Cannabis: the future
Terpenes: the aromatic royalty of the plant world. They’re responsible for the wide variety of smells and flavours of marijuana but their reign doesn’t end here. Recent studies have begun looking into how terpenes work with cannabinoids to produce and aid certain effects. The world of cannabis has evolved from simply ‘indica’ and ‘sativa’ and continues to grow in complexity.
This isn’t your dad’s weed anymore
In the past, it’s been common practice to generalize marijuana into two main strains: indica and sativa. The more we look into the intricacies of cannabis the more we realize that marijuana strains are actually on a spectrum, defined in part by the amount and types of terpenes and cannabinoids contained in them.
Why you should care about terpenes
Terpenes have long been a popular subject in the world of true cannabis geeks, but it wasn’t until recently that they started becoming a green-household name. In a nutshell, terpenes are the aromatic oils produced naturally by any and all plants. They deter plant-enemies like herbivores and attract plant-friendly predators and parasites. All around good guys, terpenes provide the sweet berry flavours of Organic Blue Dream by Eden Black Label and the strong citrus notes belonging to Fire OG by Eden Private Reserve.
A general description of sativa and indica
Indica and sativa are the two ‘basic’ categories of marijuana, with hybrids being a blend of the two. When you’re talking about cannabis from a general point of view, they can be handy blanket-terms to use. Indica is classically used for its sedation purposes, associated with sleeping and a strong body high. Sativa is generally associated with feelings of euphoria, creative inspiration, and mood elevation. The two were originally differentiated based on the area they grew and the physical characteristics of the plants.
Now that we know what we do about cannabinoids and terpenes, we can further use them to define the plant types. The plants physical structure actually isn’t an accurate indication of whether it will produce the ‘couch-lock’ effects of indica or lift your brain into hyperactivity, like sativa. Now, we can depend on the buds’ cannabinoid and terpene makeup for a more accurate prediction of the effects.
Terpenes and cannabinoids go together like Bonnie and Clyde
This brings us to our next point: how terpenes and cannabinoids work together in perfect harmony to produce the lovely effects of cannabis on the mind and body. Research suggests that terpenes can modify the effect of THC on your body, impact a strains potency, and influence the brain’s neurotransmitters. Which, in non-scientific terms, means that terpenes can affect your high and your mood.
Terpenes are all different, in their own way
Note, not all terpenes work the same. Some, like linalool (think: lavender and floral notes) will produce feelings of relaxation and sedation. Limonene which smells like citrus will have a stimulating effect. The pine-tree scented buds you might come across are due to higher levels of pinene, which can positively affect the memory and boost energy. Myrcene is arguably the most present terpene in cannabis with especially high percentages in strains that produce sedative effects, like those classified as indicas. Myrcene smells like cloves and has been proven to increase the effects of THC in marijuana users.
“Any strain with more than 0.5% myrcene is an indica and anything less is a sativa.” – Steep Hill Labs
Chemically speaking, terpenes lend THC a helping hand
Terpenes can modify how much THC passes through the ‘blood-brain’ barrier, which is like a fence keeping toxins from the circulatory system out of the nervous system. Certain terpenes act like a hole in the fence, letting THC pass through and bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain more easily. It has been suggested that they even go so far as to regulate neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
If you didn’t care about terpenes before, we hope you do now. They’re responsible for more than the aroma and flavour of marijuana. Using them to differentiate the spectrum of cannabis strains will continue to help marijuana enthusiasts to discover potential uses of our favourite plant. As with all things cannabis, the more we know the better.