, Spice
  • Effect: Pain Relief, Sedation
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-bacterial
  • Strains: Moon Boots, The Glove, Raspberry Shortcake
  • Found In: Peppercorns, Oregano, Cinnamon
  • Boiling point: 320F/ 160C

Elemene (Beta-Elemene, β-Elemene)

Elemene is one of the more rare terpenes produced by the cannabis plant. It’s known for its herbal, floral aroma. Medical patients use Elemene rich strains to fight pain and inflammation.

  • Aroma: Herbal, Floral, Earthy
  • Effect: Pain Relief
  • Potential Medical Benefit: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-cancer
  • Strains: Alien Huckleberry, Grim Bastard OG, Gorilla’d Cheese
  • Found In: Celery, Curry Leaf, Turmeric
  • Boiling point: 485.6F/ 252.1C

Terpenes in cannabis work with other important compounds, such as cannabinoids, to enhance therapeutic benefits in what’s referred to as the “entourage effect.”

To explore more terpenes, check out this great cannabis terpene chart from White Cloud Botanicals.

Liquid terpenes in a jar
These oily compounds are responsible for a variety of effects, flavors and aromas.

Terpenes and Flavor

Terpenes are a major factor when it comes to the flavor profile of cannabis flower, and by extension, concentrates. When cannabis is processed into an extract, especially live resin or rosin, the essence of the plant, including its terpenes, becomes highly concentrated.

These concentrated terpenes deliver a more intense flavor experience not only because of the high concentration of terpenes but also because concentrates are typically vaporized at lower temperatures, preserving the terpenes that would otherwise be destroyed in combustion.

Take Limonene, for instance, a dominant terpene in many cannabis strains. As the name suggests, it has a strong citrus aroma, reminiscent of lemons and oranges, and, when present in concentrates, imparts a robust citrus flavor. Myrcene, another common cannabis terpene, lends an earthy and herbal flavor, enhancing the natural character. Linalool, often associated with lavender, imbues a floral and subtly spicy note into the mix.

Their Effects

Looking past taste and smell, cannabis terpenes also impact the overall effects. The term “entourage effect” has been coined to explain the complex interaction between cannabinoids, like THC, CBD, CBG, and terpenes. This synergy may enhance the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis concentrates, offering users the holistic benefits of the cannabis plant.

Beta-Caryophyllene, the most common sesquiterpene, can interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, specifically the CB2 receptors found in the nervous system and in immune cells. This interaction may potentially give this terpene its anti-inflammatory properties and enhance its pain-relieving capabilities.

Another example is the monoterpene, Pinene. True to its name, it has a fresh pine aroma and many believe it can minimize some of the memory-impairing effects often associated with THC. Limonene, apart from adding a strong citrus flavor, may promote an uplifting mood by boosting serotonin and dopamine levels which lend a potential antidepressant and anti-anxiety effect.

 

A jar of cannabis concentrate in the lab.
Preserving terpenes during the extraction process takes expert knowledge.

Terpenes in Cannabis Concentrates

During the extraction process, preserving terpenes in concentrates is crucial to a premium final product. Cultivators use a variety of techniques, like cold pressing and closed loop CO2/Hydrocarbon extraction in an effort to preserve the fragile compounds and ensure the concentrate is a true representation of the original plant material.

In full-spectrum and broad-spectrum cannabis concentrates, terpenes play an even more critical role. These products aim to capture the complete profile of compounds found in the living cannabis plant, with terpenes playing an integral role in creating this complete profile. They not only enhance the flavor and aroma but also work alongside cannabinoids to offer a well-rounded therapeutic experience for dab enthusiasts.

Interested in learning more about dabbing? Check out Dab-ucation: How to Take Dabs Like a Pro.

The Future of Terpenes

In truth, the study of these compounds is still in its infancy, but all the evidence is pointing to big potential in medical applications. With each one showcasing its own effects and properties, there’s a lot of promise for developing custom blends that target specific health conditions. As research goes deeper and further, it could lead to breakthroughs in pain management, mental health, and holistic wellness.

We have already witnessed a huge leap forward in science with the advent of terpene isolation and refinement. This allows cultivators to create cannabis extracts where consumers can enjoy a personalized experience tailored to their flavor preferences and therapeutic needs as well as the highest terpene concentrate.

Additionally, it allows cultivators to maintain consistent, strain-specific flavor profiles, regardless of any natural variations in the raw cannabis plants. Revolution Terp Tanks and Dragon Tears are great examples of how to utilize isolated and refined cannabis derived terpenes from specific strains to deliver a superior product.

