The Low-Down on Terpenes

This story originally appeared on Caliva Weekly.

There’s nothing like sticking your nose into a jar of fresh cannabis and enjoying the aromas within. The citrus of Lemon Haze, the pine of Jack Herer, the pungency of Sour Diesel: each strain has its own distinct scent. That’s because each strain has its own mix of what are known as terpenes.

You’ve probably heard of THC and CBD, but if you’re not familiar with terpenes, here’s what every cannaseur should know about these crucial elements of quality cannabis.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are essential oils – think “essence of fragrance” rather than “can’t live without” – that originate in the trichromes of every cannabis flower.

Terpenes can also be found in herbs, fruits, other plants, and even insects. For instance, the terpene humulene gives hops its distinct aroma, and certain caterpillars secrete foul-smelling terpenes as a defense mechanism.

Why Should You Care About Terpenes?

Perhaps you’ve heard of eating a mango before you smoke to increase your high – that’s because the terpenes in mangoes make your brain more receptive to cannabinoids like THC.

Cannabis terpenes have their own physiological properties and effects, and work together with cannabinoids in an “entourage effect” (like the myrcene in mangoes). In other words, you may feel better effects by smoking a strain that’s lower in THC but contains certain terpenes than you would a strain with a high percentage of THC only.

The best part about terpenes? You can follow your nose to find your desired experience.

Desired Effect         Terpene       Scent                Strain

Relaxed but alert           Pinene               Pine                       Jack Herer

Relaxed and sedated     Linalool             Floral/Perfume   Ingrid, Skywalker OG

Anxiety relief                 Limonene          Citrus                    Trainwreck

Pain relief                      Caryophyllene   Pepper/Spice       Afghan Kush

Sleep                                Myrcene            Musky/Earthy     Granddaddy Purple

There are also several different terpene wheels available online to give you a starting point on flavors, aromas and effects. Not quite sure which strain does what?Ask your budtender – the best ones know their flowers inside and out.

How to Enjoy Those Tasty Terpenes

To get the most flavors out of a strain’s terpenes, keep your smoking utensils clean and resin-free. You might want to get a little toasty in this session, but you don’t want to taste burnt ash.

Once your bowl’s clean and packed, take a dry inhale without lighting it. You should be able to taste some of the more prominent terpene profiles in the strain.

After lighting, try rolling the smoke around your mouth like you would with a cigar, so you can taste the flavors within the smoke. Exhale and enjoy!

Flavor Pairing with Terpenes

Much like you’d pair that cigar with a glass of cognac, you can smoke various cannabis strains while enjoying different drinks to create delicious flavor pairings. We have a few suggestions to start you off:


Drink: Hot coffee with a cinnamon stick

Strain: Apple Jack (Jack Herer x White Widow)



Drink: Ginger ale with mint or lemon

Strain: Lemon OG Candy (Super Lemon OG x Amnesia Haze)



Drink: Hot chocolate, with or without marshmallows

Strain: Cherry Pie (Granddaddy Purple x Durban Poison)

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