For years, people were unsure why some strains of cannabis seem to lead to such different experiences. People have said that the differences can be chalked up to indica, sativa, and hybrid strains, but that doesn’t seem to fully account for all of the nuances between strains. As we continue to learn more about cannabis through continued research, we’ve started to believe that terpenes may finally present the answer to this mystery.
Like the cannabinoids that create most of the effects of cannabis, the terpenes are found in the trichomes (shiny crystals) on the surface of cannabis Terpenes can be considered as something similar to the essential oils in cannabis. They give the different strains their unique flavors and aromas, and they also lead to something called the “entourage effect.”
What Is the Entourage Effect?
As you explore the subtle differences between different types of cannabis, you may hear those nuances explained in terms of the entourage effect. This theory suggests that cannabinoids interact with the human body differently depending on the present terpenes. This reminds us of how some people behave differently depending on who they’re with, which is probably where the name “entourage effect” comes from.
The theory behind the entourage effect can go a long way toward explaining why different strains have different effects. Even when two different strains have nearly identical levels of cannabinoids, they can still make people feel differently. As of now, the entourage effect is the best explanation for why this happens.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes, also called terpenoids, are organic compounds that are naturally found in the cannabis plant and some other types of plants. You’re smelling terpenes every time you get notes of citrus, spice, pine, or something else from your strain. The smell of cannabis typically gives you a hint about how it will taste, too, and terpenes also inform the flavor you’ll get when you smoke or vape cannabis. You may have heard that premium cannabis should smell very loud or dank, and that’s because strong smells are associated with higher levels of terpenes. In other words, follow your nose next time you’re looking for the best cannabis strain at your Denver dispensary.
What Other Plants Have Terpenes?
A terpene is a terpene– it doesn’t matter if it came out of cannabis or any other plant. Current research hasn’t shown that a terpene from cannabis behaves any differently than that same terpene in another plant. In other words, it doesn’t matter if caryophyllene comes from hops or cannabis because it will still just be caryophyllene. That said, cannabis and hops have very different effects on the human body, and caryophyllene may behave differently when paired with the other natural components of cannabis. This all ties back to the entourage effect and how terpenes interact with cannabinoids.
What Is the Point of Terpenes?
Plants develop terpenes to help with oxygenation, regeneration, and protection from environmental factors. For example, a terpene could repel animals that would eat the plant or attract insects to help the plant pollinate. One of the most exciting things terpenes can do is help plants regulate their immune systems. Some people also speculate that terpenes may affect human immunity like they do with plant immunity.
Why Do Different Strains Have Different Terpenes?
Scientists and researchers have identified more than 200 unique terpenes in cannabis plants, though some are much more prevalent than others. Plants grow such diverse selections of terpenes because this adds variety to how they can evolve their natural defenses and other abilities. Diversity is typically a considerable advantage as plant species evolve.
Human cultivation has had a significant impact on the terpene profiles in cannabis plants in more recent years. Growers have been cultivating strains with desirable terpene profiles since even before we fully understood what terpenes are. As plants with desirable terpene profiles were bred more frequently, the new strains created were more likely to have similar terpenes.
How Can We Preserve the Terpenes in Cannabis?
A wide variety of different factors can impact the expression of different terpenes. The terpenes will vary depending on how a strain is grown, harvested, cured, stored, and consumed. Some terpenes are extremely delicate by nature, so the plant material has to be handled with extreme caution throughout the process to prevent them from becoming damaged. Even the nutrients present in the soil where the cannabis plant grows can impact the final profile of aromatic compounds in the plant.
Once the plant has been grown, it’s important to harvest it at the right time. Healthy buds should be picked when they have the highest terpenes level because this will maximize the aromatic compounds’ scent, flavor, and effects. The trichomes on the buds should be distinct and shiny when they’re at their healthiest. Since trichomes contain both terpenes and cannabinoids, their health is arguably the most critical thing to look out for when you’re selecting cannabis flower.
Once the flower has been harvested, it’s still important to monitor the temperature. Some terpenes are sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, so they can be damaged depending on how the flower is treated. More terpenes can be preserved by keeping the temperature consistent while curing the flower, storing it, and even making cannabis concentrates (when applicable). Some people even vaporize their cannabis flower at precise temperatures to get maximum enjoyment from the terpenes and cannabinoids.
What Do Terpenes Do?
We’ll need a little more scientific research before we can speak with absolute certainty about each terpene’s specific effects. Still, we’ve already heard many stories and seen a lot of information about what people report after their experiences with different terpenes. It’s somewhat similar to the way people say that some essential oils make them feel invigorated, while other essential oils make them feel relaxed. The entourage effect may be having a massive impact on the way cannabinoids interact with the body, which can change the effects of a cannabis strain.
Consider how some strains are associated with relief and relaxation, while other strains are related to feelings of creativity and bursts of energy. Recreational cannabis consumers and medical marijuana patients alike are often interested in learning more about their strains so they can predict the type of experience they’re likely to have. Of course, it’s also important to keep in mind that the journey with cannabis is personal, so the same strain won’t make everyone feel the same.
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