Why They Matter

Terpenes are proving to be much more than just aromatic compounds in the cannabis world. They hold the key to all of the unique flavor combinations that cannabis connoisseurs enjoy. They also contribute significantly to the overall effects of cannabis flower, concentrates, and even edibles.

As we continue to learn more about them and their effects, we’re realizing their vast potential to transform the cannabis market, promising an exciting future for cannabis science and the consumer experience.

In the grand scheme of cannabis science, we are still just scratching the surface. However, one thing holds true – Understanding that terpenes play a role in the sensory and therapeutic dimensions of cannabis concentrates is a huge leap forward in the journey to harness the full potential of this incredible plant.

Sources:

The Cannabis Terpenes

Terpenes and terpenoids as main bioactive compounds of essential oils

What to know about terpenes

Cannabis 101: What’s the Deal with Terpenes?

Beta-Elemene: Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More

General Cannabis FAQ

Cannabis, often referred to as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for various purposes, including medicine, textiles, and recreation. The plant contains compounds known as cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known. THC is primarily responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits without causing a “high.”

Many countries and U.S. states have decriminalized or legalized the use of marijuana for medical use, recreational, or both. The legal status changes frequently as legislation evolves.

In the U.S., states vote to regulate marijuana use on an individual basis. While it remains illegal at the federal level, numerous states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use.

The following states have legalized medical, recreational, or both:

  • Alaska – Medical
  • Arizona – Legal
  • Arkansas – Medical
  • California – Legal
  • Colorado – Legal
  • Connecticut – Legal
  • Delaware – Legal
  • District of Columbia – Legal
  • Florida – Medical
  • Hawaii – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Illinois – Legal
  • Louisiana – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Maine – Legal
  • Maryland – Legal
  • Massachusetts – Legal
  • Michigan – Legal
  • Minnesota – Legal
  • Mississippi – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Missouri – Legal
  • Montana – Legal
  • Nevada – Legal
  • New Hampshire – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • New Jersey – Legal
  • New Mexico – Legal
  • New York – Legal
  • North Dakota – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Ohio – Medical (Possession decriminalized)
  • Oklahoma – Medical
  • Oregon – Legal
  • Pennsylvania – Medical
  • Rhode Island – Legal
  • South Dakota – Medical
  • Utah – Medical
  • Vermont – Legal
  • Virginia – Legal
  • Washington – Legal
  • West Virginia – Medical

 

Outside of the U.S., countries like The Netherlands, Canada, and, more recently, Thailand have legalized cannabis on a national level.

Always check local laws and regulations in your specific location.

In states where marijuana has been legalized, you can purchase products at licensed dispensaries. Revolution products are available at Enlightened, Revolution, and partner dispensaries in Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland. Find a dispensary near you.

Keep in mind that dispensaries may cater to medical patients, recreational consumers, or both, depending on local laws.

Always ensure that you are buying from a reputable and licensed establishment to guarantee product quality and safety.

The effects of cannabis vary widely depending on the strain, dosage, method of consumption, an individual’s endocannabinoid system, and more.

Some commonly reported effects include:

Psychoactive Effects: Euphoria, mood elevation, cerebral stimulation, stress relief, calming effects, and relaxation.

Physical Effects: Pain relief, body buzz, anti-inflammation, anti-nausea, energy boost or sedation, and appetite stimulation

*Medical Benefits: Cannabis is believed to have a range of therapeutic effects and alleviation of symptoms related to conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, and more.

*Marijuana is not approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The primary difference lies in their intended use:

Medical Cannabis: Used as a treatment and alleviation of symptoms for specific health conditions. Medical strains might be cultivated and processed to have higher CBD content or other therapeutic compounds. Medical cannabis requires a physician who usually prescribes or recommends it as a treatment option.

Recreational Cannabis: Used without a medical justification but for personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

The process varies from state to state but typically involves the following steps:

Doctor’s Recommendation: Schedule an appointment with a physician who is authorized to recommend medical marijuana. Discuss your health conditions and reasons for seeking cannabis as a treatment.

Application: Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, you’ll usually need to apply for a medical marijuana card through a designated state or country agency.

Proof & Identification: Provide necessary identification and proof of residency as required by your jurisdiction.

Fee Payment: Most jurisdictions require a fee for the application and issuance of a medical marijuana card.

Card Issuance: Once approved, you will receive your medical marijuana card, allowing you to purchase cannabis at designated medical dispensaries.

If you’d like more detailed information, please read our state-specific medical card guide here.