Pot Pop Quiz: When you go into a dispensary and see jars of flower, you probably look for three things: strain name, the THC content and whether it's a sativa, indica or hybrid. What should you add to that list, and perhaps make most important?
The answer is terpenes—or for those of you who are apt to scoff dismissively, push your glasses up your nose while sighing heavily, "You mean Terpenoids?" No, I mean Terpenes, because as High Times writes, "Terpenoids are terpenes that have been denatured by oxidation. There are also different names for the various structures a terpene can have. Monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and others are named after the number of isoprene units they contain." As you may be reading this while high, let's stick with "terpenes."
So, terpenes are organic plant compounds responsible for a plant's taste and smell. At least 100 terpenes have been identified in cannabis plants. They work with the cannabis receptors in the body to modify the impact of the cannabis consumed.
If you're number chasing, it shouldn't be for THC, but rather terpenes, and more specifically, particular terpenes. The higher the terpene count in flower, the better. In extracts, it's also better—up to a point. High Times writes, "Extracts with higher than 40 percent terpene contents are unpleasant to vaporize, and far from the ratios found in an actual plant."
Of the various types of extracts and concentrates, products made with butane tested highest in terpenes, although not by much. A 2016 High Times study found terpenes by mass broken down as:
Budder and Shatter .84%
Dry Sift non-solvent hash .75%
Live resin .73%
"The Clear" tested at 0 percent terpenes, which High Times explains is "a trade name for the short path distillation process wherein cannabinoids are isolated and extracted... giving a producer the option to add in terpenes afterward, taken from cannabis or other botanical sources." Those "other botanical sources" are mostly plants and fruits, so that Orange Crush vape cartridge may have terpenes added which were made from non-cannabis products. Amazon carries bottles of both individual terpenes, and blended offerings that mimic specific strains.
The benefits and effects of the most common terpenes found in cannabis exceed the space of this column. The following is a greatly simplified list. Like most everything involving cannabis, our knowledge has been severely limited by prohibitionist bans and barriers involving cannabis research.
Many farms and producers have begun having their flower and products tested for terpenes and listing the results with the same pride as their THC/CBD results. Keep a product journal with test results so you can compare outcomes with other products having a similar profile. Seek out sungrown cannabis, which often has high terpene profiles. Take charge of your experience by taking the extra step to understand what works best for your intentions—and always trust your nose.
This is the most common terpene, with one Swiss study concluding it's responsible for up to 50 percent of terpenes in cannabis. It's found in mangoes, lemongrass, hops and eucalyptus, and is great for pain and inflammation. Greenflower.com writes, "Acting as a regulator, myrcene can enhance or diminish the effects of other terpenes and cannabinoids."
Not the French edition of Beyonce's classic album, but a very citrus-y terpene. It's believed to help other terpenes be more readily absorbed, and to assist in relieving effects of certain GI tract issues, such as ulcers.
Gives lavender its unique scent. It's great for combating stress, and has many "antis" including anti-depressant, -tumor, -bacterial and -convulsant, while also showing promise in pain relief.
Why some weed smells like "trees." It's responsible for the smell in pine trees and is believed to improve memory and focus. Studies have shown promise in using it as a highly effective tool against viral and microbial infections.