Terpenes Explained: Cannabis 101

Posted by Derek Champoux
4 years ago / March 12, 2020

Terpenes Explained: Cannabis 101

Terpenes Explained

We’re firm believers in the importance of taking the time to stop and smell the roses, figuratively and literally. Taking your time to appreciate the finer things in life is a great way to gain a more grounded and roundabout perspective. Likewise, taking in the full aromatic profile of your dried flower or extract gives you a better understanding of the strain’s unique qualities and characteristics. 

When you perform the sniff test, what you’re really smelling is cannabis’s terpenes. These naturally occurring chemical compounds are not limited to cannabis; they’re found in abundance in all plants, flowers, trees, fruits, herbs, vegetables, and microbes, often playing crucial reproductive and defensive roles. 

More than 30,000 terpenes have been identified by researchers, although only a small segment of these have been given non-scientific compound names. Cannabis alone has more than 200 terpenes, with each one offering unique scents and a range of physiological and physical effects.  


A Cannabis Terpene Crash Course

As you can imagine, it would take years to learn everything there is to know about cannabis’s 200 terpenes. Many are still relatively unknown to researchers, including the mysterious guaiol, which is believed to act as a natural insecticide, antisyphilitic, and cough suppressant. For a working knowledge of cannabis terpenes, you basically only need to know the following three things:

  1. There are seven major terpenes in cannabis. They are myrcene, limonene, pinene, linalool, beta-caryophyllene, ocimene, and terpinolene (see chart below).
  2. Strains of cannabis with abundant singular scents (lemon, strawberry, orange, pineapple, mango, etc) contain high volumes of a single terpene and relatively small quantities of other terpenes.
  3. Strains of cannabis with pungent, less distinctive scents contain more balanced concentrations of a variety of terpenes   

Cannabis Terpenes

Synthetic Versus Natural Terpenes

Terpenes, like cannabinoids, are either derived from plants and cannabis or created synthetically in a lab. Although some consumer goods, such as perfume, cleaning products, food, and beverages, still consist of natural terpenes, the vast majority have started turning to synthetic terpenes for their scented properties. This is because synthetic terpenes are easier and more cost-effective to mass-produce and dose than those found in nature. 

Synthetic terpenes do have drawbacks, however. They cannot produce the same olfactory complexities and subtleties as natural terpenes. Synthetics also lack the physiological and physical benefits that their organic counterparts impart and, in some instances, can be quite hazardous when inhaled. For these reasons, high-quality extractors almost always opt for naturally-derived terpenes unless they are trying to replicate a specific scent or flavor. 


How Terpenes Affect Your Vaping Experience

You don’t need to smoke cannabis to experience the effects that terpenes offer. Vaping activates cannabis’s terpenes just as effectively as smoking does—in fact, some would argue that terpenes are more effectively activated and ingested by vaping given that no combustion occurs in the process. 

The scents, flavors, and effects you encounter when vaping cannabis hinge predominantly on the terpene composition in your extract and the ways these terpenes interact with all of the other compounds present in the formulation. This harmonization is known as “the entourage effect”, and with more than 200 different terpenes at their disposal, cannabis breeders and extractors are able to create products with seemingly endless flavor and scent profiles. Terpeners, AKA cannabis sommeliers, have broken down these myriad scents and flavors into the following nine overarching categories:

  1. Citrus
  2. Earthy
  3. Floral
  4. Fruity
  5. Herbal
  6. Skunky
  7. Cheesy
  8. Spicy
  9. Sweet

Extractors and breeders can also pair certain terpenes known to produce specific physical and physiological effects with those that produce particular fragrances to achieve desired effects in users. For example, a limonene-pinene dominant extract would not only express strong minty, citric notes but would also target gastrointestinal issues and help to boost pulmonary circulation. A beta-caryophyllene-ocimene dominant extract, on the other hand, would have a peppery, yet sweet, scent with possible decongestant, antioxidant, and antispasmodic qualities. When it comes to terpene blends, the sky is the limit!     


The Importance of Vape Pens for Cannabis Terpenes

Understanding cannabis terpenes can help you to appreciate them, but you still need the right vape pen to truly experience and enjoy everything they have to offer. Many vape pens use direct heat and/or lower-quality materials, like quartz coils, to vaporize extracts, resulting in burnt-tasting vapor and a diminishing of the formulation’s possible effects.

Greentank manufactures premium vape pens with innovative Ceramic Core Technology. This technology provides the cleanest draws on the market, complete with exceptional and robust flavor profiles, so you can experience extracts the way they were meant to be experienced. Contact us today for wholesale vape pens and hardware quotes.

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