Terpenes Are The Future Of Cannabis

Posted by Jack O'Leary on

Most cannabis users agree - there is something about the effects and aroma of cannabis that soothes the mind and body. However, not many know the secret compounds in the plant giving each strain it's select scent and effect. Well if you didn't already know, it’s terpenes!

The discovery and extensive study of terpenes has still yet to be thoroughly exhausted. Still, in 2021, we are at the forefront of a massive wave on research, uncovered knowledge and use of the magical, life-promoting chemical compounds. The potential buried deep within this intriguing group of compounds spans well beyond cannabis and is extremely fascinating!  

What Are Terpenes? 

Terpenes are often confused with cannabis. At Inca Trail Terpenes, many people will knock on the door and ask if we're a dispensary. It's understandable to be confused, as they are very closely related. If you already know what terpenes are feel free to skip ahead. 

Terpenes, or the word terpene (tur-peen), is merely a broad classification of hydrocarbons, compounds made of hydrogen and carbon, and are common to pretty much everything natural - like trees, plants, herbs, vegetables, fruits, insects, and much more. 

Terpenes are non psychoactive, contain no CBD or THC, but they do interact with the endocannabinoid system (among other biological systems) within our bodies. They are aromatic oils that add color to cannabis (and other plants they're found in) and give them distinct flavors such as mint, pine, berry, or citrus.

Because they are provide their host plant with its signature scent and taste, terpenes can be extracted and used as an all-nature fragrance and flavor in... just about anything with a scent of flavor! Shampoos, candles, air fresheners, and cannabis concentrates. 

The best part is these compounds, as they interact with our biological systems, also provide profound physiological benefits like reducing inflammation, anxiety, stress, and much, much more. While there are already hundreds of studies proving this, more and more will be known about their medical benefit as cannabis is federally legalized in the United States, as its federal ban has hindered some studies of these life-giving compounds. 

Many terpenes were developed for adaptive purposes as an option to repel predators and encourage flower pollinators. Several factors influence a plant’s development of terpenes, from the weather to climate, age, fertilizer, maturation, and even soil type.

There are over 100 different terpenes in the cannabis plant, with every strain tending towards a particular terpene type and composition. A cannabis strain like cheese will have a cheese-like smell, and a blueberry strain will smell of berries.

Were Terpenes Always Important?

In previous years the cannabis flower was the only option for cannabis enthusiasts. Many people just thought it was a one-dimensional plant. Most people would take whatever they could find as there were no terpenes to offer various possibilities through smell and flavor. It gets you high and that's it. But now we know there are dozens of physical effects that treat countless ailments. 

Sativa v. Indica

For those who are unfamiliar with cannabis, the plant is divided into two primary groups: sativa and indica. Terpenes play a large part in what distinguishes strains from each other and are what define one type of cannabis a sativa and another an indica.

Indica creates the usually thought-of effects when it comes to cannabis. Indica strains tend to provide a physically sedating effect while sativa strains tend to provide an uplifting, invigorating, sometimes energetic boost. Indica strains are great for staying in and watching a movie while sativa strains are perfect for more physical activities. One easy way to remember which strain is which; indica strains will leave you “in da couch.”

In terms of the effects the plant has on you, the truth is, most of this is malarkey. Made-up, arbitrary, borderline meaningless. 

Sativa & Indica are assigned by the the structure of the plant, not the effects it has on you, or even the terpene profile. Sure, there are some parallels between plant structure and physical effects, and some indica strains may make you sleepy. But largely 'sativa' and 'indica' are misnomers, labels that are assigned and used loosely with little meaning or significance. 

It is generally believed that indica strains have more CBD, while sativa strains have more THC. Sativa plants are taller in structure, have narrower leaves, and are better suited for warmer climates. Indica are the opposite; shorter, stouter plant, wider leaves, and more suitable for cooler climates. What really matters is the chemical composition of the plant; the terpenes, the cannabinoids, the compounds which make up the plant and provide its particular effects on the body.

The Significance of the Terpene Profile

Many believe that only sativa strains are boosting and stimulating while indica strains exclusively leave you ‘in-da-couch.’ While this is commonly true for most strains, the plants are actually classified as a sativa or an indica based on their species of the cannabis plant, which is determined solely off of the plant’s size and appearance.

