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How Much Do Terpenes Matter?

Posted by MMJ Jill on May 24, 2022

Updated on June 20, 2024

With countless varieties of marijuana strains available to smokers and infinitely many more yet to be created, you may wonder how each can be unique. Smokers are likely familiar with the families of indica, sativa, and hybrid flowers, but have you ever wondered what gives unique strains their distinctive flavors and smells? What makes Girl Scout Cookie flower different from OG Kush? The answer lies in a chemical compound called terpenes. Believe it or not, people that smell their weed before buying are actually on to something!

What Do Terpenes Do?

As discussed in a previous blog post, terpenes cause plants to give off a unique scent. Marijuana enthusiasts who have explored various strains know that each time they light up, they may be able to determine what they have in front of them based on flavor or smell alone. This is due to the strain’s unique terpene profile.

Terpenes and marijuana go hand in hand due to their impact on any cannabis strain, but they’re present in nearly all plants. There are hundreds of variations of terpenes, each of which generates its own unique scent.

Terpenes can attract bees to help flowers pollinate or scare away rodents looking for a snack. With scents ranging from sweet to bitter, fresh to spicy, earthy to floral, many of the most familiar smells of nature are from terpenes. Citrus fruits and aromatic herbs are, of course, both high in terpenes, but their types of terpenes are what cause them to produce very distinct smells. Our favorite green plants are also known to have a healthy dose of terpenes; or at least, they should.

How Do Terpenes Determine the Quality of My Weed?

As we’ve been alluding to, every strain of marijuana has a unique chemical composition resulting in distinct terpene combinations and potency. There are countless variations of terpene types (also known as the terpene profile or terp profile) in any given marijuana plant, and they’ll often help you decide whether or not a strain is right for you. Some of the most common terpenes like Myrcene, Limonene, and Pinene all contribute to the sensory experience of cannabis.

Herbal, fruity, and spicy smells will help first-time smokers discover strains that appeal to their senses. Nevertheless, the abundance of terpenes distinguishes a specific flower’s quality.

Plants with the most terpenes will have a rich scent and a more potent flavor. As with food, smell has a massive impact on how something tastes. If you’ve ever taken a bite of a sandwich while you have a stuffy nose, you’ll notice firsthand that some flavors are less present or missing entirely. The same thing happens when smoking. If you’re unable to breathe in all of the aromas that come with a premium flower, you may as well be smoking ditch weed.

The presence and intensity of terpenes in weed can also indicate its freshness. Over time, or if improperly stored, cannabis can lose its terpenes, leading to a less aromatic and flavorful product. A strong, fresh terpene aroma can thus be a sign of well-preserved, high-quality cannabis.

What is Considered High Terpenes?

The total terpene content in dry cannabis flower usually ranges from about 1% to 4% by weight. A strain with terpene levels around 1% or less would be considered low in terpenes, while a terpene content of 2-3% is normal and expected for most strains. Levels above 4% are quite rare and would be considered very high, often indicating a particularly aromatic or flavorful strain.  With these percentages in mind, keep an eye out for terpenes levels when you head on down to the local dispensary.

Do Terpenes Affect Your High?

Terpenes on their own will not produce a psychoactive effect. When it comes to “getting high,” seasoned stoners will look to the THC numbers to determine what kind of flower they’d like to purchase. Nevertheless, terpenes can still have an influence on a marijuana plant’s potency. While terpenes won’t get you high, their interaction with cannabinoids can influence the overall experience. Some users might find that strains with specific terpene profiles produce a more enjoyable or effective high, attributing a higher quality to these strains based on personal experience.

Still, it’s important to distinguish that terpenes do not have THC in them. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found naturally in many plants, while THC is the true psychoactive compound. Terpenes won’t get you high on their own, but some cannabis experts believe that they enhance the effects of THC. Between two marijuana plants of the same strain, the more aromatic of the two will often provide a “better high.” 

On a similar note, sticky weed typically has a more potent terp profile, causing it to release a more pertinent odor than its non-sticky counterparts. This is just one of the many reasons why sticky weed is considered more of a premium product than dried-out plants.

So, How Much Do Terpenes Matter?

To roll it all up, terpenes matter a lot! Unless you plan on plugging your nose while you smoke, vape, or dab, terpenes are perhaps the most influential element for weed quality. While terpenes don’t directly determine the potency of weed in terms of THC levels, they significantly influence the overall sensory experience. A marijuana plant with more terpenes will have a more potent smell and taste than one with fewer.

On top of that, terpenes have the power to enhance the effects of THC. Since each person’s chemistry is unique, it may be helpful to track which strains you smoke to see which terpenes affect you the way you want. Download our handy Toke Tracker and learn which terp profiles work best for you.

If you want to talk more about the benefits of terpenes, you can always ask your friendly and knowledgeable EarthMed patient care specialists about what type of plant is right for you. If you want to impress your friends next time you go shopping for weed, smell the flower you purchase, show your companions which have the most terpenes, and watch them roll their eyes despite your obvious brilliance.

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