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Ask a Cannabis Coach: What are cannabis terpenes?

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Once you learn about the magic of terpenes, you’ll never look at cannabis the same way again. This is what happened to me about five years ago when I started my Cannabis Coach training.

I was using cannabis to treat my depression, but I couldn’t figure out why some cannabis products worked better than others.

Once I learned about “terps,” I never looked back. Suddenly I could predict if a strain would help me feel better just by reading the label and giving it a good sniff. I stopped wasting money and having rough days and could reliably treat my depression when I was intentional in what I bought. 

Now, I get to see what happens when I teach terpenes to new cannabis coaches and educators at the Cannabis Coaching Institute. Without fail, as soon as the lesson drops, everyone starts smelling their cannabis and trying different types to get different effects.

It’s your turn! Today, I’ll share the magic of “terps” with you. But before we get started, download the Ultimate Terpene Chart here.

Then keep reading to get all of your questions about terpenes answered by yours truly, certified Cannabis Coach and Educator Andrea Meharg.

What Is The Best Definition Of Terpenes? 

Terpenes are fragrant essential oils that give cannabis its distinctive smells and flavors. When you consume cannabis, it’s the THC, CBD, and terpenes that work together to provide all the different effects people associate with the plant. 

I like to use the analogy of an orchestra conductor. Each terp brings its own unique sound and experience, and when combined together, they create a harmonious blend of flavors, aromas, and effects that cannot be duplicated. 

Just as an orchestra conductor guides the musicians with their baton, terpenes direct the way THC and CBD interact with your body and mind to create the unique experience you have when consuming cannabis. 

Every strain of cannabis has its own distinct combination of terpenes. So, when choosing your cannabis, don’t just focus on THC or CBD percentages. Think about the terps as well. They give each strain an individual personality and can even amplify specific effects when combined in just the right way! 

Download the Ultimate Terpene Chart here

What are the main cannabis terpenes?

Although the cannabis plant produces dozens of different terpenes, you’ll see some of them far more frequently than others. The main cannabis terpenes include myrcene, pinene, limonene, linalool, and caryophyllene,  

Myrcene

Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis strains today. It has an earthy and musky aroma. It is often found in mangoes, hops, and thyme. In concentrations above about 0.3%, myrcene is known for its sedative effects on the body and is often used to ease muscle tension and pain relief. 

Pinene

Pinene is known for its woody and pine-like scent. It can be found in parsley, dill, and of course, pine trees. Pinene has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce inflammation associated with asthma attacks or chronic conditions. It may also help with focus and THC-induced short-term memory loss.

Limonene

Limonene has a citrus or orange-y note to it and is found in citrus fruit rinds and even peppermint. This terpene can produce energizing and uplifting effects on the body and mind. This is the terpene I look for specifically when treating my depression. 

Linalool

If you love lavender, it’s because of the linalool. It can also be found in rosewood and sage and has a floral aroma. It may help treat insomnia by producing calming, relaxing, and sedative effects on users. 

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene (or beta-caryophyllene) has a spicy scent reminiscent of black pepper or cloves. This terpene is known to act as an anti-inflammatory agent and may help reduce anxiety and gastrointestinal issues. 

Fun fact! Caryophyllene binds directly with one of our endocannabinoid receptors, making it both a terpene and a cannabinoid!

cannabis terpenes

What do terpenes do to you?

So many things! We’ve known for thousands of years that some scents can help relax us while others make us feel energized.

But terpenes provide more than just mood-enhancing effects and stress relief. They are capable of creating powerful medicinal effects. Studies have shown that terpenes can aid in alleviating symptoms relating to pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, addiction, and even cancer. 

And scientists are just getting started with investigating the potential benefits of THC, CBD, and terpenes combined, so keep your eye on the research for more exciting discoveries.

Because each terpene has its own potential health effects, you should download the Ultimate Terpene Chart here so you can find the right ones for your condition.

Do terpenes get you high?

No. Terpenes are not psychoactive, meaning they do not get you high or cause you to feel intoxicated. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t impact you. Terpenes interact with receptors in the brain to affect mood, perception, and memory. 

For example, the terpene limonene is known to help people feel happier, more energetic, and more uplifted. 

If you’re looking to get high, you’ll need THC. It’s the only compound in the cannabis plant that provides that euphoric, intoxicating feeling when you take a high dose of it.

Is there a terpene chart?

There sure is! We created the Ultimate Terpene Chart so that you can print it out, slap it on your fridge, and purchase cannabis based on how you want to feel or what you want to treat. 

We list the major cannabis terpenes, what they smell like, how they might make you feel, and even what temperature to put your dry herb vaporizer at so you don’t waste the precious terps!

Grab your free copy of the Ultimate Terpene Chart here.

How many terpenes are there?

SO MANY! If you’re asking about terpenes in nature, they have identified over 60,000 of them, making them one of the largest classes of natural products known.

However, in cannabis, we’ve only identified around 150 terpenes; of those, less than 20 usually show up in higher concentrations on lab tests. 

