What are terpenes? As a marijuana consumer, you are probably familiar with the term. But what is the science behind these compounds? This article covers these topics as well as some of the most common examples of these ingredients in the cannabis plant.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are a diverse, complex group of organic compounds, found in abundance in cannabis as well as many other wild-growing plants. We have these essential oils to thank for the vast array of aroma and flavor they lend to our favorite cultivars.
Hundreds of other species of vegetation also contain these compounds. Even some insects and fungi secrete (rather unpleasant-smelling) terpenes, mainly for protection against predators.
Terpenes are responsible for thousands of delicious taste combinations. For instance, the sweetness and acidity of oranges come from limonene. The woody, savory notes in beer-brewing herbs like hops stem from humulene.
One of the best parts of the cannabis consumption experience is enjoying the same savory, sweet flavors and rich scents that tantalize the nostrils as when we buy flowers. We owe this pleasure to terpenes, which enhance and enrich the cannabis consumption experience.
Terpenes 101: It’s In The Trees
Outside of the cannabis space, terpenes like pinene are most abundant in trees, specifically forest-dwelling conifers such as pines, cedars, and redwoods. The cleaning product Pine-Sol derives its powerful scent from the compound Pinene. Tree resin is rich in pinene.
Once extracted tree resin material becomes a solid, this substance is known as rosin. Pine tree rosin is a versatile substance with applications ranging from printing inks to industrial adhesives to aids designed to improve grip on a baseball. In cannabis, solventless live rosin is made using intense heat and pressure, resulting in a concentrate that many consumers feel represents the best terpene profiles.
Which Terpenes Are Found in Cannabis?
While there are many terpenes present in cannabis strains, about five of these compounds are the most common and add distinctive tastes to each of your favorite strains.
The terpene myrcene is the most abundant type present in cannabis. Pronounced “mere-scene,” myrcene is also one of the most dynamic terpenes, showing up in more than half of the terpene profiles of your favorite strains.
Myrcene is also found in musky, earthy scented plants and flavors like cloves, hops, and balsamic vinegar. Myrcene content tends to be the most in strains with lineages like skunk and kush.
Pronounced “carry-oh-fi-lean,” this terpene appeals to lovers of spicy foods like chili peppers and hot sauce. Caryophyllene also adds complex rich flavor profiles to pastries like cinnamon rolls and muffins.
If your restaurant server asks you if you want freshly-ground pepper, this compound is responsible for that flavor enhancer. In cannabis, Caryophyllene adds pungent, peppery flavors to strains with lineages like Cookies, Diesel, White, Glue, and Chemdawg.
The spicy terp is unique in that it is the only compound proven to act upon the endocannabinoid system in mammals. This means that caryophyllene is the only terpene that also acts as a cannabinoid, according to Science.
Pronounced “whom-u-leen,” humulene is most prominent in plants like brewer’s hops, sage, and ginseng. The main flavor profile of humulene is herbaceous, earthy, and woody, with a hint of spiciness. If you’re a fan of craft-brewed IPAs, you have humulene to thank for the hoppy flavor of beer.
While humulene content is present in many strains, its flavor profile tends to take a backseat to compounds with bolder tastes like caryophyllene and limonene. Some popular strains that have prominent amounts of humulene include Headband, Original Glue, Gelato, Sherbert, and Death Star.
Pronounced “li-muh-neen,” Limonene is the citrus compound responsible for the flavors of oranges, and limes. Also found in flowers and many other sweet-tasting fruits, limonene is the second-most abundant terp in cannabis, behind only myrcene.
In addition to its delicious citrus scent, limonene is an antibacterial and antioxidant. This is why it is an active ingredient in many household cleaning products.
Some of the most common strains that have limonene are Lemon Haze and basically any variety with a citrus name. Limonene is also present in cultivars such as Do-Si-Do and White Fire OG.
Linalool is present in over 200 plants around our natural world. Pronounced ‘lynn-uh-lawl”, linalool is the floral compound found most abundant in the lavender plant.
The pleasant-smelling Linalool is also an active ingredient in skincare and cosmetic products. Examples of other plants and spices containing the terpene linalool include jasmine, rosewood, thyme, and basil.
Linalool is thought to have calming and even perhaps sedative effects. Studies suggest that these effects are due to an increase in the brain chemical adenosine. Peanut leaves containing linalool have been used for centuries for their hypnotic effects.
Do Terpenes Get You High?
Since terpenes are non-psychoactive, the short answer is no, they do not get you high. They also do not seem to have any side effects. However, the aroma and flavor profiles of cannabis strains offer vast potential for the expansion of medical cannabis research. Terpenes are responsible for the “entourage effect,” which is the combined effect of all the ingredients in whole-plant cannabis, including cannabinoids.
Unbiased and empirical lab data must catch up with the cannabis consumer experience. Further legalization and advancements in the cannabis industry will open the door for more studies on how terpenes can be of use. As it stands now, these compounds are some of the best flavor enhancers on the planet, and we should treat them that way.
Savor the Flavor at the Gage Aroma Bar
With a fine dining experience, a chef will tell you that we eat with our eyes. We believe we shop for cannabis flower starting with our noses. The concentration of terpenes is where that scent-based journey starts. This is why we launched the Gage Aroma Bar, to enhance the customer experience and help you identify your favorite flavors and strains.
Our aroma specialists understand that cannabis enthusiasts are looking for products that offer more than just the name of the strain and its THC content. The Aroma Bar here at Gage Cannabis Company delivers that higher-level experience, allowing you to savor the flavor of your favorite flower in a “scent-sational” new way.