Cannabis is a flowering plant grown all over the world. Its buds and flowers can be smoked and otherwise consumed for many purposes: as a recreational drug, as a pain reliever or for other medicinal purposes, or even for spiritual experience or practice. Its use can be traced back through all of human history, its earliest recorded use sometime in the third millennium B.C. Though cannabis has been subject to legal restrictions for most of the last century, it has seen rising legalization efforts and social acceptance the last few years. Here at Smoking Crow, we hope to aid the growing efforts to educate and inform the public of the benefits of cannabis.
Biology of cannabis plants (what makes cannabis so special?)
There are two general types of cannabis plant: indica and sativa. Indica plants originated from the Hindu Kush region of India; they are generally smaller and rounder, with broad leaves. Meanwhile, sativa plants originated in areas around the equator; they are taller and have narrower leaves. Indicas are usually thought to have calming, sedating effects, while sativas are more energetic and cerebral. Because of centuries of breeding and genetic variations, most strains you find in a dispensary are hybrids: strains that boast certain qualities and effects of both types.
Beyond these general types, cannabis plants can also vary in many other factors. They can have different appearances, or morphology. Their flowering time differs, with most sativas having a longer maturation cycle than indicas. Indicas also tend to produce heavier yields. And because of varying formulas of aromatic oils called terpenes, different plants can have wildly different flavor profiles.
All cannabis plants have these basic, essential parts. The calyx, which is the first part of a flower formed in its flowering stage, produces “sugar leaves” and the majority of the plant’s resinous glands, called trichomes. Trichomes contain cannabinoids and terpenes, the oils and chemicals that, when activated, produce all of cannabis’ wonderful effects. A cola is a tight cluster of flowering buds.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds contained within the trichomes of a cannabis plant. It’s because of them that cannabis makes you “feel high,” relaxes and/or energizes you, and provides relief to symptoms like pain, anxiety, and countless others. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most famous cannabinoid, as it’s the compound most responsible for cannabis’ psychoactive properties. CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is the second-most dominant cannabinoid. It’s non-intoxicating and has many benefits for physical and emotional health. Research into THC and CBD, as well as the combined effects of both compounds, continues to find uses and benefits for these incredible chemicals.
Cannabis isn’t just a THC and CBD show, however. There are as many as a hundred or more cannabinoids present in the plant. Most of them are in very small, nigh-undetectable amounts, but some other compounds make themselves known, like CBG, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant qualities (research suggests). Other known cannabinoids include CBN and CBC; you may see these acronyms popping up on cannabis product labels from time to time.
The entire reason cannabis effects humans the way it does is that our brains have an entire system devoted to processing cannabinoids. This is called the endocannabinoid system, and it consists of CB1 receptors in the brain and CB2 receptors in the immune system and related organs.
The locations, density, and number of cannabinoid receptors in the body can vary from person to person. Each person’s endocannabinoid system arrangement is called their “expression,” and it can be completely unique like a fingerprint. Because of this, cannabis affects every person differently. Some people are more sensitive to THC while others aren’t able to get very high. Also, different strains can affect people differently: indicas may not always sedate and sativas may not always energize.
Cannabis is a complex plant that we are still learning about all the time. Because there are so many variables that influence an individual’s experience with it, we encourage everyone to educate themselves on cannabis’ full potential and its range of cannabinoids and terpenes. A little knowledge can go a long way toward unlocking the therapy, comfort, enlightenment and healing that cannabis provides.
What are terpenes?
At Smoking Crow Cannabis, we place a heavy focus on terpenes because we believe that understanding them and what they do helps individuals curate each specific cannabis experience. Terpenes are aromatic oils contained within trichomes, little frosty-looking glands of resin that populate the surface of cannabis buds, flowers and leaves. They aren’t unique to cannabis; all terpenes can be found elsewhere in nature.
Terpenes do much more than provide the wonderfully layered, often funky smell of your weed. Like other natural, plant-derived oils, they can have therapeutic effects, medical benefits, or even work as supporting players for heavy-hitting cannabinoids like THC. Each strain will have its own unique profile of terpenes, and different harvests and farms can produce the same strain but with different terpene results. Just like humans, a plant’s genetic code can vary, affecting cannabinoid and terpene output.