It’s important to note that not all cannabis varieties contain the same amount or variety of terpenes. Different strains will produce different combinations depending on genetics and growing conditions.

Most strains have 1-3 primary terpenes and a few other minor ones. You might imagine that if a terpene is listed at a really low percentage, it might not provide you with effects. But even in concentrations of less than 0.1%, you may notice an improvement in your symptoms with the right terpene and ingestion method. 

cannabis terpenes

What are terpenes flavors?

A wide range of terpene flavors is available in cannabis, including citrusy, earthy, herbal, sweet, spicy, woodsy, and even buttery notes. Some common terpene flavors include myrcene (earthy), caryophyllene (spicy), pinene (pine), limonene (citrus), and linalool (floral).

For individual terpenes, it’s easy to tell you what they might taste like, but the fact is that cannabis strains usually have many different terps in there. So it’s not always so easy to determine what exactly it is you’re tasting.

One of the best ways to figure out what’s working for you is to keep a strain journal where you note the following:

  • The name of the strain
  • How much THC or CBD is in it
  • What terpenes are in it
  • How it made you feel

Over time, you’ll likely notice that you prefer a certain group of terpenes because you like the flavor, smell, and effects.

Are terpenes in other things besides cannabis?

Although today we’re discussing cannabis terpenes, you already know terpenes from various everyday items and products in your life. 

The most common source of terpenes is plants, fruits, and vegetables. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that give these foods their unique smells and flavors. 

For example, if you love fresh-cut lemon slices in your water, that might be because the limonene in lemons can help you feel bright and uplifted.

Terpenes can also be found in essential oils, perfumes, soaps, candles, cleaning products, and many other personal care items. And terpenes are becoming increasingly popular as they’re added to food items like snacks and beverages for an extra boost of flavor or aroma. 

So terps are everywhere in your world. Find out what terpenes are behind your favorite smells and see if that terpene is in cannabis. Make sure you grab your free copy of the Ultimate Terpene Chart here.

Is higher terpenes better?

In general, yes. If you’re using cannabis to feel better, you will want to have as many plant compounds working for you as possible. As we learn more about how terpenes work and what they can help with, cannabis manufacturers are listing terpene percentages on labels more often

See if you can find strains with total terpene percentages of 2% or more and see how they compare with other, less terp-y strains. In my books, the more terpenes, the better because they enhance the flavor, smell, and effectiveness of my cannabis.

cannabis terpenes

Are terpenes safe to smoke?

Short answer: yes. We’ve been smoking cannabis terpenes for thousands of years. They are a natural part of the plant and, even when smoked, can provide many benefits.

However, there are some things to consider.

First, if you’re using cannabis for health and your preferred method of ingestion is inhaling, try moving away from joints, pipes, or bongs and towards a dry herb vaporizer. As a Cannabis Coach, this is my number one tip for new users.

These little devices have many advantages, but the main one is that you can adjust the temperature so you don’t burn through volatile terpenes. That means you can start your vaporizer off at a low temperature and increase it slowly to take advantage of everything your cannabis has to offer.

Corinne loves the Davinci vaporizers. See her full review here.

Secondly, I never recommend that you dab cannabis concentrates with terpenes added by the manufacturer. We know that at high heat (like dabbing heat), some terpenes convert to compounds that are known to cause cancer.

Are there hemp terpenes?

For sure! You know that hemp is cannabis, right? Now that we have access to more hemp being grown for medicine, we see that many hemp producers are focusing on terpenes.

So when shopping for CBD-rich hemp products, look at the label and see what’s in there. Use the Ultimate Cannabis Terpenes chart to help guide your purchases.

Do terpenes determine sativa and indica?

No. Unfortunately, many MANY people in the cannabis world use sativa and indica to try to neatly divide cannabis into two different categories – sativas (uplifting) and indicas (sedating).

If it were that easy, there would be no need for Cannabis Coaches out there to help people find the right type of cannabis to suit their needs. We would just head to the appropriate side of the dispensary and be on our merry way.

The truth is that sativa and indica tell us what the plant looks like when it grows and have NO correlation with how you’re going to feel after you take it (no matter how many people tell you differently.)

But you don’t need to worry. Now that you know all about terpenes, you can take the Ultimate Cannabis Terpene chart to the dispensary to help narrow down a strain of cannabis that may work for you. 

If you want something sedating, look for high levels of myrcene and linalool. Want to clean the house or go for a hike? Find limonene and pinene rich strains. Don’t forget to keep a strain journal so you know what works for you over time.

cannabis terpenes

Do terpenes disappear with time?

They sure do. When the plant is harvested, it is filled with terpenes. But as it goes through the drying and curing process, it loses some to evaporation. Over time, even in excellent storage conditions, you’ll lose more and more terps.

What to do? Make sure you store your cannabis in glass jars in a cool, dry place. Using humidity packs like these ones from Boveda can also help preserve the terpenes.

