Within the frosty resin glands of the cannabis flower swirls a complex chemical soup. Known as trichomes, these glands contain a mixture of chemical compounds called cannabinoids and aromatic hydrocarbon compounds called terpenes. Together, they incorporate most of the raw ingredients that influence the body in both a psychoactive and therapeutic sense.
However, much debate has arisen over the relative importance of these compounds. Some swear that a high THC content is the key ingredient to getting high. For others, THC levels aren’t as important, and it’s instead the entire chemical make-up of terpenes and cannabinoids working together that alter your conscious and physical experiences. Let’s take a closer look at this argument to clear up some misconceptions surrounding the topic.
The Argument Over Terpenes & Cannabinoids
Commercial cannabis is getting stronger and stronger. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see strains that exceed 30% THC. However, there’s now a strong debate raging about just how important these high cannabinoid percentages are to your overall cannabis consumption experience.
There’s an emerging school of thought that it is in fact the “entourage effect” of all these chemical compounds working in unison that elevates your mind and cures you of your ailments. First, let’s take a closer look at what these compounds are and how they influence the body.
Terpenes are the aromatic hydrocarbon compounds responsible for the different odors produced by most plants and certain animals. Cannabis is pungently aromatic due to the extremely high concentrations of terpenes found in the flower. According to Medical News Today, “Many terpenes are bioactive, which means they may affect the body.”
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with our endocannabinoid system by latching onto certain receptors. The two cannabinoids of the most interest to humans are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for its psychoactive properties and cannabidiol (CBD) for its medicinal value.
The Importance Of Terpenes
As we’ve just seen, terpenes are bioactive and can affect the body. When consumed with cannabinoids, they work in synergy to allow for easier and greater cannabinoid absorption. This means that cannabis with a higher concentration of terpenes has the potential to increase both the psychoactive and therapeutic effects of cannabis.
A review published in Frontiers in Neurology points out that “CBD-rich extracts (containing terpenes) seem to present a better therapeutic profile than purified CBD (without terpenes), at least in this population of patients with refractory epilepsy. The root of this difference is likely due to synergistic effects of CBD with other phytocompounds (aka Entourage effect)…”
It seems as though different terpenes (and certain ratios of terpenes) have different therapeutic effects. Although they’re not psychoactive, their medicinal value is undeniable – something that’s tapped into by alternative treatment practices such as aromatherapy.
The Most Well-Known Terpenes
Myrcene: The most abundant terpene found in cannabis. It offers an earthy, musky, skunk-like aroma, with scents reminiscent of cloves or even red grapes. It’s often found in nature and is present in things like hops, tea tree, and mangos.
Medicinal value: Anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial.
Found in: Grandmommy Purple, White Widow, Jack Herer, Amnesia, Skunk XL, the Kush family.
Limonene: The second most abundant terpene found in cannabis. This is what gives citrus fruits and peels that zesty aroma. It’s not present in all strains of cannabis, but when it’s dominant, it’s unmistakable.
Medicinal value: Mood enhancer, stress reducer, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial.
Found in: Amnesia Lemon, Lemon, Lemon Kush, Super Lemon Haze, OG Kush, Sour Diesel.
Pinene: Another massively common terpene in nature that’s abundant in both cannabis and the wider natural world. It is the main scent of the pine tree and is prevalent in herbs such as rosemary, basil, and parsley.
Medicinal value: Anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancerous, neuroprotective potential.
Found in: Jack Herer, Blue Dream, Sweet Skunk Auto, AK-47, Strawberry Cough.
Caryophyllene: The terpene that offers certain cannabis strains those spicy and peppery overtones. It’s also found in cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves.
Medicinal value: Anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety.
Found in: Girl Scout Cookies, Super Silver Haze, Skywalker, Sunset Sherbet.
Linalool: The terpene responsible for that old-school ganja smell. It holds that stereotypical weed-like aroma and is dominant in things like lavender, coriander, mint, and cinnamon.
Medicinal value: Anti-anxiety, anti-cancerous, anti-convulsant, sleep disorders, neuro-regeneration potential.
Found in: Amnesia Haze, Lavender, Zkittlez, OG Shark.
Why Are High THC Varieties The Best Sellers?
There has always been intrigue around the THC content of different strains, and cannabis connoisseurs are constantly on the lookout for that next knock-out smoke. However, it’s when breeders get the high cannabinoid count combined with the right terpene profiles that we get some of the best weed on the planet.
A great example of this is Grandmommy Purple, a strain we’ve created at Herbies Seeds that regularly tests at a ludicrously high 33% THC. Simultaneously, we’ve held nothing back in the terpene department, creating a strain that’s supercharged with terpenes and has a signature “purple” flavor of grapes and dark fruit associated with the GDP family.
Due to the high THC combined with the complex terpene profile, users experience powerful waves of euphoria and well-being that soothe both the mind and body.
Grandmommy Purple also offers excellent therapeutic and medicinal value, so the strain is suitable for treating various sleep disorders, severe anxiety, and chronic pain.
Having weed with a high THC or CBD content is no doubt important, but not at the expense of terpenes, which turn on the body’s ability to absorb essential cannabinoids. It’s therefore the complexity of weed’s chemical composition that plays the biggest role in its effects, from both a recreational and medicinal standpoint.