I’m sure many of the more discerning pot smokers have noticed how the fragrant smells of cannabis hint at what the high might be like. Perhaps looking for promising fruity notes as well as that visual trichrome crystalline pop.
What you may not know is how those smells, which come from chemicals known as terpenes do actually effect the recreational and medical properties of your cannabis. Terpenes make the odorous and also psychoactive component of a wide variety of plants.
It’s a terpene that makes lavender relaxing, and a terpene that makes saffron tea a mood lifter. Terpenes drive aromatherapy. And unsurprisingly some of those fruity terpenes are found also in fruit. When combined with THC, many of these have a direct effect on the subjective high.
The terpenes in cannabis, like THC are made in the trichromes of the flowering female parts (buds). Terpenes are responsible for the complex aromas of various strains of cannabis. Simply put, they are what make cannabis have its particular intense and intoxicating smells.
While terpenes have been studied for medical effects, they are understudied in cannabis. We do know for sure that THC alone has less measurable and subjective effects than the whole plant chemical complex. I think subjectively if we compare experience with the science we have, we can have a good idea what they each do, and it is consistent and studied enough for pot smokers to consider it relatively settled.
So onto the goodies!
There’s a few terpenes that directly enhance THC, and provide additional relaxation. They directly influence the buzz.
Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes. It’s also present in ripe mangos, if you want a clue to what to smell for; it’s very concentrated near the skins. It’s a peculiar smell, hard to describe, but smell ripe mangos and you’ll know what I am talking about. This terpene is relaxing. It provides some analgesia and is the terpene that helps classic Indica strains create ‘couchlock’.
It’s very high in mango-y smelling strains, and in my opinion like limonene helps mitigate anxiety. However, Myrcene seems also seems to potentiate THC, making the effect stronger as well which can counter balance that a little. So it combines hard hitting, with a relaxed body buzz. Examples include White widow, Skunk #1 & Mango.
Limonene is another common terpene. It has a smell exactly like orange peels. Orange smelling strains are high in limonene. Typically, I find this to be the most anti-anxiety terpene, ideal for smokers prone to anxiety – look for the fruity smell. Limonene is mood boosting and calming, resulting in a very chill mood positive buzz – less psychedelic. Examples include Jack the Ripper, Lemon Skunk & Orange Roughy.
Linalool is another familiar smell. It’s that strange smell you get from lavender. Sort of woody and flowery like lavender. It is a powerful relaxant and will promote calming effects in cannabis. It may even reduce inflammation from smoking. The anti-anxiety effects again are ideal for lighter smokers – examples include Lavender & G-13.
Spicy and wakeful
Alpha Pinene & Beta Pinene promote wakefulness and memory retention. Piney smelling verities of cannabis are alert, active highs. These compounds slightly counter THCs effects. Ideal for blazing on a busy day. Jack Herer and Super Silver Haze are examples.
Some terpenes have no psychoactive effects like Acaryophyllene, although such compounds may also have medical effects (There are many medical effects for all terpenes, but it’s hard to know how applicable they are as a whole plant complex smoked). This terpene is peppery and woody, but is anti-inflammatory and analgesic – also found in clove. It also may be anti-depressant. In cannabis it’s found for example in Big Bang.
Now there are many more, but ones we know less and less about. And things like THC, CBN, CBD ratios make up another very significant part of the high. Higher THC makes for a more stimulating, psychedelic high (white or purple trichromes), and more CBD/CBN makes for a more physical relaxing medicinal high (orange or yellow trichromes).
But If you are to take home one thing make it this, the smell of a cannabis plant is almost like it’s fingerprint – the notes of smell in there tell you what kind of buzz you might expect. Get familiar with the smells, and you’ll know what you are dealing with better.