Terpenes are compounds that make up between 5 and 10 percent of the total oils that a cannabis plant produces. They give cannabis its smell and (part of) what makes each strain unique. Terpenes have clinically documented therapeutic effects, as well.
A strain’s fragrance and particular psychoactive effects are determined, in part, by the terpenes in a strain.
The effects of a specific cannabis strain are the product of interactions between the THC, the CBDs and the terpenes. This interaction is known as “the entourage effect.” In other words, any strain contains THC; the various terpenes and CBDs have specific interactions with the THC. These reactions transform each strain into something unique. A strain with higher THC and/or CBD content may not provide more benefits than another strain if their terpene profiles differ significantly.
Terpene profiles can vary considerably from strain to strain and even within a strain depending on how each plant was grown (e.g., full sun versus light deprived or indoor). The seemingly unlimited combinations of terpenes found in cannabis can result in a spectrum of effects, some pronounced and others more subtle. Effects will vary from person to person as well as with dosage size, method and frequency.
Previously, and inaccurately, the effects of cannabis have been described as either ‘stimulating’ or ‘sedating’ – sativa or indica respectively. We now know that things are a bit more complex – what we previously thought of as one-or-the-other, is actually more of an integrated spectrum.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that have the unique ability to interact and impact our endocannabinoid system and produce a wide array of effects throughout the body. Over 100 different cannabinoids have been identified, each with their own effects. Except for THC, most cannabinoids are not psychoactive. It is important to note that there is a scientific difference between the cannabinoids produced naturally by the plant vs. those that are produced synthetically.
Terpene profiles can vary considerably from strain to strain and even within a strain depending on where and how it’s grown.
A strain with higher THC and/or CBD content may not provide more benefits if the terpene profile is significantly different.
“Cannabis consumers have always maintained that different types (strains, or chemical varieties, chemovars) produce distinct effects, whether this be with respect to their psychoactivity or to their therapeutic attributes. Strains are often designated as sativa, indica, or a hybrid. These labels are quite misleading as applied in the marketplace, however. In contrast, the scientific community has generally focused on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as the primary or only important variable. It is clear that until very recently, selective breeding in cannabis for the recreational and medicinal markets have produced THC-predominant cannabis to the exclusion of other cannabinoids. Some researchers have stressed the importance of additional components, especially terpenoids, the aromatic components of cannabis that like cannabinoids are produced in glandular trichomes, as important modulators of cannabis effects (McPartland & Russo, 2001, Russo 2011).”