Terpenes (general)

The Real Connection Between Terpenes and Essential Oils

Written by Shasta Nelson

Terpenes are aroma emitting phenols that are made by every plant, flower, and even some insects. Let’s figure out what the real connection is between terpenes and essential oils.

It wasn’t until recent years that terpenes truly began to shine in the cannabis community, but terpenes and essential oils have a long history. With the advent of indoor grows and the ability to breed THC-heavy genetics, it became evident that something didn’t add up: these hard-hitting strains were testing high in labs but scoring low with patients. Not only was flavor and aroma decreased, but plants isolated for high-THC lacked the medicinal effects that many patients needed. Now we know certain terpenes bond to cannabinoid receptors, enhancing the effects of the other compounds present in cannabis including the two rockstars of the cannabis world: THC and CBD. So by removing these accidently through selective breeding many strains had a decline in terpene content, and therefore a decline in medicinal value.

Luckily, Terps are making a comeback and delicious flavors and scents are being preserved and promoted. With the knowledge of which terpenes could work to ease specific ailments, patients can use cannabis more effectively. Since terpenes are found in all plants, their healing qualities can be enjoyed in a number of ways in addition to using cannabis. One way to add the some of the same effects from cannabis to your life, without or in addition to consuming it, is essential oils. The most prominent terpenes in cannabis are present in many varieties of essential oils as well and can be absorbed through the skin, ingested, or diffused and inhaled for aromatherapy purposes.

Let’s say, for example, that we enjoy the relaxing effects of a Master Kush that tested with high levels of linalool. The smell, the taste, and the feeling soothe your stress away. Well, lavender has a ton of linalool, so you could diffuse some, use some lavender lotion, or even consume some in tea to work symbiotically with the terpene found in our strain.  Or perhaps this Master Kush makes us too drowsy. We can diffuse essence of tangerine, which is high in pinene, an energizing terpene that can improve focus, and limonene, which helps the body with absorbing other terpenes as well as elevating moods. The combinations are endless. Some companies are even mixing essential oil in with their CO2 oil to enhance certain effects when vaporized.

So how do you know what works for you?

Well to start, purchase lab-tested cannabis, this will lead to you understanding what terpenes are actually present. Then make a note when you enjoy a strain of the dominant terpenes. Follow your nose and find what smells good to you and what tastes good. There are plenty of guides online, including Terpenes and Testings very own Terpene Thursday, which will help you to understand what reactions are caused by what component of the plant’s makeup. To begin combining cannabis with essential oils there are also many resources online that can provide information on which essences have what effects. The one I use is actually a book, The Essential Life. LLC Total Wellness Publishing, which lists uses and composition of different common essential oils.

Check back next week for a pairing menu of terpenes and essential oils, and in the meantime stay high and stay healthy.

About the author

Shasta Nelson

Author and cannabis connoisseur Shasta Nelson was born and raised in the foothills of Northern California. She’s been involved in the cannabis industry at many levels from managing a delivery service, to studying and reporting on cannabis culture & news at DOPE Magazine. Her favorite strains are Candyland, Roses, and OG Kush and her favorite Terps are Pinene and Linalool.
“Mary Jane she’s my one true love/my very best friend
Never had a better girl/never gon’ leave her again"

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