Cannabis 101

What  Are Terpenes? And Why Do they Make Your Weed Stink?

Terpenes are the next frontier in green wellness.

Despite their intense focus on CBD and THC, cannabis researchers may be overlooking something really important. And it’s surprising that they’re overlooking it, because it really stinks. We’re talking terpenes: those volatile organic compounds that wafted through your dorm, way back when, and now make you feel a little woozy when the budtender pops the lid on a jar of cannabis flower.

Because human beings have been cultivating cannabis for perhaps 10,000 years, there has been plenty of time for ingenious farmers to select and modify beneficial strains. Conveniently, each strain has a signature stink that says, “Yup, I’m the one that helps with [fill in the blank, from pain to stress to what to do with your friends while you stream Fantasia].” And that’s why, after the white coats finish investigating marijuana’s 120-plus cannabinoids in, say, 2097, they’ll finally figure out what benefits terpenes add to the heady stew.

A study published in Toxicological Research gives a bit of an indication, detailing the benefits of forest terpenes (mmmmmm, pine trees!) in treating inflammation, nervous system disorders, even tumors. And those very same beneficial forest terpenes occur naturally in cannabis and many other plants.

The options shown here are far from exhaustive. About 100 terpenes have been identified in cannabis. But the ones below are among the most prominent, in part because of reputed therapeutic effects. The health effects and benefits have been suggested by a smattering of studies, but they’re mostly based on the experiences of people using them (for 10,000 years, as we mentioned).

Will they do the same for you? There’s only one way to find out: Pick a promising terpene, ask the budtender for a strain where it predominates, and see if it stinks in just the right way for what ails you