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Terpenes and THC showing on a closeup of a marijuana bud

What gets you high, THC or Terpenes?

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When you smoke cannabis, specifically marijuana, it get’s you high.  Plus every bud has a unique aroma, flavor, and effect specific to that bud.  We know that the main cannabinoid in marijuana, Delta 9 THC, causes the majority of the intoxicating psychoactive effects.  But what about the terpenes.  What do the terpenes do? Do the terps get you high?  Can terpenes get you high?  And what’s similar or different when you compare Terpenes vs. THC.  Let’s find out.

What's Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants, including cannabis. They are responsible for providing each strain its unique aroma and flavor profile. Think of them as nature's fragrance for plants.  When smoked or vaped, those same terpenes also provide you with flavor.  Terpenes also play an important role in producing different effects when consumed. For example, some terpenes may produce calming effects while others can energize you. There are over 100 different terpenes found in cannabis plants, each with their own unique scent and effects. Some common cannabis-derived terpenes include myrcene, limonene, linalool, humulene, etc.  A group of terpenes within a cannabis bud or manually formulated create a cannabis strain like Pineapple Express or Sour Diesel. 

What are terps?

Terps is a shortened slang term for the word Terpenes.  The term “terps” is commonly used in the cannabis industry or when talking about THC Vapes which use a combination of “terps” mixed with THC Distillate to products THC Vape Carts and Disposable THC Vape Pens.  This mixture of terpenes mimics a specific marijuana strain like Sour Diesel, Pineapple Express, or Blue Dream.  

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS Hybrid Strain 1
SOUR DIESEL Sativa Strain
BLUE DREAM Hybrid Strain 1

Can Terpenes get you high?

No.  Terpenes themselves cannot get you high on their own or have any psychoactive effects when inhaled directly from a vaping device due to them being non-psychoactive substances (NPS). While terpenes do interact with our bodies' endocannabinoid system to produce certain effects, they cannot get you high like THC does. However, when combined with THC they can provide an amplified effect on both your mental state as well as physical sensations depending on which terpene is used during consumption or inhalation. For example, when combined with THC, pinene helps improve focus while linalool provides relaxation and stress relief qualities to enhance your overall high.

Most Common Terpenes

There are hundreds of different types of terpenes that can be found in various plants including cannabis and hemp.  The most common terpenes found in cannabis strains include myrcene, limonene, pinene, linalool, humulene, caryophyllene and terpinolene. Each has its own distinctive characteristics when it comes to aroma and flavor profile.  For example, Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis which contributes to its earthy aroma and flavor. Limonene is known for its citrus-like aroma while Pinene smells like pine needles with herbal undertones. Linalool has a floral scent with hints of spice while Humulene offers an earthy aroma with hints of woodiness or muskiness. Caryophyllene has a peppery scent while Terpinolene emits a sweet herbal smell with subtle notes of citrus fruits.

Terpenes vs THC

Typically, terpenes are unstable molecules that evaporate quickly and tingle the nostrils. Therein lies the foundation of aromatherapy, a standard alternative-healing modality. Like their odorless cannabinoid relatives such as THC, terpenes are oily compounds concealed within the plant’s glandular trichomes. Terpenes and THC share a biochemical ancestor, geranyl pyrophosphate, which grows into the cannabinoids and terpenoids in the plant’s flowers.

But unlike THC and the different plant cannabinoids that exist nowhere else but in marijuana, terpenes are universal throughout the planet. Provided by countless plant species, terpenes are common in herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, and other botanicals. Terpenes are also basic ingredients in the human diet and have generally been recognized as safe to eat by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Scientists have recognized and identified the molecular structure of some 20,000 terpenes, which make up the largest plant chemicals category. These break down notably into monoterpenes, diterpenes, and sesquiterpenes. This chemical structure depends on the number of repeating units of a five-carbon molecule called isoprene. Isoprene is the structural symbol of all terpenoid compounds.

Cannabis Sativa, on the other hand, only has around 200 terpenes.  However, only a few of these odiferous oily substances appear in quantities abundant enough to be unique.  Also, the terpenoid form can differ considerably from strain to strain. The assortment of flavors revealed by the genus Cannabis is remarkable no other plant on earth can equal the cacophony of smells and tastes available from the cannabis plant.

The terpenes in the pot plant have given the plant a surviving evolutionary edge. Some of these crucial oils are powerful enough to disgust insects and animal grazers; others stop fungus. To fight plant disease and infestation, organic pot farmers sprinkle the terpene-rich oils of neem and rosemary onto their crops. And terpenes, it turns out, are healthy for people as well.

THC Terpenes Blends

THC Terpenes blends are not exclusive to marijuana anymore.  They have become very prevalent in the hemp industry with the introduction and mass production of Delta 8 THC and other THC alternatives like HHC (hydrogenated THC).  Delta 8 is a hemp-derived THC cannabinoid very similar to THC, or more specifically, Delta 9 THC.  HHC and Delta 8 Vapes use a blend of “terps” mixed together with Delta 8 Distillate to make products like Hemp Lively’s Delta 8 Vape Carts, Disposable Delta 8 Vapes, HHC Vape Carts, and HHC Disposable Vape Pens.   

Terpenes & Cannabis Strains

Cannabis strains have different combinations of terpene profiles which is what makes them unique from one another. For example, indica strains tend to have more myrcene than sativa strains which gives them a more sedative effect when consumed due to the relaxation-inducing properties of myrcene. Some strains will also contain higher levels of pinene which can help improve memory retention or cognition when consumed in proper doses. Additionally, some strains might contain higher levels of linalool which gives them anti-anxiety effects when used correctly. Different combinations of these terpene profiles provide different effects for consumers depending on their individual needs so it’s important to do your research before consuming any strain for its potential therapeutic benefits!

