Terps is a slang term thrown around in head shops and cannabis retailers all the time. Terpy is a term often associated with vibrant aromatics and flavors in cannabis flower and concentrates. While it may sound like generic stoner slang, terpy is somewhat of an accurate term to describe a strain that has a pungent smell because it’s slang for terpenes. Terpene education is quickly gaining momentum in the industry.
Terpenes are found in the essential oils of all plants. The aromas released by terpenes give fruit and plants their signature smells. Many people who enjoy cannabis have a strong connection to the smell of a specific strain, like Dutch Treat for example. A chemical reaction occurs between your body and terpenes as soon as you smell a strain. This is the reason aromatherapy is an effective method to relieve stress and anxiety or why mentholatum relieves inflammation in your chest and helps you breathe through a chest cold.
The cannabis industry is barely scratching the surface of terpene research and how they interact with cannabinoids. The truth is there hasn’t been enough research done to say with certainty what each terpene does. It’s easy to isolate a terpene, see what it smells like and match those aromas to cannabis strains. Myrcene and limonene release vibrant lime and citrus aromas found in Tangie phenotypes while terpinolene is the hazy pine smell associated with Haze and Dutch phenotypes. It’s something entirely different to guarantee a specific terpene has designated effects. It’s important to note that a lot of the terpene information is somewhat anecdotal.
Virginia Hoyer touched on this during her talk at CannaCon 2018. Hoyer is a natural product chemist and herbalist. She’s worked at Analytical 360 and Laboratory Manager at PhytaLab, laboratories providing quality assurance testing for compliance with Washington’s recreational cannabis regulations.
She says many cannabis blogs promote misinformation about terpenes and just issued caution when sourcing terpene information.
Hoyer brought up slides breaking down the attributes of seven common terpenes that she could find research corroborating their effects: beta-caryophyllene, humulene, limonene, linalool, myrcene, alpha-pinene, and terpinolene. Ethan B Russo is a cannabis researcher who published a paper on this very topic in the British Journal of Pharmacology. In the paper, Russo breaks down the commonly found terpenes listed above and talks about the role terpenes play in the entourage effect. Russo’s name came up multiple times during CannaCon seminars I attended, he’s respected in the space and his research on cannabis backs up a lot of the anecdotal evidence about terpenes.
The industry is still catching on and basic cannabis users know even less about terpenes. In general, few cannabis cultivators invest in terpene information on their packaging. Cannabis concentrate producers have made more of an effort to educate consumers about their product’s terpene profiles, but in general, it’s still a limited method of dispersing education. It’s limited because it’s dependent on budtenders going out of their way to teach customers about terpenes and teach them the right thing or curious customers researching terpene effects and cannabinoids on their own volition.
As it stands, terpene information isn’t necessary to sell cannabis to your basic consumer. A combination of hybrid, sativa indica, strain name, THC percentages, brand loyalty, and price are the factors most purchase decisions revolve around.
I was pleasantly pleased with CannaCon that the terpene conversation will continue, grow, and evolve the consumer-terpene relationship. True Terpenes had an information booth and a seminar lead by Ben Cassiday. Cassiday mentioned True Terpenes is currently working open-sourced research to help educate consumers. There were several other seminars discussing terpenes from both scientific and consumer standpoints.
Solutions for increasing the effectiveness of consumer-based terpene education still need to be thought up, but it’s good to know the industry is pushing the wave towards unlocking the secrets of terpene and cannabinoid knowledge.