Have you ever been overwhelmed by a specific scent and immediately been transported into a memory? For me, the smell of roses and cedar will always remind me of my Poppa’s house and warm sunny days spent outdoors watching him tend to his rose garden. I can almost hear his voice, almost feel the sunshine on my eyelids whenever I smell fresh roses. A smell can also act as a warning signal, whether it’s food that is expired or a smell that pulls on a memory reminding us to pay closer attention. Our sense of smell was developed to detect chemicals in the air around us and is linked to memory, emotion, and the limbic system.
Terpenes form naturally in all plants and help create taste and smell while also providing protection to the plants themselves. Some terpenes act as a natural pest control repelling harmful insects while others attract pollinators, in this way terpenes help plants communicate what they need. Cannabis contains over 150 different terpene profiles some you may already be familiar with such as linalool found in lavender, myrcene found in mangoes, or pinene found in pine trees. If you’ve ever found relief through using peppermint oil for a headache or found a sense of relaxation after lighting a lavender-scented candle, you are using terpenes to affect how you feel. Walking into a forest and taking a deep breath, you are inhaling terpenes from the trees and plants all around you.
Pre legalization, if you walked into a dispensary you probably saw large glass mason jars filled with flower and people being encouraged to smell the strains they were curious about in order to make their final decision. The theory is that the scents you are drawn to will lead you to the strain that is the best fit. It can also help you remember memories of your experiences with similar smelling strains. Post legalization we are operating in a more regulated environment, meaning we need to find creative ways to communicate scent profiles or terpene profiles to consumers to help navigate the strain options and their possible uses and effects. Some Licensed Producers are now including terpene profiles and percentages on their packaging which is a very important step in ensuring consumers have all the information at hand to make the most educated decision; this should be the standard moving forward for the industry as a whole. We are also moving away from solely describing cannabis as either Sativa or Indica as most plants are now considered hybrids due to years of crossing strains. Learning more about the effects of different cannabinoids and terpenes is helping us discover there is so much more to each cannabis experience. Cannabinoids and terpenes can essentially be thought of as the ingredients that make up a recipe, different combinations, quantities, and ratios will lead to different results.
With so much new information coming to light at such a rapid speed we recommend keeping a journal, notepad, or doc of the strains you’re trying and your personal experience. Once you get comfortable you can try digging in a little deeper and keeping track of the different cannabinoid and terpene profiles found in each strain. Eventually, you will have a personally tailored cannabis roadmap of what strains and terpenes to avoid as well as favorites and will be able to comfortably and confidently make choices based on your previous experience.
Let’s start with one of the most known terpenes out there, myrcene. Myrcene is classified as a monoterpene, which refers to the chemical structure of the fragrance molecule itself, sometimes noted as β-myrcene. As previously mentioned myrcene can be found in mangoes as well as in hops and lemongrass. The scent of myrcene has been described as earthy with a hint of fruity sweetness and a dash of clove-like spice. While cannabis affects everyone a little differently, strains high in myrcene may lead to a more relaxing experience.
It has also been found that myrcene can help enhance transdermal absorption and may work synergistically with other terpenes and cannabinoids to enhance the entourage effect, however, more research is needed in this area.
- Bay Leaves