Articles

Terpenes: What Are Terpenoids And What Do They Do?

By: Zach Reichard    April 13, 2013

Everyone loves sticking their nose in a big jar of delicious smelling marijuana… But, have you ever wondered what gives your Blue Dream strain that fresh blueberry flavor & scent?

The answer is terpenes. Terpenes (TUR-peen) are a large class of organic hydrocarbons produced by a wide variety of plants, and are referred to as terpenoids when denatured by oxidation (drying and curing the flowers). They are the main building block of any plant resin or “essential oils” and contribute to the scent, flavor, and colors. Some are even known to have medicinal value.

Terpenes are the main class of aromatic compounds found in cannabis and have even been proven to interact synergistically with cannabinoids to provide for a range of different effects. While many people believe that it is the sticky glands of THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol) that provide cannabis with its peculiar aroma, it is in fact the more unstable monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes that are responsible. In fact, it is the smell of the specific sesquiterpene, Caryophyllene oxide that drug dogs are able to detect when probing for cannabis.

Understanding the importance of terpenes allows for a true “cannasseur” to broaden their approach to searching for new strains based on smells and tastes, rather than purely effects.

TERPENES ARE THE AROMATIC COMPOUNDS IN CANNABIS

Typically when you hear the term “aromatic plant,” cannabis is not typically the first example that comes to mind for the majority of people. While typical cooking herbs such as basil, mint, oregano, rosemary and sage are considered aromatic plants because of their desired aroma and flavor (or terpene profile) in the kitchen, cannabis is no different. However, since there are endless combinations of cannabis genetics, the range of terpene profiles is immeasurable.


Terpenes have been found to be essential building blocks of complex plant hormones and molecules, pigments, sterols and even cannabinoids in cannabis. Terpenes also play an incredibly important role by providing the plant with natural protection from bacteria and fungus, insects, and other environmental stresses.

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