There’s nothing quite like opening up a container of some pungent cannabis flower that contains those pupil dilating fragrances. One big whiff and, yum! With that mouth-watering thought in mind, have you ever wondered what gives cannabis plants their smell? What are the compounds that create these smells? Further, why would cannabis even produce these smells in the first place?
For starters, these fragrant molecules, known as terpenes, are naturally occurring compounds found throughout nature and are extremely abundant in the Plant Kingdom. So abundant in fact, that we associate the essence of plants by their terpenes, i.e the smells, they release. As Shakespeare put it, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The intoxicating fragrance that we associate with a freshly bloomed rose is caused by the release of the floral terpene known as Geraniol.
Plants produce these aromatic molecules, like Geraniol, to help them communicate with their environment. This “chemical language” is used by plants for a myriad of purposes: as pesticides, fungicides, to attract pollinators, and to aid in metabolic reactions. Ultimately, these compounds are utilized by plants to keep themselves and the species alive. Plants could not survive without terpenes but they are also needed by other organisms, like humans.
Terpenes have a wide range of functionality in the human body and have been shown to contain many properties beneficial for optimum health. For example, some of these compounds are known to help with inflammation, improved focus, sleep disorders, pain management, along with treating bacterial and fungal infections. When a cannabis flower or concentrate is preserved correctly, all its active terpenes are also preserved, allowing those who are ingesting or inhaling a cannabis product to benefit from the wellness properties of these terpenes. Not only are these molecules important for optimal wellness, but they are directly correlated with how various cannabis strains affect people’s moods differently. It’s not as simple as comparing THC/CBD percentages or the Sativa vs. Indica debate.
Although these nomenclatures have been around since landrace cannabis varieties were first classified, they do not give an accurate understanding of how a cannabis product, or stain, will affect a user. Selecting cannabis based on its classification as an Indica or Sativa, or by the total THC percentage, is an inaccurate way to determine your physical/physiological response to that specific strain. Instead, by looking at the three most dominant terpenes (by percent), along with total cannabinoids present, a user can more effectively ascertain the what strains will produce the desired effects.
Now that you know how terpenes work, let’s put that to use. For those having a tough time purchasing cannabis flower or concentrate, just follow your nose! If the fragrance is highly pleasing to your senses, chances are the effect will be just as pleasing. Don’t hesitate to ask your local bud-tenders about terpenes to help you make better purchasing decisions. people find the right strain for the right time for the right people.
If you want to learn more about what terpenes are associated with what specific effects, stay tuned for our article next week which will deep dive into just that!