Finally, don’t pre-grind your cannabis to put into joints or pipes. Just grind what you need each time and help save the terps.

Do terpenes help with anxiety?

Some research suggests that certain terpenes may help with anxiety (like linalool and limonene), but it’s not a hard and fast rule. In fact, in this case, you’re better off looking at your strain’s THC and CBD content. 

THC is known to make anxiety worse when you take too much of it. Let’s go back to our orchestra conductor analogy. Remember, THC is the conductor. So it wouldn’t matter if anxiety-relieving terpenes were playing away in the band if THC is directing you straight to anxiety-ville.

On the other hand, CBD is well known to help with anxiety. Combining CBD with some anxiety-reducing terps and you might be golden. 

Do terpenes help relax you?

Again, you first need to check out how much THC and/or CBD is in there. THC and CBD can be relaxing, so it wouldn’t be fair to attribute that effect to just terpenes. 

That doesn’t mean they don’t play a role. In fact, some terps, like myrcene, may actually help THC to cross your blood-brain barrier more effectively, meaning you’d get more of the relaxation-promoting cannabinoid in your system.

How to use terpenes to make you feel better.

The best way to benefit from terpenes is to put them in a dry herb vaporizer like the Davinci line of vapes. Not only do these devices provide a cleaner, more flavorful experience than smoking, but they allow you to custom-pick which terpenes you’re getting. 

Many dry herb vapes offer precise temperature control. This is important because each of the terpenes vaporizes at a different temperature. This means you can slowly increase the heat to get the most out of each of the terpenes in your strain. 

Don’t forget to download the Ultimate Terpene Chart to know what temperatures each terpene vaporizes at.

There is not much evidence to support adding terpenes to cannabis edible products. However, many of the students at the Cannabis Coaching Institute add terps to drinks and food and say they notice a difference. 

cannabis terpenes

Can you get CBD oil with terpenes in it?

Yes, it is possible to get CBD oil with terpenes in it. While not all CBD oils contain terpenes, those that do may provide additional benefits beyond the traditional healing properties attributed to CBD.

Finding CBD oil with terpenes isn’t difficult, but it’s important to ensure that you’re purchasing from a reputable source. Some manufacturers will add artificial terpene blends into their products, which may adversely affect your overall experience.

Can you overdose on terpenes?

No. Well, I guess technically, you could even “overdose” on water, but consuming too many terps isn’t a health risk.

The reason why it is not possible to overdose on cannabis terpenes is that they evaporate quickly when exposed to heat or air and do not accumulate in the body like THC or other cannabinoids. Cannabis terpenes also have an incredibly low toxicity level compared to most medications on the market today. 

Despite this lack of overall danger, certain people may be more sensitive than others to particular terps. It is best practice to start with small doses of new strains and gradually increase them as needed until finding your ideal amount.

It’s a bit of a complicated question to answer. 

Terpenes themselves are just the aromatic compounds in plants, so they are legal. It would be like asking if the smell of lemons was illegal.

However, cannabis-derived terpenes are not legal in all states. That’s why many companies are now selling plant-derived or synthetic terpenes so they can get them across all state lines.

Legal or not, I don’t recommend purchasing terpenes to add to your cannabis. Buy (or grow) cannabis with high levels of terps naturally and skip the potential risks of adding terpenes to your stash.

Ok, I’m super fired up about terpenes and want to tell everyone! What next? 

I’m not surprised. As I mentioned earlier, the lesson on terpenes is one of the most popular ones I teach at the Cannabis Coaching Institute.

If you feel compelled to share what you’re learning about cannabis with the world, you’re probably supposed to be a cannabis educator. We get paid to talk and write about cannabis. 

Would YOU like to start a profitable cannabis education side hustle and teach the world about terps (and more)? Head here to take our free class: Cannabis Careers 101, How to get Paid to Talk and Write About Cannabis. 

In under an hour, you’ll have a firm understanding of what cannabis educators can do and a pathway to get started yourself.

What are you waiting for? The class is free, and it starts now! 

With love, 

Andrea

PS- Giving people an alternative way to enter the cannabis industry without working for “the man” is all we do at the Cannabis Coaching Institute. If you’re passionate about cannabis, come and join us!

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Andrea Meharg

Andrea Meharg is a Certified Cannabis Coach and Educator and the founder of Reveal Cannabis, a cannabis education agency. Andrea holds a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish, a Bachelor of Education, and is a Google Certified Educator. She is passionate about using education to help others lead happier, healthier lives through cannabis, having personally experienced its life-changing benefits. In addition to being the Program Director and Science Educator at the Cannabis Coaching Institute, Andrea is the founder of the Parkhill Women’s Cannabis Club, and a YouTube content creator.

1 thought on “Ask a Cannabis Coach: What are cannabis terpenes?”

  1. Wonderful article. So illuminating and factual and beautifully written.
    I’ve been using for over 50 years , and you have expanded my knowledge
    and appreciation immesurably. Thank you.
    John

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