I’ve tried hundreds of CBD-rich strains of cannabis and one thing I’ve noticed is that they rarely smell as good as regular THC-rich weed.
Maybe I’m just getting really good THC weed (I am), but I still believe CBD flower generally has a more limited and less intense aroma – and subsequently taste – compared with the weed you might buy on the street or in a coffee shop in Holland.
All this is down to terpenes, the botanical compounds responsible for the smell and taste of all your favourite cannabis strains. Along with cannabinoids and flavonoids, they make up most of the essential oil of a plant. Not just in cannabis, however. They’re common throughout the plant kingdom.
Health effects of terpenes and the ‘entourage effect’
Terpenes have been getting a bit of mainstream attention recently as our understanding of their therapeutic power comes to light. As well as having their own health effects, terpenes can alter the effects of the other constituents, such as THC and CBD.
In fact, terpenes can work in combination with cannabinoids like THC and CBD to enhance its therapeutic effect. This synergistic effect is known as the ‘entourage effect’.
Breeding CBD hemp flower
Hemp is cannabis with low levels of THC (0.2% is the limit in most of Europe). While it’s been traditionally grown for industrial uses, it is now being grown more and more for its flower and, in particular, the CBD produced in the flower.
In Europe, hemp farmers can only grown certain seeds that have been approved for cultivation by the relevant EU authorities. This results in a limited selection of cannabis varieties to choose from as the varieties were bred for their fibrous stems and nutritional seeds, not for cannabinoid or terpene production.
Therefore, despite a few years’ worth of breeding – mostly in Switzerland and Italy – CBD flower may look just like regular weed, but it still doesn’t quite take over a room with its pervading stench.
Common terpenes in CBD flower and hemp buds
Since THC-rich cannabis and hemp are both members of the Cannabis sativa species, they contain many of the same terpenes, in various ratios.
The following terpenes are commonly found in regular CBD-rich cannabis strains, hemp flower, and in hemp-derived products like CBD oil.
Also found in mangoes, myrcene is the most common terpene produced in CBD strains. It gives off and earthy and sweet aroma and is known to have strong relaxation effects.
In fact, myrcene is often found in significant quantities in indica cannabis varieties, which could be the main reason why indicas are supposed to keep you locked to the sofa as opposed to motivated and energised (sativa).
Vapourises at: 332ºF (167ºC)
May be good for: insomnia, pain, muscle spasms, inflammation.
Found in black pepper, rosemary, oregano and cloves, beta-caryophyllene has powerful health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.
Vapourises at: 266ºF – 320 F (130º – 160C)
May be good for: anxiety, pain, depression, gastric ulcers.
Ever get citrus smells from your CBD flower? That unmissable aroma is caused by limonene, which is also found in lemons, limes and grapefruits. Both limonene and CBD have been found to help reduce depression and inflammation, so combined may be even more powerful.
Vapourises at: 348ºF (176ºC)
May be good for: depression, stress, anxiety, pain, inflammation.
Humulene is responsible for the earthy and woody scents of beer as the terpene is found in high amounts in hops. It is known to be an effective anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and appetite suppressant.
Vapourises At: 222ºF (106ºC)
May be good for: inflammation, pain, loss of appetite.
Rarely playing a starring role in the cannabis plant, terpinolene is occasionally found in low concentrations in CBD-rich strains, like Sour Tsunami. It has flowery, piney and even citrusy smell.
Vapourises at: 366ºF (186ºC)
May be good for: insomnia, anxiety.
This terpene has a delicate, floral fragrance and is known to have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-irritant effects. It may even prevent growth of cancer cells associated with leukemia and pancreatic cancer, according to one study.
Vaporizes at: 307ºF (153 C)
May be good for: pain, depression.
Pinene is found in many plant species, including conifers. And as you may have guessed, it has a distinctive pine flavour and smell to it. Studies have found pinene to have antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
Vapourises at: 311ºF (155ºC)
May be good for: pain, inflammation, gastric ulcers, anxiety, asthma.
This is a common cannabis terpene that is prevalent in hops, basil and lavender. It has a subtle floral aroma with some spicy notes. Linalool can reduce pain as well as offering antidepressant and anti-epileptic effects.
Vapourises at: 388ºF (198ºC)
May be good for: anxiety, pain, inflammation, insomnia, depression.