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The Nature of Flavour and Effect: Terpenes and Cannabis

The Nature of Flavour and Effect: Terpenes and Cannabis

By Dylan Macdonald


With the legalization of Cannabis, many curious newcomers have a lot more information regarding the cultivation of cannabis. This revolution of information has led to many medical breakthroughs, along with the stigma of cannabis being actively torn down. As an influx of new dispensaries, strains and flavours saturate the landscape, it’s good to know what type of high and flavour you’re going after before making a purchase. An active constant throughout cannabis is the presence of terpenes, a hydrocarbon molecule that produces flavour and aroma. They are found naturally in fruits and vegetables, coniferous trees, spices, and of course, cannabis. The range of flavours and effects of terpenes provide budtenders and customers with an excellent guide on how to get your preferred product. Terpenes also increase the medicinal benefits of cannabis, including overall potency and providing effects distinct to each terpene. This blog will summarize my personal favourite terpenes, along with their effects, flavour, aroma, and how prevalent they are in the industry.


Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis, and for good reason. Found in wild thyme, basil, mangoes, hops and lemongrass, the pronounced flavour is musky with a hint of fruity sweetness. Like other terpenes, myrcene is theorized to be part of the entourage effect, which means it works in conjunction with cannabinoids to potentially treat a multitude of physical and mental ailments. Myrcene holds the capabilities for possible anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and sedative properties. In 2015, a study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology investigated myrcene’s potential effects on osteoarthritis. The researchers found myrcene has an anti-inflammatory influence on cartilage cells while slowing the damage and disease progression. Along with anti-inflammatory influence, it is also said to be a sedative. It’s known that strains with high levels of myrcene induce “couch-lock”, and the urge to sleep. Overall, as the most frequently encountered terpene in cannabis, myrcene may offer a body-driven, relaxed high, as well as hope for those coping with osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions.


Popular Myrcene Strains at Mellow Leaf: Unicorn Poop, Jack Haze, Jean Guy


Limonene, a very common terpene used in essential oils, provides a satisfying citrusy and sour flavour to cannabis. While being the second most common terpene found in nature (and third in cannabis), you’ve most likely encountered limonene. It’s found in the rind of citrus fruits, and in the resin glands of cannabis, along with natural cleaning products and essential oils. Limonene is said to relieve stress, elevate mood, have antibacterial properties, anti inflammatory properties, along with increased serotonin and dopamine levels in parts of the brain that deal with anxiety, depression and OCD. Due to legalization only being a couple years old, we’re still unsure on how exactly limonene has this effect – is it merely stimulating the olfactory part of your brain? Or the cells themselves? – no one knows yet. Unlike some other terpenes that have well-defined brain targets (linalool, b-caryophyllene), limonene’s main target remains unclear. Limonene is also proven to accumulate in fatty tissue, alluding to the prevention of certain cancers in fatty regions. In addition to stress reduction and fatty tissue moderation, it’s also shown to have muscle relaxant properties and help with acid reflux.  By furthering studies into the effects of limonene, scientists may help direct users toward strains with specific benefits when paired with the right cannabinoid and terpene profile. In conclusion, the flavour of limonene will spark joy in anyone who loves fruity, surgery and sour flavours, while also providing an uplifting, exhilarating buzz from sativa strains, mood elevation in hybrids. The medicinal benefits of this terpene vasts across many industries, and is incredibly popular in aromatherapy for many of the same benefits.


Fun Fact: It is now believed that terpenes directly affect brain processing by modulating the behavior of the brain cells.


Linanool’s lavender and spicy scent can be found in over 200 plants. It’s so common that even people who don’t consume cannabis consume around 3 grams of linanool each year. Commonly used for its sedative and relaxing properties, this terpene packs a familiar and floral punch to many potent strains. Mice exposed to linanool vapour showed signs of reduced stress and anxiety, and they were more prone to spending time in fear-inducing environments to test their might. Linanool has also shown to be incredibly resilient to the physical effects of stress. Stress causes a shift in the distribution of white blood cells in the body, a decrease in lymphocytes and an increase of neutrophils. In rats, linalool prevented these shifts from taking place, and in doing so, prevented the stress-induced changes in how the rats’ DNA was expressed. The authors reasoned that this protection was mediated by linalool’s ability to activate the body’s parasympathetic response, which is activated when the body is digesting or resting, thereby fitting with linalool’s anti-anxiety effects.

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