If you enjoy marijuana, you have probably experienced a variety of “high” feelings with this leafy and herbaceous plant. You can attest that no one experience is the same, and the herb itself can make you feel so different; cerebral — mind-affecting with euphoric emotions and behavior, body high — relaxed muscles, lackadaisical, etc.
As far as we know, there is evidence of cannabis from as far back as 2900 BC in China, and is said to be accredited to “The Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi,” who stated that the popular medicine of his people, possessed both yin and yang qualities.
Although, it wasn’t until 1990 that the Senior Investigator at the National Institute of Mental Health, Miles Herkenham, and his team, discovered the cannabinoid receptor system, which detailed the pharmacological effects of cannabinoids.
This discovery exposed that the THC in marijuana binds with the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The psychoactive cannabinoid is the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBD. From hints of pines and blueberries, to a pungent earthy aroma, a zesty citrus zing, to a slight diesel-like after-taste, the flavor body of cannabis adds considerably to the cerebral experience. But what exactly causes the distinct difference in taste and aroma from one bud to the next? Organic compounds called terpenes.
So that’s all really interesting, right? But what are “Terps,” “Terpenes” and “Terpenoids“? Terpenes are hydrocarbons, which the only elements present are carbon and hydrogen; whereas, terpenoids have been denatured by oxidation (drying and curing the flowers) or chemically modified.
Terpenes are essential oils secreted by the same pot plant glands that produce THC and CBD during flowering. Over 100 terpenes have been identified so far, each with its own unique flavor, smell and medicinal properties. From migraines, to glaucoma, muscle strain, asthma, menstrual cramps, cancer, depression, stress or gallstones, there’s most certainly a terp to assist in treatment in most any ailment.
Naturally found in a variety of fruits and veggies, herbs and spices, these compounds are what affect the flavor profile and aroma of a bud. Knowing how climate, fertilizer and soil type alters their characteristics, can give you more control over the flavor of your cannabis crop too.
Types Of Terps
Alpha Bisabolol has recently been shown to induce apoptosis in models of leukemia, and can enhance skin absorption of certain molecules. It also has strong wound healing abilities, and natural deodorant replacement capabilities. Surprisingly, this is also the floral, herb-like terp that gives chamomile its soft, fragrant flavor. But, come 4:20 tea time, you prefer a bowl to a cup, then delight your senses as you light up an Alpha Bisabolol scented strain such as Ghost OG. This terpene fights bacteria, heals wounds and soothes inflammation.
Along with Myrcene and alpha-humulene, beta-pinene is one of the terpenes that make hops and herb such a complementary experience. To imagine the flavor, think of a stroll through the forest of Tahoe on a drizzly late afternoon, the scent that comes to mind is the same smell that you’ll enjoy when smoking this terp. But more than just pleasing your nose and palate, this terpene also has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and asthma combatting properties. It also increases alertness and can counteract such emotions as anxiety and feelings of stress.
Body going through some inner turmoil? Then take a time out and settle down for some downtime with Borneol. This terpene is known to act as an effective pain reliever and bronchodilator, as well as also having antiseptic and anti-insomnia qualities. Dose yourself with a DOPE variety such as Skywalker OG which contains high levels of this minty, camphor-like terpene. Interestingly, this terp is also what is commonly used in acupuncture practices.
To imagine what hops-flavored Caryophyllene tastes like, bring to mind your favorite brand of beer and brew mentally on that for a while. This terp is found in full power in popular pot strains like OG Kush. Because of this particular strain’s sky-high levels of Caryophllene, it is a marijuana magic worker for depression, PTSD, anxiety, migraines, muscle and joint stress and nausea. This is one potent medicinal terpene as prescribed by Dr. Mary Jane herself.
In need of a bit of brain stimulation, or just an extra cerebral zing? Cineole is the terpene for the job. This luscious mix of spice and mint will get your neurons up and firing while possibly sparking memories of your pop’s Old Spice aftershave in the background. You’ll feel revved up and ready to go in no time. On the medical marijuana side, Cineole is the perfect pot partner for your anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antiviral and antinociceptive needs.
