Weed Coast: Terpenes 101
Do you smell something?
July 16, 2018
When you hear someone say they know “a thing or two about cannabis”, they’ll likely start by throwing around words like Indica and Sativa, the common names for the two major subspecies of the cannabis plant. These two species differ not only in their height, leaf shape and flower size, but also in terms of the general effects their dried flower buds can offer.
They may also know that those effects are strongly informed by a group of chemicals called phytocannabinoids, that the plant produces to assist its own health and metabolism. The two most well-known and abundant phytocannabinoids in cannabis are THC and CBD. You’ve heard of them, too, right? It turns out that humans make our own version, called endocannabinoids, for the very same reason cannabis plans do—to promote overall balance and homeostasis. This is why we have numerous receptors throughout our brain and body that are able to bind with THC and CBD as they enter our system, initiating a myriad of diverse experiences.
But do they know about terpenes?
Terpenes are a large group of aromatic compounds produced in hundreds of plants. These powerful aromas are made to repel attackers and to attract beneficial organisms that would feed on those same assailants. Terpenes are all over the place. That signature scent in nutmeg? That’s from a terpene called Terpinolene. Are you a fan of basil and oregano? Well, then you’re also a fan of Caryophyllene. The tropical notes in a freshly-peeled mango? That one’s called Myrcene. You get the idea.
When we use cannabis, cannabinoids combine with terpenes to create the psychoactive, and sometimes intoxicating, experience that the plant has become famous for. Of course, numerous other factors such as body mass, tolerance and method of consumption all play a part, but we’ll get into that in a future article. For now, let’s get to know a few of the most common terpenes.
When we use cannabis, cannabinoids combine with terpenes to create the psychoactive, and sometimes intoxicating, experience that the plant has become famous for.
Terpinolene is a terpene that helps to give coniferous trees, like our local cedars, fir and spruce, their signature smell. It’s also found in other plants like nutmeg, cumin and lilac. Terpinolene is thought to offer a relaxing effect and may also act as an antifungal and antibacterial agent. It’s also the most dominant terpene in Ice Cream, a 60/40 indica-dominant hybrid. Its buds were compact and sticky, pale green in colour, with scattered swatches of burnt orange. Its lightly spicy, forest-like aromas reminded me of a west coast trail after a welcome rain. The same flavours followed on the palate, being smooth and creamy (ha) throughout. Nicely balanced in its effects, I found the sensation mild and relatively relaxing, despite its posted THC content of 21.5%. Overall, it was a good introduction to this particular terpene.
My experience with White Shark OG, a sativa-dominant hybrid, was markedly different. This strain features Caryophyllene as its most common terpene. Caryophyllene is also found in herbs such as oregano, rosemary and basil, as well as spices like cinnamon and pepper. What’s neat is that Caryophyllene is one of the rare terpenes that acts like a cannabinoid. It interacts with those same receptors in our body to provide stress and pain-relieving effects. The White Shark OG buds are loose and sticky, a combination of light and dark green colours. Its aromatics were mouthwatering: fresh, herbal, spicy and inviting. Experientially, it was uplifting and energetic, but grounded, perfectly lending itself to an afternoon in the garden, getting one’s hands dirty, becoming one with nature.
I was quite excited to try Kish for a couple of reasons. First of all, Kish is an indica-dominant hybrid of two Shishkaberry strains, itself a true BC classic. Secondly, I wanted to get a better sense of what the terpene Myrcene had to offer. The most common terpene in cannabis, myrcene also is also found in large quantities in hops, mango and other citrus fruits. It’s also the most prevalent terpene in indica strains overall, which may be why people associate indica varieties with a more relaxed outcome. And Kish did not disappoint. With a thick carpet of dark orange hairs covering its pale green leaves, its aromatics were bright and fruity, a combination of raspberries and candied orange. The flavours were very similar, a tasty mixture of sweetness and spice. Its sedative effects took hold quite quickly, too, but not overwhelmingly so. A nicely balanced chill.
The breakdown: Ice Cream, Indica-dominant Hybrid ($11/gram), White Shark OG, Sativa-dominant Hybrid ($10/gram), Kish, Indica-dominant Hybrid ($11/gram). Available at The Village Bloomery (Inner Courtyard, 206 – 1540 W 2nd Ave)
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