What Are Terpenes – Your Guide To Aromatic Compounds

What Are Terpenes

What are terpenes? – You’re likely familiar with the cannabinoids THC and CBD at this point, but how much do you know about terpenes.

For those looking to get to the next level, learning about terpenes is essential cannabis knowledge. Specifically, learning about these compounds is likely the next most important factor after you get the gist of THC and CBD facts.

Think about all the different kinds of wine, and note that they all have the same underlying compound that gets you drunk. THC is the equivalent compound in cannabis that gets you high, but the terpenes are what make each batch unique. And these cannabis strains and products can be as different as the range of wine products.

Like with wine, all weed products come from one class of plant, but the differences takeover after that. If red and white types of wine are akin to sativa and indica, then terpenes are everything else. The aroma, flavor, and experience are all impacted by the specific plants grown in the batch you’re smoking.

Interested in discovering terpenes and how they can affect your body, shape experience and get you high? Let’s explore them together. 

What are Terpenes?


What is a terpene is a commonly asked question, so don’t feel bad if you’re asking it. Terpenes are a class of smell-producing and organic compounds found throughout the globe in plants and also some insects. When you stop and smell the roses, terpenes are creating this scent that you can detect.

While cannabis does not appear to produce any unique terpenes not found elsewhere, the plant is able to produce a vast variety of compounds. This is the primary reason why there are so many different strains and scents to be found in the cannabis market. 

We may also note the many combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes. With so many compounds found in the cannabis plant, it truly is an amazing plant.

Terpenes are found in cannabis resin, along with the cannabinoids we all love, including THC and CBD. These smell-producing compounds are released by the trichome glands in a resinous mixture. While primarily found in the resin, terpenes are present elsewhere.

Terpenes play multiple different roles for plants, including primary metabolism, hormone levels, and chemical defences against herbivores and pathogens. These compounds also have economic value, as they are used to create essential oils, pigments, and even natural rubber.

The terpenes present in a specific plant as a phenotypic trait that varies greatly across different strains.

The majority of compounds produced by cannabis are hydrocarbons that are the product of the terpene synthase (TPS) enzymes. Two of the major classes of terpenes found are monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. These names relate to the chemical structure of the compounds, but beyond that, you don’t need to worry about it.

Cannabis Terpenes

So now that you know what are these aromatic compounds, it’s time to talk about a few cannabis terpenes. We will scratch the surface here, but find a good chart to learn about them all. 

The most common monoterpene is likely myrcene, while on the sesquiterpene side there is β-caryophyllene and α-humulene.

These three appear to be present in nearly every strain. Other examples of monoterpenes include α-pinene, limonene, and linalool. Further examples of sesquiterpenes include bisabolol and (E)-β-farnesene.

Beta-caryophyllene is a common terpene found in many other plants. You may also recognize it in black pepper, as it is high in beta-caryophyllene. This is one of the more unique terpenes in cannabis, as it may have more impact on the cannabinoids than other terpenes, and play an anti-inflammatory role. Next time you grind some black pepper, you may find yourself thinking about weed!

Humulene is a cannabis plant terpene that is also found in hops. It has a subtle earthy and woody aroma with spicy notes. It is another terpene thought to have anti-inflammatory effects. Limonene produces a citrusy aroma that you’ll recognize from lemons. Linalool is a wonderfully pleasant aroma that is most commonly smelled thanks to the lavender plant.

How Are They Different From Cannabinoids?


Cannabinoids are also fats, just like the terpenes are oils, both falling under lipids. THC and CBD belong to a group of compounds called cannabinoids due to how they act on the body. These compounds interact with the cannabinoid receptors in our body.

Terpenes, for their part, play no direct role on the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. They flood the airways of our throat and nasal cavity and directly act on cells here.

Terpenes send messages to our brains that create smells and flavor perceptions. These effects are instantaneous when smoking and even start beforehand as you smell the weed you’re rolling into a joint.

What happens to the terpenes that reach our lungs and potentially enter the bloodstream is a question that requires more evidence. The same can be said for terpenes that are ingested in an infused edible and go through our digestive tract. Whether or not this movement of terpenes through our body impacts the high from cannabinoids directly requires more research.

That said, we do know how terpenes act on their own, and how they impact the overall experience of smoking. It is to these topics that we turn to next.

How do terpenes affect the body?

These compounds are able to provoke strong sensations and even emotions. In the cannabis community, there is constant debate about what role terpenes place in our high experiences. 

Many individuals have promoted the idea of the entourage effect to explain how cannabinoids and terpenes interact synergistically. They undoubtedly impact the experience of getting high, and that is the topic we’ll explore in these next few sections.

The Entourage Effect

The entourage effect is an idea that can be viewed as the whole being greater than the sum. The idea is that terpenes can impact the effects of THC and other cannabinoids, specifically in beneficial ways. The research behind this hypothesis requires further work.

That said, the term is also used to describe the interaction within different cannabinoids and how they interact, such as a product with both high levels of THC and CBD. Whether terpenes directly enhance the effects of THC compounds in the body is unclear, but we do know they impact the overall experience.

Your Experience of Getting High

It may not always get said, but there is one obvious fact about these aromatic compounds. That is, they impact the smoking experience. Just like the smells and flavors of the foods we eat and beverages we drink. Try plugging your nose while blazing or while eating some food to see just how much smell impacts the experience.

It should be noted that smells are closely intertwined with emotion. The terpene limonene can be incredibly uplifting with its citrus aroma. Take a whiff of some good cannabis with lots of pinenes and get transported to walking in a pine forest.

In addition to adding uplifting effects, terpenes are also heavily influencing your high. Working indirectly with other chemical compounds found in cannabis, terpenes act on our on cell receptors and increase the effect from cannabinoids. 

Final Thoughts 

You made it to the end, which means you now have a solid understanding of these amazing compounds and how they impact smoking weed. Good job getting through it, and now you can take this information with you for the next time you’re smoking or buying weed. 

Beyond looking at THC and CBD, pay more attention to the terpenes. Most of all, by paying attention, you can figure out which one you like best and when you like to smoke strains with particular cannabis terpenes.

We have explored some of the common terpenes out of the many produced by the cannabis plant. With so many produced, it can be hard to learn them all right away, so take your time. Hopefully, you’ll be able to figure out your favorite terpene so that you can buy strains with high levels of it.

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