Terpenes and Smell
For some, the aromas of cannabis can be soothing and pleasant, while for others it smells skunky and off-putting. Regardless of your opinion on its scent, which is largely dependent on what strain you’re smelling, you can thank terpenes and terpenoids for that pungent fragrance. Secreted in the same glands that produce THC and CBD, terpenes are oils that distinguish many strains from one another with smells and flavors of berries, citrus, mint, pine and more.
Terpenes are made up of linked, repeating isoprene molecules, making them quite volatile compounds and easily combustible. Terpenoids are closely related, signifying a terpene’s slightly modified molecule, but the two terms are essentially synonyms. Due to their nature, the traditional way of smoking usually results in the potent effects of terpenes being lost to the air, as they’re commonly the first to combust. To get the most out of the terpenes, it’s recommended that a consumer uses a vaporizer, as they heat the bud in lower temperatures and can help preserve the THC, CBD and terpenes within the concentrated smoke.
Terpenes were adapted by the cannabis plant, as with any other plant, as both a deterrent to predators and as an attractor to pollinators. They can be influenced by not only the strain, but the climate, weather, age, maturation, soil type and fertilizers that the plant finds itself in. More than many other plant species, cannabis has had over 455 different kinds of terpenes identified inside it.
Terpenes themselves are credited with producing many of the distinct effects of different strains, as they interact with the other phytocannabinoids, THC and CBD, in very unique ways. Certain terpenes can bind to CB1 receptors as well, and scientists believe this is why some strains produce a calm high, while others a more energetic one. The amount and type of terpenes that find their way to CB1 and CB2 receptors can, apparently, alter the kind of high a consumer will feel. It’s even been discovered that some terpenes can change the brain’s neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin by altering their rate of production and destruction, their movement and their availability of receptors.
Terpenes are just as varied as the strains they’re found in, with some credited as relieving stress, while others have shown to increase focus and acuity. Myrcene, for example, induces a sleepy, tired attitude, while limonene can make the consumer feel happy. Others contain imperceptible effects, such as caryophyllene’s gastro-protective properties. Some of the more common terpenes are favorites among many, and with many labs now testing for terpene content, consumers can pick and choose which they prefer and find the corresponding strains.