Plants produce molecules in their resin called terpenes, which are responsible for their aroma and flavour. These molecules have adaptive purposes, such as deterring predators or attracting pollinators. However, aromatherapy uses terpenes for therapeutic purposes like regulating moods, dealing with sleep problems and improving overall health.
Currently, more than 100 different terpenes have been identified in cannabis. Each strain has a unique composition of these molecules. This is what gives the Cheese strain its strong cheese flavour while Blueberry smells fruity and tastes like blueberry. In fact, this composition can even vary within one same subspecies depending on climate, age, maturity, type of soil, etc.
Terpenes are secreted through the same plant glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Historically, researchers and growers focused more on the latter for their psychoactive properties, but recent studies have revealed that terpenes also act synergistically with cannabinoids – in fact, terpenes adjust to the same receptors in your brain – and they alter the chemical effect produced in your body.
Many therapeutic marijuana patients have noticed that one strain helps them more than others despite having similar levels of THC or CDB. The difference lies in their composition of terpenes and their synergy with cannabinoids. That is why laboratories are increasingly interested in researching these molecules, no only for the contribution to aroma, flavour and colour, but also for their potential medical applications.
Most common terpenes:
Aroma: Musky, earthy
Effects: Relaxing and sedative
Medical value: Antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, muscle relaxant, analgesic, antidepressant
Also found in: Mango, lemongrass, hops and thyme
Strains high in myrcene: El Niño, Pure Kush, Himalayan Gold, White Widow.
Effects: Clarity, memory retention, counteracts some effects of THC
Medical value: Bronchodilator, expectorant, anti-inflammatory and a local antiseptic
Also found in: Pine, rosemary,parsley, dill, basil, etc.
Effects: Anti-stress and improves mood
Medical value: Antifungal, antibacterial, anticarcinogenic (prevents deterioration of Ras gene), used to cure depression and acts as an aphrodisiac
Also found in: Citrus, mint, rosemary, juniper
Strains high in limonene: OG Kush, Lemon Haze
Aroma: Spicy, woody, pepper and clove
Effects: Not detectable
Medical value: Gastric protector, anti-inflammatory, good for ulcers and arthritis
Also found in: Pepper, clove and cotton
Strains high in caryophyllene: Hash Plant
Effects: Anxiolytic and sedative
Medical value: Anxiolytic, antidepressant, anticonvulsant, anti-acne
Also found in: Lavender
Strains high in linalool: G13, Amnesia Haze, LA Confidential
However, since there are infinite combinations in cannabis genetics, the range of terpene profiles is certainly immeasurable, as you can see in this chart:
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