Since legalization in Canada, there has been too much of a focus on THC percentages. Prior to legal labelling requirements, consumers largely bought cannabis based off its appearance, aroma and flavour. The chemical compounds that make up the aromatic composition of a particular cannabis cultivar are known as terpenes. These terpenes are also believed to contribute to the overall experience and effects felt when cannabis is consumed.
The flavour and aroma of any cannabis strain is dictated by the terpene profile that the plant expresses. Terpenes are naturally occurring chemical compounds that are found in a variety of different plant species, including cannabis. Terpenes are what makes each cultivar unique and are typically associated strictly with the gustatorial sensations of marijuana. However, the entourage effect theory presents that terpenes, along with cannabinoids and other plant molecules, interact together to determine the felt effects when a particular cultivar is consumed.
Terpenes are the reason your bud smells and tastes so good. Terpenes provide the delicious and unique smells and flavours that cannabis provides. Terpenes, along with cannabinoids and other molecules, may also be linked to the “high” that you experience after consuming.
The link between flavour and effects is complex and multi-layered. To help illustrate this point, imagine eating a lemon. When you consume a refreshing, sour, citrusy fruit – it results in an immediate boost of energy and increase in alertness. Similarly, when you consume a cultivar high in limonene and low in other specific terpenes, an analogous effect may be felt. The relationship between taste/flavour/aroma and felt experience is well documented in other areas of life – food, drink, nature, etc. Cannabis is no exception. When you consume cultivars that smell good, taste good and appeal to your personal senses, you are more likely to have a positive experience. Identifying which terpenes and which terpene profiles are associated with desired flavours and effects can help cannabis consumers select better product options for themselves.
Some terpenes are more prevalent than others. Myrcene is known as the most common terpene and when present, is usually one of the most dominant terpenes in a select cultivar’s profile. Limonene (also found in lemons), Pinene (found in pine trees) Linalool (found in lavender) and Humulene (found in hops) are other common terpenoids.
Just like cannabinoids (THC and CBD), terpene content can also be expressed in percentages. Terpene percentages are usually expressed in the total amount of terpene content in a particular strain. For example, the latest batch of First Class Funk could be testing at 4.5% terpenes total. Within that total 4.5%, there will be a further breakdown of the percentages for each specific terpene. An example of this breakdown could look like: 2.1% Limonene, 1.5% Caryophyllene, 0.5% Terpineol, 0.4% B-Pinene. Anything above 3% total terpene content is generally considered a “high terpene cultivar” dependent on other variables. Ghost Drops’ batches of premium indoor flower have hit as high as over 5% total terpene content. High terpene cultivars generally taste, smell and hit stronger than low terpene cultivars.