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Terpenes are most well-known in association with cannabis. Every strain of cannabis contains terpenes and there are over a hundred different terpenes that can be found within the many different strains of the plant. The cannabis movement is dynamic and moving very quickly. With legalizations occurring every year and federal legalization imminent and forthcoming, we have to carefully review all the information being thrust at us. Misinformation can be easily spread in a time when efforts to educate, change public perception, expand research, and market to consumers has never been more present. Misinformation, whether intentionally broadcasted or spread fortuitously, delays progress in the honest research of cannabis and thus the research of many terpenes. Fortunately, however, the public perception of cannabis is unrivaled compared to any other time and will most likely only continue to become more positive.

The cannabis plant has three different species, indica, sativa, and ruderalis, and a vast array of terpene expressions. Many factors affect terpene concentrations such as time, humidity, the type of soil its grown in, and temperature. Terpene concentration will also vary through processing. As the plant dries, the concentration increases, and the concentration lowers as the plant ages. So older cannabis, especially when not stored in an airtight vessel, will lose its potency over time. To ensure longevity, its best to keep your terpene product sealed all, in an airtight vessel.



Sativa & 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.”

There is a little known third specie called cannabis ruderalis. Originally, the ruderalis strain was considered a wild breed of the cannabis plant. However, in recent years it has been brought indoors to influence new hybrid varieties. The effects of cannabis ruderalis alone are diminished by its naturally low concentrations of THC. What really sets ruderalis apart from the other two is its auto-flowering quality. Its flowering cycle is induced according to its maturity, unlike sativa and indica strains. Instead of being activated by the photoperiod, or the period of time each day during which an organism receives light or illumination, like indica and sativa varieties, ruderalis strains begin to flower between 21 and 30 days after the seeds have been planted, regardless of the light cycle.


However, the stability and short lifecycle makes ruderalis a versatile and useful plant to breeders who want to take advantage of its auto-flowering trait. Ruderalis genes offer shorter harvest periods and the ability for growers to create an auto-flowering hybrid with the advanced potency and flavor profile from its genetic partner.


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.


Terpenes and Cannabis

Both cannabinoids and terpenes develop in the same part of the cannabis plant: the trichomes - the tiny mushroom - like crystal that form throughout the surface of the cannabis flower. The milky white trichomes resemble sand which makes the cannabis flower appear to have been dusted with the fine, potent powder. These trichomes are the same sandy substance that falls off freshly ground cannabis flowers, the same stuff that sticks to fingers after being handled and are the basis for all cannabis concentrates.


Terpenes give the plant its strong odors and are what drug sniffing dogs smell when searching for the plant, not the THC. There are thousands of terpenes and hundreds are found in cannabis, which explains why the plant can sometimes smell skunky, floral, or piney.  A great resource for finding what terpenes are in what strain, use 360 Analytical (analytical360.com). There is an archive of terpene profiles, plus THC and CBD content of many, many different strains. There is something about taking a deep inhale of the aroma of cannabis that soothes the mind and relaxes the body, and that’s the terpenes. Strains like Lemon Haze obviously have notes of lemon and lime due to high concentrations of the terpene limonene. There are sweet smelling cannabis strains, fruity-smelling ones, as well as pine, earthy, and floral scents. For every variation of scent the plant can produce, there are a dozen different terpenes with distinctive effects on the body and mind. Knowing what terpenes are in a strain can allow you customize and optimize your cannabis experience. Terpenes are how to get cannabis to work for you.

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