Terpenes are distinctive smelling (aromatic) compounds found in all plants. Terpenes are major components of resin; in this case, the resin from the cannabis plant. Alongside cannabinoids, terpenes are major components of cannabis resin and play a large role in the effect certain strains have when consumed. Williams stated that terpenes in cannabis dictate the level of intoxication one would experience.
Growing and curing techniques can affect terpenes’ potency in various strains, leading to dramatically different terpenoid profiles. Terpenes are also heavily affected by heat; when you’re buying based on terpene content, it’s best to consume through a low-heat method like vaping.
Terpene and terpenoid are often used interchangeably, but the terms do have different meanings. Terpenes are hydrocarbons, while terpenoids have experienced oxidation to be denatured or been chemically modified.
According to Chasen’s illustration of cannabinoids acting like the engine of a car, terpenes are like the steering wheel of a vehicle. They are responsible for one’s mood. For instance, how relaxed or calm, alert or energized, etc. consumers feel are dictated by terpenes.
Terpenes are responsible for cannabis’ aroma; they also have medicinal benefits. Terpenes act as serotonin uptake inhibitors, increase norepinephrine activity, enhances dopamine activity, and augment GABA. All of these actions have anti-depressant properties.
Some consumers have learned to identify benefits of various strains through their smell, recognizing the potential mix of terpenes within and their effects. Musk and Clove-scented varieties tend to have relaxing effects while piney smells promote mental alertness and better memory. The Terpene Wheel is a popular graph that divides terpenes and their effects into easy categories based on the aroma. The wheel was developed by Green House Seed Co. as a tool for medical marijuana patients to better choose a strain that would ease their symptoms. It has proven so effective that it spread throughout the cannabis community.
In addition to these individual benefits, terpenes work closely with cannabinoids to determine what benefits a strain will produce and the levels of intoxication that may result. Terpenes can even reduce THC’s intoxication effects, balancing out its medicinal properties.
Terpenes also play a significant role in protecting cannabis plants; they are a natural protection from bacteria, fungus, insects, and other natural environmental stresses.