How to use terpenes to choose the right strain for you

by Tina Richardson

Blueberry Kush? Purple Haze? Pineapple Express? They sound great, but when it comes to the kind of high you’re looking for, strain names aren’t as useful as you might have imagined.

According to recent research, in about one-third of the instances where two producers had the same strain name, the cannabis samples were not genetically equivalent. So while in the fast-food industry a Big Mac is always a Big Mac, it’s not quite so simple in the cannabis industry.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are compounds found in the essential oils of plants, including cannabis. And like cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, they bind to receptors in your brain and body to produce various effects.

The scientific name for the terpene family is “terpenoids,” which you can think of as similar to essential oils — but not exactly (terpenes are one of the key components of essential oils).

Terpenes are responsible for the taste and aroma of cannabis, and they also influence the different effects of the individual strains. Some people prefer to get high on a strain that produces a certain terpene profile because they like the way it feels better than another strain.

These days, you can also buy food-grade strain-based terpene profiles from places like True Blue Terpenes. These terpene mixtures are created to mimic the taste of individual strains and can be added to concentrates or vape juice as desired.

The Taste of Terpenes

There are two types of terpenes: monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. Monoterpenes are light in both flavour and molecular weight, while sesquiterpenes are usually heavier with a stronger taste.

Here are some of the most common terpenes and the tastes they are associated with.

  • Myrcene: has an herbal aroma especially when heated. It can have flavours described as anything from grapefruit to oregano. It’s what gives marijuana its famous ‘dank’ smell.
  • Limonene: has a citrus flavour, so it contributes to flavours like lemon and orange, but it also smells clean. It’s essentially the “lemon-lime” of terpenes.
  • Linalool: has a floral flavour with notes of lavender or rose petals.
  • Alpha-Pinene: has a piney, sometimes camphorous odour that can also smell like fir needles or rosemary. It’s described as woodsy and sweet.
  • Beta-Pinene: has a fresh pine scent.

Which terpenes have which effects?

Combining terpenes with cannabinoids is what provides cannabis’ unique effect.

Strains can be high in any one of these terpenes, which means each strain has a different ‘terpene profile,’ or a combination of various types of terpenes.

Different combinations can create different effects for users, so it’s important to know which terpenes are associated with which effects.

  • Myrcene: High levels of myrcene can have a sedative effect, which is why Indica strains are often recommended for people who suffer from insomnia.
  • Limonene: Is known to give an uplifting, clear-headed mental effect. Limonene’s scent is commonly used in cleaning products and bath products.
  • Linalool: Is best known for producing a soothing, sedative effect that can help treat insomnia and other sleep issues. Linalool also has antibacterial properties.
  • Alpha-Pinene: Has been associated with an alert, focus mental state when taken in moderate doses. When combined with THC, alpha-pinene is associated with a body high effect.
  • Beta-Pinene: Acts as an expectorant and has been used to relieve asthma symptoms. Like alpha-pinene, it also has an alert focus effect when taken in moderate doses and creates a body high when combined with THC.

Choosing a strain that’s right for you

If you visit Jima Cannabis, our friendly budtenders can help you pick out a strain with the terpene profile you’re looking for.

It’s also helpful to carry around an app that lists which terpene profiles are associated with different strains or product types. One example is Leafly which allows users to search for strains and view their data including pictures of the flower itself as well as details about key effects from combining cannabinoids and terpenes and comes with recommendations such as “great for beginners.” The other popular name in this space is Weedmaps which offers both strain information and even a social media-like feed of activity happening at dispensaries near you.

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