Terpenes are the organic compounds responsible for creating the unique aroma of each individual cannabis plant. Terpenes do more than determine the scent finger print, they may also provide therapeutic benefits like their cannabinoid partners, THC and CBD. Formed from the same shiny, resinous trichomes as cannabinoids, cannabis terpenes also bind to the same endocannabinoid receptors located throughout the brain and body. For example, depending upon which receptors they react with, different terpenes may help to induce sleep and relax muscles while others reduce stress and elevate mood, or reduce inflammation and increase energy.
When terpenes work together with cannabinoids, in a process known as the entourage effect, the therapeutic potentials increase. Terpenes can also modify how much of each cannabinoid is absorbed. This means the presence of certain terpenes can increase or decrease the amount of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC is absorbed, effectively controlling the potency.
Consequently, a strain of medical cannabis with the perfect mix of terpenes and cannabinoids could be the equivalent of a hand tailored suit, designed to treat a particular disease or condition.
Limonene is one of the more than 200 identified medical cannabis terpenes. It smells of citrus including lemon, orange, and grapefruit; lime, mint, rosemary and even juniper aromas can be noted.
Linalool is among the terpenes that gives the pungent aroma to cannabis. It can give a floral, spicy or woody aroma.
Pinene is also among the terpenes that gives the specific aroma to cannabis. The most commonly occurring terpene among all plants, pinene, comes in two different varieties — alpha and beta. Alpha-pinene secretes aromas of pine needles or rosemary. Beta-pinene produces scents of hops, dill, parsley, or basil.
Myrcene is the most prevalent of the terpenes which form the building blocks of medical cannabis making up to 50% of the terpene volume responsible for the earthy, spicy balsamic, and clove aromas.