These terms are not reflective of the plant’s true therapeutic qualities, rather it is a forced and contrived dichotomy which poorly classifies the diverse spectrum of cannabis strains.

It’s like walking into a library and all of the books are organized by fiction and non-fiction. While it’s true a book is either fiction or non-fiction, terpenes are the more precise sub-genres like suspense, fantasy, western, etc. Like a helpful librarian guiding you to the aisle of science fiction or even helping you locate a specific book like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, dispensary experts should be able to help you find precisely the desired experience of strain based on terpene profile.

You want a sedating, anxiolytic strain? OG Kush. An uplifting and creative boost? Blue Dream. Sativa & indica have served as a useful metric for cannabis users for many years, but the time has come for more in-depth analysis and knowledge of the hundreds of different cannabis strains. Terpenes profile should soon become the new sativa/indica. If THC is an airplane taking you temporarily off the planet, terpenes are the pilot, guiding and navigating the vessel to the specific spot you'd like to be. 

Fast forward to modern-day cannabis experience with legal cannabis: there is now an increased interest in terpenes, and that public interest and knowledge is only going to grow and grow with the rising popularity of cannabis concentrates.

They've been in the background, giving cannabis and other plants their signature scent and effects, but are now slowly starting to get the recognition they deserve.

Terpenes are the Future of Cannabis

Soon you will walk into a dispensary and each product will have its terpene profile displayed on every cannabis product (some places already do this!). In fact, many cannabis companies have reported complete change when they added terpenes to their products. The incorporation of terpenes makes the products more appealing to buyers.

This realization explains why an increasing number of CBD brands and vapes add natural terpenes or botanically-extracted ones to their topical vaping oils, beverages, chocolates, etc. By ensuring this addition, the companies improve their flavor, aroma, and the overall physical effect of the products.

RELATED: Forest Bathing & Terpenes

Still, the world of cannabis remains unregulated, chaotically assigning arbitrary strain names to products without any semblance of sense or proof. Apps like terpli.io are aiming cut through this chaotic mess by providing a database of information compiled by cannabis users, this creating accountability and consistency in this multi-billion dollar industry. 

With the enormous potentials terpenes hold, the cannabis aroma industry is expected to grow exponentially from 2021-2024. In fact, the terpene sector is projected to become a $1 billion sector.

These cannabis-derived and botanically-derived terpenes will make the reproduction of leading strains easier. With the increase in reproduction, customers will be happy, leading to greater product efficacy, safety, predictability, and quality. Who doesn’t like a good, safe, and sweet-smelling cannabis product? We all do!

Most cannabis users are already keen on going for flavor and aroma since the majority discovered terpenes’ impact. This trend will continue, thus cementing terpenes as the future of cannabis.

The Growth of Concentrates

Cannabis concentrates have become the fastest growing of the three major segments of the legal cannabis market (flower, concentrates and edibles), largely due to consumer appeal, the ease of use, potency, discretion and portability of concentrates appeals to many. Adding terpenes to these concentrates can create a flavor ranging from fruity or floral, to more obscure flavors like chicken and waffles or a Moscow mule. Many people may not be interested in the natural cannabis flavor and terpenes allow for a much more enjoyable taste.


Once extracted, cannabis concentrate can take a variety of different forms. There’s crumble, badder/budder, shatter, distillate, crystalline, dry sift, rosin, and bubble hash. Each concentrate has a different consistency and texture. Some can be smoked directly from a pipe or placed on top of flower in a pipe, like crystalline, dry sift, and rosin, some can be vaporized, like distillate, and others require intricate equipment in order to be consumed effectively, such as shatter and budder. Distillate is the product is used in vape pens and cartridges.

Some concentrates are purely THC, while others have the natural plant terpenes still present. Nearly all concentrates can have their profile enhanced by the addition of terpenes. 

 Concentrates are also extremely potent and have the highest THC percentages of  nearly all products in the market. As the tolerances of cannabis users increase, as will the demand for terpenes. 

Bottom Line

There is no doubt that terpenes will play a significant role in shaping the future of cannabis, because of the immense potential and use these compounds will have in the upcoming decades. The future is bright for the magical aromatic compounds, and not just in the cannabis space! 

NEXT: Looking Forward - Where Are Terpenes Headed?

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