Delta 3 Carene
In need of a primo anti-inflammatory? Delta 3 Carene is a terp known for its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. If you’ve hurt yourself to the extent of an involuntary tear or two, don’t worry; Delta 3 Carene dries tears (and other body fluids) right up; taking just one hit will have you manned up in no time. Other than in a variety of cannabis strains, this earthy-flavored terp can also be found naturally in rosemary.
Ever found yourself wondering why koala bears always look so dopey, and pondered where you could get some of that? Their lazy nature is a direct result of their eucalyptus rich diet. Eucalyptol is the primary terpene found in the eucalyptus leaves that koala bears are so fond of munching all day long. This spicy terp is more often used in cooking, but medicinally it can also be applied to gums or skin, and can also be found in cough suppressants and mouthwashes. To get your own dose of eucalyptol, light up a joint of Silver Haze.
As its name suggests, this terpene is a zesty citrus twist of flavors. It is found in tropical marijuana varieties like Pineapple Express, and Jack Herer. Both these citrus strains are known for their depression-fighting qualities as a result of their high limonene count. This terp can also treat bronchitis, combat cancer and help out in weight loss. Limonene is a typical terp used in medical creams and skin ointments. If you’re looking for a magical drop of marijuana medicine, this is the terp to keep an out eye for.
Ever been on a complete sugar high? Think Willy Wonka meets fields of lavender, and this sweet sensation is what you can expect from Linalool. Not only can this sugar and spice-flavored terpene be found in your favorite weed but it is also in certain species of fungi, mint, flowers and cinnamon. Bad day and feeling stressed? The relaxed effect of Linalool is great for treating anxiety and depression. It also has been attributed to have antiseptic properties for clearing one’s completion and providing a rejuvenating quality to your well-being and skin.
If you’ve ever fallen asleep after smoking a spliff of Blue Dream, then you’ve been lullabied by Myrcene. This terp is well-known as an anti-insomnia warrior. In fact, it is anti- a lot of things: antibacterial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and anti-spasmodic. Unsurprisingly, because of its sedating side effects, this terp makes a perfect marijuana pain reliever. Mother Nature manufactures myrcene in mangos, bay, thyme, parsley, sweet basil and hops. Ever heard the urban legend that munching a mango before smoking increases the high? This terpene is responsible for that popular pothead tale.
This forest fragranced terp smells like an earthy mix of pines and cloves. It’s often found in soaps and perfumes because of its olfactory pleasing sensation. Not surprisingly then, its woody scent appeals also to the seasoned pot smoker and can be savored when smoking varieties such as Jack Herer and other Jack crossbreeds. Studies have found cannabis extracted Terpineol to have antioxidant properties which carry an array of health benefits as well as being a trusted cancer-fighting ally.
Catering to the certain receptors that activate the stimulation that your body is looking forward to is key in your cannabis experience. The right flower will enrich your sought-after cerebral sensations, and stimulate your favored cannabinoid receptors, all with the flavor profiles, medicinal, and therapeutic effects you’re looking for. Terpenes effect grow, down to consumption. It’s easy to compare this whole model to the age of cultivating and harvesting grapes from the vineyards, and even as basic as the types of herbal non-medicated teas you might enjoy throughout your day. Terpenes also play an incredibly important role by providing the plant with natural protection from bacteria and fungus, insects and other environmental stresses.
Terpenes are common constituents of flavorings and fragrances. Terpenes, unlike cannabinoids, are responsible for the aroma of cannabis. The FDA and other agencies have generally recognized terpenes as “safe.” Terpenes act on receptors and neurotransmitters; they are prone to combine with or dissolve in lipids or fats; they act as serotonin uptake inhibitors (similar to antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft); they enhance norepinephrine activity (similar to tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil); they increase dopamine activity; and they augment GABA (the “downer” neurotransmitter that counters glutamate, the “upper”). However, more specific research is needed for improved accuracy in describing and predicting how terpenes in cannabis can be used medicinally to help treat specific ailments/health conditions. In the meantime, we highly suggest you continue to educate yourself of which terpenes you enjoy and which flowers compliment that.
Jon Gettman, PhD “The 1995 Marijuana Rescheduling Petition,” DrugScience.org