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What are Terpenes?

Nov 19, 2019 11:14:56 AM

If you’ve spent any time around the legal cannabis industry, then chances are you’ve heard the words terpenes, terps, or terp sauce. The legalization of cannabis has brought with it a whole new language, a language that can be intimidating to those who are new to legal weed. It turns out that terpenes are an important part of how cannabis works in our bodies, and can make picking out the “perfect strain” so much easier and even more fun!

What are terpenes?

The easiest way to think of terpenes is to think of them as the aromatics of the cannabis plant. When you smell different strains of weed, you might notice that each strain smells different than the last. Some smell musty while others might smell fruity. The same can be said for the flavor when you smoke or vape different types of weed. Those flavors that you’re tasting are terpenes. Terpenes do more than just taste good, they also have medicinal and psychoactive properties.

What do terpenes do?

These scientifically magical oils do more than provide aroma and flavor to your favorite strains. They actually modulate the effects of THC and CBD. To put it simply, they’re the reason that sativa strains are uplifting and indica strains are more sedative. Have you ever noticed that sativa strains have brighter and fruiter smells than indica's which smell a bit earthy? This is no coincidence, but we’ll get into the different types of terpenes and what they do a little later. Israeli chemist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam coined the term “The Entourage Effect” which is the effect of all of the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant working synergistically to provide the specific and nuanced “high” associated with marijuana.

entrouage effect

One of the biggest myths about cannabis is that THC is the most important part of the plant. This has lead to the idea that the higher the THC content, the higher the quality. This isn’t exactly true. There are over 100 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and they all have different jobs to do. Think of THC like the gas pedal of a car, terpenes are the steering wheel, and all the other cannabinoids are different parts of the car that make it function. All parts are needed to have a complete experience. 

How do I know what terpenes are in a strain?

It might seem silly, but the best way to shop for cannabis is with your eyes closed. In the case of terpenes and cannabis, the nose knows! Once you get an idea of what the different terpenes smell like and what their effects are, you can get an idea of how a strain is going to feel before you consume it. Using your nose to shop goes a bit deeper than simply how a strain smells, it’s important to pay attention to how a strain “feels” when you smell it. You don’t choose Mary Jane, she chooses you!

Terpenes interact with our receptors when we smell them and when we inhale them, so the reaction that you feel after smelling a strain will give you a hint as to how you will enjoy consuming it.

lavendar pine and marijuana bud

On your next visit to Clovr Dispensary, take some time to smell the different strains that they have on the shelf.  If you smell a strain and your mouth begins to water, you’re suddenly filled with childlike happiness, or you just can't resist going back for another smell of the sweet sweet goodness, that reaction means that those terpenes are working well with your body chemistry. On the other hand, when you smell a strain and your knee-jerk reaction is to push the jar away, that is your body telling you that those cannabinoids aren’t right for you.

The instinct to push foul smelling things away is the body’s built in defense against poison. Think of when you open a jug of sour milk, the instinct is to push it away. Long story short, if it smells bad, don’t smoke it. If it smells like hopes and dreams, you need it in your life. 

Different terpenes and their effects

Limonene - As per its name, it is found in lemons and other citrus fruits. Limonene is responsible for the bright citrus flavor in many sativa strains such as Golden Goat and Sour Diesel. Limonene is known for providing an uplifting, energetic high that is focused and productive. Strains high in limonene are good for those looking to get moving and shed a few pounds as this terpene is associated with weight loss. 

plate of citrus fruits

Pinene - This calming strain exists in high concentration in pine needles and provides a piney aroma to cannabis. It is known for counteracting some of the paranoia associated with THC. Some recent studies have shown promising results on pinene and memory function. This could be good news for Alzheimer’s patients, but more research needs to be conducted to say for sure. The strains Trainwrek, Blue Dream, and Jack Herer are all high in pinene. 

Myrcene -  Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis. It is also abundant in mangoes, thyme, lemongrass, and hops. If you’ve ever thought that your IPA or other hop-heavy beer smelled like weed, that is because of myrcene. This terpene is known to have a calming effect. Though myrcene will be present in most strains, Harlequin, OG kush, Bubba OG, and Girl Scout Cookies have high concentrations of myrcene. 


Linalool - This terpene is found in lavender. We’ve known the calming effects of lavender for centuries. Naturally this terpene is abundant in indica strains and is responsible for their floral aromatics and sedative effects. Strains with high amounts of linalool are Do-si-dos, LA Confidential, and Amnesia Haze. 

Final Thoughts

Terpenes are what make each strain so magical in terms of how they make us feel. They’re also part of what makes shopping for cannabis such an interactive experience. In the event that you’re unsure of which strain to choose, your Clovr Dispensary budtender can always help. Now that you’re an expert on terpenes, go forth and let Mary Jane decide how she can enhance your life. 

Topics: terpenes

Rio Kaplan
Written by Rio Kaplan

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