Cannabinoids get a lot of attention in the cannabis world. THC, CBD, and THCA are all studied heavily and reported on frequently. However, there is another element to cannabis that is just as important: terpenoids.
By definition, terpenoids (or isoprenoids), are a subclass of the prenyllipids (terpenes, prenylquinones, and sterols), which represent the oldest group of small molecular products synthesized by plants and are probably the most widespread group of natural products. Terpenoids can be described as modified terpenes, where methyl groups are moved or removed, or oxygen atoms added. Inversely, some authors use the term “terpenes” more broadly, to include the terpenoids.
Terpenoids are what gives cannabis its flavor, color, and smell. They exist in all plants and fungi and over 50,000 terpenoids have been isolated! There are around 200 that are present in cannabis alone. And they provide incredible therapeutic value.
They work synergistically with cannabinoids and each other in a synergistic process known as ‘the entourage effect‘ to help create certain outcomes. Whether terpenes increase bioaccessibility of cannabinoids or vice versa, terpenes have been connected to the flavor and aroma of the plant whereas cannabinoids are well-known to influence effects. For example, myrcene is known to increase the potency of THC and also to increase the “sleepy” part of smoking bud. It’s present in mangoes, which is why there’s that old stoner lore that eating a mango while smoking will increase your high.
The presence of specific terpenoids can affect whether a strain is more indica-ish or sativa-ish and how your body responds to the strain. They also add to the entire experience of smoking through their ability to create certain smells, colors, and taste.
So, the next time you go to pick out some herb look for a terpenoid report. It may help you choose the strain that works best, and can answer some of your questions as to why one may work better for you and why another just isn’t your jam.
Here are a few awesome resources to keep the learning rolling with terpenoids:
Shasta Nelson is a California Native and a cannabis connoisseur. She's been involved in the industry at every level since she was a teenager. Currently she provides content for Roottie, DOPE Magazine, and Terpenes and Testing. She's also a creative writer, with a graphic novel underway.