Terpene Effects on Cannabis Strains

When it comes to cannabis strains, terpene profiles can influence the type of high felt by consumers. For example, myrcene is known for its sedative effects while limonene provides an uplifting feeling. By understanding what type of terpene profiles certain strains have, users can gain insight into the type of buzz that could be expected.   Additionally, certain combinations of terpenes have been known to provide medicinal benefits. This is why identifying which terps a strain contains can be beneficial for medical marijuana patients, as it gives them an idea about what kind of relief they may feel after consuming that strain.   

THC and Terpene Communication

Marijuana’s bouquet of terpenes plays another critical role. Terpenes buffer THC’s complex psychoactive properties. Cannabinoid terpenoid communications can increase the beneficial results of cannabis while decreasing THC-induced anxiety.

Popular Cannabis Terpenes

  • Alpha-pinene (essential pine oil), the most popular terpene in the plant world and one often found in cannabis, is a bronchodilator likely helpful for asthmatics. Pinene also promotes sharpness and memory recollection by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase’s metabolic breakdown, a neurotransmitter in the brain that spurs these cognitive effects.
  • Limonene, the main terpene in citrus and cannabis, has been used clinically to destroy gallstones, enhance mood, and may relieve heartburn and gastrointestinal reflux. Limonene’s forceful antimicrobial action can kill pathogenic bacteria.
  • Myrcene, another terpene available in numerous cannabis varietals, is a tranquilizer, a muscle relaxant, a hypnotic, a painkiller, and an anti-inflammatory mixture. This musky terpene contributes to the infamous Indica experience, “In-da-couch.”
  • Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene located in the essential oils of black pepper, oregano, and other tasty herbs and cannabis, and many green leafy vegetables. It is gastro-protective, fit for treating some ulcers. It exhibits excellent promise as a healing compound for inflammatory ailments and autoimmune diseases because of its capability to bind right to the peripheral cannabinoid receptor known as CB2.
  • Linalool, a terpenoid noticeable in lavender and some cannabis strains, is an anxiolytic compound that combats anxiety and mediates stress. Also, linalool is a potent anticonvulsant, and it also increases serotonin-receptor transmission, conferring an antidepressant result. Linalool has shown promising results participating in the skin’s healing process on skin injuries without scarring.

Best Terpenes for Carts

Myrcene

  • Aroma: Earthy & Musky
  • Flavor Profile: Hints of Clove & Mango

Limonene

  • Aroma: Citrus
  • Flavor Profile: Hints of Orange & Lemon

Pinene

  • Aroma: Pine
  • Flavor Profile: Hints of Rosemary & Pine

Linalool

  • Aroma: Floral
  • Flavor Profile: Hints of Lavender

Caryophyllene

  • Aroma: Spicy & Peppery
  • Flavor Profile: Hints of Clove & Black Pepper

Humulene

  • Aroma: Woody & Herbal
  • Flavor Profile: Hints of Basil & Clove

Nerolidol

  • Aroma: Sweet & Woody
  • Flavor Profile: Hints of Apple & Tea Tree

Bisabolol

  • Aroma: Floral & Minty
  • Flavor Profile: Hints of Chamomile & Tea Tree

Health Benefits of Terpenes

In addition to providing unique flavors and scents to different cannabis strains, terpenes also have potential health benefits when consumed in small amounts such as reducing inflammation or anxiety levels depending on the type consumed. For example, some studies have shown that consuming pinene or caryophyllene may help reduce inflammation, linalool has analgesic properties, limonene which may help boost immunity, while linalool may help reduce anxiety levels due to its calming effects on the body’s nervous system.

Testing of Terpenes

In the summer of 2011, the Werc Shop in Los Angeles developed as the leading lab to test cannabis strains for terpenes. Since it began administering this service to the medical marijuana society, the Werc Shop has examined thousands of bud samples for terpene properties. Its review has occasionally reported strains with different names but related terpene content.
A terpene is like a fingerprint. It can tell you if it’s the identical strain under various names. We can see strains going by many names that have the exact terpene profile. We now know those strains are similar.
Terpene testing has allowed the Werc Shop to recognize when strains are not correctly labeled. “We’ve seen a dozen of examples of Trainwreck that have a constant terpene profile,” Raber says. “And then we check some bud purporting to be Trainwreck, but with a terpene profile that varies considerably from what we know is Trainwreck. By examining for terpenes, we can often confirm if the strain is what the farmer or distributor says it is.”

Conclusion

While it may seem like only one compound, THC, is responsible for getting you high from your favorite strain of marijuana, there is much more going on than just one molecule! Terpene profiles vary from strain to strain so no two strains will have the same smells or effects. The combination of various cannabinoids and terpene profiles creates a variety of experiences for consumers depending on which strain they choose and which type of product they consume it from. Understanding this interaction between compounds helps us better understand why some strains have different effects than others and why some might be better suited for certain occasions.  

Whether you’re looking for an energizing pick-me-up or a deep relaxation session, understanding what gets you high can help you make informed decisions about which strain will provide the best result.  It seems in this case, THC and Terpenes are a match made in heaven.  And the strains that were made by God or mother earth are a thing of beauty. In the end though, effects THC and terpenes have on the user will depend on both their individual chemistry as well as the amount of each cannabinoid and each terpene present in the strain.  Some people may find certain combinations to be more relaxing while others find them energizing or uplifting!  It’s all about trial and error until you find what works best for you! 

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