Many cannabis strains are named for their heritage, appearance, scent or taste. Names such as Strawberry Cough, Blue Dream or Pineapple Express offer unique experiences when consumed—so what about each strains allows them to carry such a unique scent or flavor profile? Well, the answer is terpenes. Terpenes are what give lemons their citrusy flavor, or lavender its relaxing scent, and terpenes exist in all things. In fact, over 20,000 different terpenes are known to exist in nature. According to a study in 2011, an estimated 200 of those are present in cannabis strains. Other testing labs like Steep Hill Labs have studied the existence of terpenes in cannabis, and have come to discover many of the most important terpenes that are prevalent in today’s cannabis strains.
In cannabis, certain terpenes are associated with a variety of effects as well.
CULTURE has extensive experience in reviewing strains and identifying each unique bud’s flavor profile. To keep things simple, it’s best to understand that each strain fits into one of four categories of flavor: Earthy, sour, spicy and sweet. There are many terpenes, but these are some of the most noteworthy in cannabis strains:
Caryophyllene: This terpene is associated with many natural elements, such as spicy or woody scents. It’s also found in items like cloves, cinnamon leaves or black pepper.
Humulene: Woody and earthy, this terpene is found in herbs like hops, sage and ginger.
Limonene: Probably the easiest to identify is limonene, or the unique flavor that comes with citrus fruits like lemons and oranges.
Linalool: Slightly on the citrus level, linalool is most present in floral or sugary-type scents. Lavender plants or rosewood exhibit these terpenes.
Myrcene: A strong scent of herbs and musk, and some citrusy elements come with the terpene known as myrcene. Think herbs like thyme, or bay leaves.
Pinene: Similar to its name, Pinene is associated with natural pine scents. Think of the change in your breathing and detected scents when walking into a densely forested area.
While there is much more to be learned about terpenes, understanding the basics will set you up for success when buying cannabis for the first time, or looking to try something new.