What exactly are terpenes and how can we better understand the labels on our cannabis medications?
Simply put, terpenes are the essential oils of the cannabis plant. They are found in both industrial hemp and marijuana. There are over 100 known terpenes in cannabis.
Terpenes literally are the smells of our lives, Seriously.
Perfume: Terpenes, Basil: Terpenes, Gasoline: Terpenes, even the smell of rain on a dirt road from childhood is comprised of the interaction of countless terpenes giving us the distinct notes of these memorial scents.
Why are terpenes important?
Each individual terpene has a distinct effect on our body and every strain of cannabis has a different terpene combination or profile. This is why different strains affect people differently.
Just like how each herb we cook with has different tastes and qualities, each strain and its terpenes have different medicinal effects (or side effects). After all, cannabis is a plant…and a wonderfully beneficial one at that!
Terpenes are the reason each strain tastes/behaves differently in the body. Look at Basil, Oregano, and Dill: Each one has a distinct smell and taste; so, it only makes sense that each strain of cannabis distinguishes itself individually by unique combinations of tastes and smells.
Some folks are so good with cannabis they can even identify different strains just by smell alone. (Not me, I know a few strains by smell, but not like those folks: I bow in admiration to their mad olfactory skills!)
When we combine cannabis terpenes with the other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant we get what is known as the “Entourage Effect”: Meaning all the parts of the plant working together for the best possible combination of benefits for the patient. Think chicken soup for when we are sick, each ingredient has a purpose.
Now that we have explored the ‘what’ and ‘why’… here are the top 10 terpenes and some info on each.
Top 10 Terpenes in Medical Cannabis:
5.Pinene 10. Ocimene
1. Myrcene has a peppery, spicy, slightly floral smell to it and is also found in hops (beer) or Lemongrass (used in herbal/ folk medicines). It’s presently the most popular cannabis terpene and believed to produce calming effects for anxiety and PTSD patients. Myrcene is a possible anti-mutagen (cancer fighter), antimicrobial, as well as an antioxidant; talk about packing a punch! This terpene is also found in mangos and the cooking herb Thyme. High Myrcene strains to keep an eye for are: White Widow, Pure Kush, and Himalayan Gold.
2. Caryophyllene also called Beta-Caryophyllene. It is another spicy, but musky flavored terpene. However, this terpene takes the cake as it’s the same one found in Pepper, Basil, and Cloves that give them their flavor ‘kick’. Caryophyllene acts as an anti-inflammatory that can help ease pain and increase range of movement. Bubba Kush, OG Kush, and ChemDawg are a few strains to watch for if this sounds like a good match for your specific conditions.
3. Linalool has a floral smell with a hint of spice. This is the main terpene in Lavender and is used in many foods, beauty, and household products. Strains with this terpene tend to have purple coloring. Medicinally, Linalool creates an overall relaxing effect and also demonstrates anti-epileptic, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant effects. Look for strains related to Lavender, Amnesia Haze, and LA Confidential to include this terpene in your routine.
4. Limonene: Now, this is our citrus terpene. It is fruity and citrusy; Limonene is found in everything from food to beauty to cleaning products. This one is our anti-anxiety and stress relief buddy: Limonene will help get us out of idle ruminations and uplift us into better, more positive moods. Limonene also boasts anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties as well! Watch for strains Do-Si-Dos, White Fire OG, and Wedding Cake for this important terpene.
5. Pinene: this one’s kind of obvious: think Christmas and pine trees. Pinene is also found in Rosemary and Basil as well; in fact, Pinene is the most common terpene found in the natural world- it’s even present in orange peels! Pinene is used primarily for pain relief, inflammation, and anxiety. Pinene is also considered a bronchodilator (Meaning, it actually opens up your airways) making it a suitable choice for asthmatics.
Even better, Pinene may even be the key to helping prevent short term memory loss from THC. (So, if you can remember this…) Here are a few strains to try to best enjoy Pinene: Critical Mass, Big Smooth, and the ever-popular Blue Dream.
6. Humulene is the earthy, woody, and spicy sister to Myrcene. This is another terpene that gives beer its unique taste and smell. Humulene is found in black pepper, hops, and ginseng and is known for its anti-inflammatory and appetite suppressant properties. Humulene is also one of our best antibacterials and cancer fighters in medical cannabis. Look for Pink Kush, Skywalker OG, and GSC strains to utilize this terpene.
7. Bisabolol is also known as Levomenol. This widely used terpene is found in many cosmetics, however, it’s effects have only recently received study in the cannabis field this past decade. Bisabolol is most commonly found in the chamomile flower. If you have used Harle-Tsu or ACDC strains (one of my CBD go-to’s for my migraines) this is among the top terpenes (along with Myrcene) helping us migraine patients most. A few medicinal properties include being anti-microbial, analgesic, and anti-irritant.
8. Terpineol is a sneaky terpene, it’s commonly found with Pinene so it remains difficult to detect independently. Its characteristic scent can be found in lilacs, pine trees, and eucalyptus sap. Keep an eye on this one, though: Terpineol will catch you off guard with its sedative effects.
A few other benefits of Terpineol include antibiotic, antimalarial, and anti-tumor properties. A few strains for Terpineol include White Widow, OG Kush and GSC (AKA Girl Scout Cookies).
9. Geraniol: (also known as Lemonol,) is the reason Geraniums smell so lovely, and can also be found in tobacco and lemons. The scent is reminiscent of roses, peaches, tobacco, or citronella. For this reason, Geraniol is popularly utilized in many bath and beauty products.
Oh, and talk about packing a punch: Geraniol is an Anti-Tumor, Antispasmodic as well as a Neuroprotectant (reduces damage to the brain and nervous system and encourages the growth and development of new neural connections. Mind=blown) Strains known for Geraniol include Island Sweet Skunk, Amnesia Haze and Afghani. Another fun fact! Bees use Geraniol scent to mark their hives: How cool is that?
10. Ocimene is a widely used and recognized fragrance, though we may not be able to easily identify it at first; it has a sweet, woodsy, and herbaceous scent. Ocimene can be found in everything from mint to mangos and orchids and kumquats. Some of Ocimene’s medicinal benefits include uses as a decongestant, antibacterial, and antifungal. The strains with the highest Ocimene are Strawberry Cough, Golden Goat, and Space Queen.
Okay, so now that we have explored some of the common cannabis terpenes and what they do, hopefully, this will make it easier to keep track of what strains you like/don’t like and what works/doesn’t work based on the terpenes percentages.
With a little work and careful tracking, we can start to identify patterns that can help us more effectively choose our medicine based on the terpenes to work best for each situation…and that in turn will lead to less time wasted on products that may not suit us nearly as well.
Some people track their best strains and terpenes by spreadsheets, some use their phones with pictures, and others (like myself) write down everything I can until I figure out what works best for me. Keeping organized notes helps us figure out where we can save money and what to look for terpene-wise if our favorite strain is not readily available.
When we know what works we are then able to look at other strains and their terpene makeup; we can then make better and more educated decisions about our medicine. This is going to save us more money in the long run. (…and who doesn’t love that?!)
With that thought, I hope you enjoyed this Terpene information and that you learned enough to pique your interest to track the positive effects of these terpenes on your health and well being.
Peace and love everyone! -Cassee🥰