If you’re familiar with essential oils, you already know what terpenes are. Terpenes are aromatic oils that are secreted from specific glands in many different plants. In the cannabis plant, terpenes are produced from the same glands that are responsible for cannabinoids like THC and CBD. They developed over generations for the same reasons that other plants secrete terpenes: to repel predators and lure pollinators. As a bonus, we get to experience their distinctive aromas and flavors that make each cannabis strain unique.
There are many factors that determine a plant’s terpene profile, including climate, weather, age, fertilizers, soil composition, and even time of day. Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and each strain has a unique terpene composition. If you’ve ever wondered why Super Lemon Haze smells like citrus and Chiesel smells kind of like cheese, terpenes are the cause.
The diverse palate of cannabis flavors that terpenes provide are largely one of the most enjoyable aspects of consuming cannabis, but terpenes influence one’s cannabis experience much more than by simply adding aroma and flavor. Terpenes also interact synergistically with other compounds in the plant, like cannabinoids, to affect your experience through something called the entourage effect. More research is needed to understand this phenomenon completely, but essentially, science has shown us that the effect profile of any given terpene may change in the presence of other compounds. Simply said, the terpene profile of a particular strain of cannabis may be the defining factor in how that strain makes you feel.
With THC being the most sought-after cannabinoid in the past few decades, most cannabis varieties have been bred to contain high levels of THC, and as a result, other cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, and CBG have fallen to just trace amounts. This has led many to believe that terpenes play the key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains. Their differences can be subtle, but terpenes add great depth to the horticultural art of cannabis cultivation. And as terpenes begin to pique the interest of scientists and cannabis connoisseurs, the cannabis community is learning of the many additional medicinal benefits that terpenes offer in conjunction with cannabinoids. Some manufacturers are already experimenting with what terpenes can add to a cannabis user’s experience, and we can’t wait to see what kind of potent aromatic and flavorful cannabis experiences are in store.