Terpenes: What do they do?

Bold, capitalized text reads, "Terpenes: What do they do?". To its right is a photo of a hand in a blue glove holding up a cannabis leaf for the camera.

Cannabis has long been broken down into three categories: sativa, indica, and hybrid

Indica strains are believed to be physically sedating and best for nighttime use, sativa strains are believed to be energizing and best for daytime use, and hybrids are believed to be a blend of both. However, when you look at the chemical makeup of indica and sativa flowers, they don’t provide much of an explanation for why one would be sedating and the other uplifting. 

More recently, it is believed that the different effects are caused by the different terpene and cannabinoid ratios, rather than the ratio of indica to sativa. 

Indica, sativa, and hybrid heritage has limited use for those consuming cannabis.  In reality, it is more useful information for those growing the plants than those consuming them. Sativa plants will grow taller with narrow, fan-shaped leaves and longer flowering periods. They grow best in warmer, humid climates. Indica plants grow shorter with wider, fan-shaped leaves and shorter flowering periods. They grow best in colder, drier climates.

Terpenes

While the noticeable differences in effects between strains used to be attributed to sativa vs. indica, it is now understood to have more to do with the specific ratio of terpenes contained within the flower. 

Follow along as we go through some of the most common terpenes found in hemp flower and the effects that they generally provide.

Myrcene is the most common dominant terpene in cannabis. This means that it is the terpene found at the highest percentage within most cannabis. 

Strains dominant in myrcene are believed to provide a calming, relaxing effect. Myrcene is a potentially valuable antioxidant.

Myrcene – like all terpenes – is not only found in cannabis, but also in a multitude of other plants. These include hops, lemongrass, mango, cardamon, and verbena among others.

Strains that are high in limonene are believed to provide relief from anxiety and stress. 

Suggested benefits of limonene also include mood elevation as well as antibacterial and antifungal properties.

On its own, Limonene smells quite citrusy and fruity, but this smell can change when in combination with others. Other plant sources of limonene include citrus rinds and juniper. 

Caryophyllene is, interestingly enough, the only terpene known to interact with the endocannabinoid system in the brain. This allows it to provide anti-inflammatory effects. 

Caryophyllene has been suggested to be helpful for anxiety and/or depression, so seek out strains high in caryophyllene when looking to relax.

Caryophyllene has a spicy-to-somewhat woody aroma. Other plant sources include black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves.

Humulene is a terpene found in cannabis, as well as hops. Humulene has the same chemical formula as caryophyllene, but they differ slightly in structure. 

It is believed to have anti-inflammatory effects. Strains high in humulene share many of the relaxing properties of those high in caryophyllene.

It has a fresh, herbal scent. Other plant sources include sage and ginseng. 

Pinene, as you may guess from the name, has a distinct pine-like smell. 

Strains high in pinene are generally believed to be uplifting and focusing. Pinene has been suggested to be useful for asthma and inflammation.

Pinene is the most common terpene in the plant world and can be found in a multitude of plants including all varieties of pine; as well as rosemary, dill, and basil. 



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