Your Guide to Understanding Cannabis-Derived Terpenes
Just about everyone will recognize the potent smell of marijuana, and those who are more intimately familiar with it know that it has distinct flavors, too.

But have you ever wondered what gives cannabis its pungent aroma? Or why some strains smell like citrus fruit while others resemble pine needles or lavender?

It's the terpenes in the plant. Different cannabis strains will have different smells because of the distinct terpenes that are found in them. Not only do terpenes give off the distinct aromas of the buds, but the plant material also has therapeutic benefits, too.

Let's dig deeper into cannabis-derived terpenes to find out what they're all about and why they're so important.

What are Cannabis-Derived Terpenes?

Terpenes are oils that give cannabis plants their unique aromas and flavors. Some strains might be spicy and earthy, while others smell more fruity and citrusy, for example. The specific aroma all comes down to what terpenes are included in the plant. 

Terpenes are made in the trichomes of the cannabis plant that are found on the leaves and buds. Their specific purpose is to serve as defense mechanisms and combat compounds — such as insects and animals — that could harm plants. For users, terpenes help to distinguish which strains will serve a specific purpose and provide the particular effect that is desired. 

In fact, many companies in the cannabis industry offer users terpene profiles to help identify the type of effect that each strain will provide based on the product's terpene profile. 

Different terpenes may have different effects on the user. For instance, citrus-smelling cannabis strains may be more associated with effects such as mental clarity, energy, and a heightened sense of euphoria. On the other hand, a more woodsy or smoky smell may be more associated with strains that will depress the central nervous system and induce a more drowsy feeling.

Understanding terpenes and how they're associated with specific scents can help users identify the type of bud they're smelling and the effect they may be able to experience by using it. 

Read more: The Difference Between Indica and Sativa: Does it Matter?

Terpenes and Cannabinoids

Terpenes can either amplify or lighten the effects of THC and CBD — as well as other cannabinoids — by interacting with receptors of the endocannabinoid system and neurotransmitters. In turn, they imitate the compounds that the body naturally produces and therefore modify things such as mood, appetite, sleep, and so on. 

The interaction of terpenes along with cannabinoids is known as the "entourage effect," which simply means that both work together in the body to produce specific effects. Instead of just one compound working to create an effect, the whole plant works as one. The terpenes in cannabis combine with the plant's trichomes (resin glands) and cannabinoids to create the unique cannabis flower — these ingredients combined form a product whose medicinal properties have been known since ancient times.  

Different terpenes may have different effects on the user.

What's the Difference Between Terpenes and Terpenoids?

Terpenes and terpenoids are certainly related, and many might use these terms interchangeably and assume that they're the same. Terpenes are hydrocarbons that are naturally occurring in the cannabis plant as it grows. Terpenoids, on the other hand, are terpenes that have been changed as the cannabis plant is dried and cured. 

Terpenoids are used for their aromatic properties and are how different cannabis strains can be distinguished in terms of smells and effects. 

Common Terpenes in the Cannabis Plant

There are more than 100 known terpenes in the cannabis plant, though only a few of them can be found in most of the cannabis products that are currently on the market, including myrcene, a-pinene, terpinolene, humulene, and caryophyllene, among others. Let's go a little more into detail on each of these.  

Myrcene - This terpene may comprise as much as half of the terpene levels in the cannabis plant. It's got a musky aroma that smells somewhat similar to cloves. Myrcene is known for its sedating effects, so it's ideal for using closer to bedtime or during times of stress. It might also be effective at treating pain and inflammation and may have antioxidant properties. 

Myrcene is more common in indica and hybrid strains, such as Bubba Kush, Harlequin, and Cannatonic.

A-Pinene - This pine-smelling terpene has been found to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC by combating cognitive impairment that the cannabinoid is known to induce. It may be effective at alleviating anxiety and pain while boosting the mood and promoting more mental alertness. 

A-pinene is a common terpene in many cannabis strains, including Pineapple, Harlequin, and ACDC.

Terpinolene - This terpene has a floral, piney aroma and is known for its relaxing effects on users. It's found in many cannabis strains, but usually only in small amounts. Only a handful of strains have a lot of terpinolene in them, including Sour Tsunami, Dutch Treat, and Sensi Star.

Humulene - This is a pretty common terpene that can be found in many cannabis strains, including Candyland, Death Star, and Headband. It's got a woody, spicy aroma and may be a potential anti-inflammatory terpene

Caryophyllene - This terpene smells a lot like black pepper and is associated with anxiety and stress relief. Some cannabis strains that include caryophyllene include Lavender, Blueberry Cheesecake, and GSC.

Final Thoughts

Understanding what the different terpenes of the cannabis plant are and what specific effects they're associated with can be highly useful in identifying the specific terpene products sought out and used. Whatever effect you're going for, looking at the terpene profile of different strains of marijuana can help you identify which product will provide you with the experience you desire.