Terpenes are the aromatic compounds making up the essential oils in Cannabis; they contribute to the proven therapeutic effects.
Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons inherent in the marijuana plant that give each particular strain its distinctive aroma and influences its psychoactive effects.
There has been a long-debated designation of cannabis strains as “Indica,” “Sativa,” and “Hybrid.” But, what’s being sold as OG Kush in one shop could be something completely different in another because of the cannabis terpene content. We’ve all experienced smoking a particular strain with the same name that looks totally different and provides varying effects with each sample.
Studies have shown that the Indica-Sativa differences could be largely based on terpene content, which instead of the current Indica/Sativa labeling might require more insight into the terpene profiles in order to qualify the effects you’re looking for.
It appears that common strain names have little scientific or medicinal value. The genetic identity of a marijuana strain cannot be accurately determined by its name or reported ancestry. Cannabis breeders and growers often indicate the percentage of Sativa or Indica in a cannabis strain, but they are not very accurate.
Ultimately we require a practical, accurate and more reliable classification system of this plant.
The importance of terpenes in cannabis, and especially their synergistic effect with THC in the plant, was first noticed and studied by David Watson. He found that terpenes, or terpenoids, were what gave each type of pot plant its unique smell.
After extensive research with his American partner in Holland, Robert Connell Clarke, it was discovered that not only the aroma of marijuana was affected by terpenes, but also the strength of the psychoactive properties of each strain were modified by the quantity of terpenoids present. The more terpenes meant stronger psychoactive the strain was.
In plant taxonomy, specific rules dictate which family, genus, and species are used to categorize a plant. These categorizations help scientists and growers identify plants with similar characteristics and provide an avenue for predicting the traits they’ll carry, such as smell, appearance, and therapeutic properties.
The lack of available resources for research over the past few decades has resulted in a deeply-rooted folk taxonomy that oversimplifies the complex makeup of cannabis and disregards what scientists are finding to be the key indicator of a cannabis cultivar’s effects — terpenes.
Recreational users have been making do with “Indica,” “Sativa” and “Hybrid” classifications for decades. Just like wine lovers, cannaseurs do not need their passion to be classified scientifically.
When it comes to medical cannabis, however, practicing physicians like Bonni Goldstein M.D. would prefer that all products are labeled with cannabinoid potency and terpenoid profiles. “Medical patients and recreational users alike know what works when they use cannabis but often the information of the makeup of that chemovar may be unknown. Knowing what works allows for reproducible results.”
Terpenoid testing is required in Nevada, so we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to qualify our cannabis purchases by their terpene content. Now, we can make specific choices via terpene content to find the weed that actually provides the effects we’re looking for. Terpenes…who fucking knew?
Approximately 200 terpenes have been discovered so far in cannabis plants. Many of these are in such small amounts, however that they have little or no effect on aroma or psychoactive results at all. The terpenoids that are in substantial amounts can provide many benefits to pot enthusiasts such as, analgesics (pain reliever), anti-oxidant, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, sedative, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant, to name just a few.
Some of the more frequently found terpenes in marijuana are:
Caryophyllene – Spicy and sweet, this is also found in clove and cotton and even black pepper. It has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and provides the ‘smell’ that DEA dogs are looking for in pot when they sniff around a suspect’s space.
Delta3 Carene – Sort of sweet and pungent at the same time, this terpenoid’s benefits tend toward drying tears and runny noses, along with perspiration. It also works at giving some cannabis users dry mouth and dry eyes.
Myrcene – This terpene has a very pleasant fragrance and is found in most types of weed. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, muscle relaxing and analgesic properties among others.
Pinene – You’ll recognize this refreshing aroma as close to pine resin. This terpene is great for your lungs as it works as a bronchodilator, an expectorant and an antiseptic. Pinene also helps improve your memory and increases energy and mental focus. Sage and rosemary are both known as ‘memory plants due to the high quantities of pinene they possess.
Limonene – This gives off a slight citrus aroma and it is an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-depressant and anti-carcinogen.
These are just a few of the terpenes found in marijuana plants. Each strain and even each plant can contain different amounts of terpenes.
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