Most common terpenes in cannabis
Myrcene is the dominant terpene produced by different cannabis strains. This can can exceed 50% of the total terpene content depending on the cannabis plant. Terpenes have unique aromas, and you may be able to identify which strain is dominant in which terpene through scent alone. Myrcene smells predominantly of cloves, with an earthy musk. Just some of the other plants you can find Myrcene in include wild thyme, mango, bay leaves, hops and lemongrass.
Every terpene has unique properties, and Myrcene is no different. It actually lowers the blood-brain barrier resistance. This can be used in a wide range of medicinal applications to allow medications affecting the brain to work more quickly. It also means THC will affect you sooner in strains high in Myrcene. One of its most unique qualities is that it increases CB1 receptor saturation levels. That means the receptors can uptake greater amounts of binding chemicals, which can increase psychoactive effects. You’ll want to heat Myrcene to at least 334°F/168℃ to achieve an effect from it.
If your strain smells like fir or pine trees, it may contain Pinene. This terpene occurs in nature in two distinct isomer structures. The first, alpha-pinene, is actually the most widely found terpenoid in the natural world. Both the alpha and beta form are found together in a wide range of naturally occurring plant species. These include pine trees, pine resin, balsamic resin, and a variety of citrus fruits. Pinene is also the primary ingredient in wood turpentine.
Because it reacts with additional chemicals and acts as the base of other terpenes, if you find one of its sub-terpenes in a strain it will contain Pinene as well. Some of the most valuable medicinal effects from Pinene are its ability to counteract short-term memory loss; even when that memory loss is caused by THC. It is also responsible for a feeling of alertness, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It will need to be heated to 349℉/176℃ before it will boil.
Limonene is actually a sub-compound created from Pinene. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Lemons, Limes, and Oranges all contain Limonene and it has the strong smell of citrus. You’ll also find this terpene in juniper, fruit rinds, peppermint, and rosemary. Limonene is typically only found in small amounts in any given cannabis strain, but its effects can still be identified. It’s most widely known for providing stress relief as well as topical antibacterial and antifungal properties. You’ll want to heat it up to 349℉/176℃.
Caroyphyllene has a very interesting aroma. It’s spicy, woody, and peppery. Interestingly enough you’ll also find it in black pepper, something you can consume to come down if you’ve imbibed too much cannabis. That’s because beta-caryophyllene binds to the same receptors that THC does. You’ll also find this terpene in cinnamon, cloves, and Thai basil.
Beta-caryophyllene offers some incredibly promising medicinal properties. As the only terpene that interacts directly with the endocannabinoid system, it binds to CB2 receptors. This triggers a response in the body, and can actually help to combat cancerous cells. It’s also commonly used as an analgesic, anti-depressant, and anti-inflammatory. You’ll want to heat it up to a temperature of 320℉/160℃ in order for it to boil.
Linalool has an interesting profile. It smells like lavender. You won’t be surprised to find that lavender actually produces it, and that it’s partially responsible for the relaxing and calming affects of the flower. It’s widely used as a stress reliever and sleep aid. It can also reduce anxiety caused by THC. This also makes it a promising compound for treating both anxiety and psychosis.
Current studies into Linalool have found that it can help the immune system. This is especially prevalent in cases of lung inflammation. It also possesses restorative properties when it comes to the emotional and cognitive disabilities caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Linalool does have a high boiling point, so you’ll want to heat it to at least 388℉/198℃.
Terpinolene is an oil that’s most commonly found in the Monterey Cypress Tree. With a complex scent made up of floral notes and pine, it’s frequently used as an additive in the production of perfume and soap. An interesting quality of Terpinolene is its ability to repel insects. Not a bad quality if you’re taking some cannabis camping with you.
One of the most unique properties of this terpene is what it doesn’t do. While the majority of terpenes have some amount of pain-relief and anti-inflammatory properties, Terpinolene doesn’t have either one. It does have depressant qualities though, making it useful against anxiety and a great treatment for insomnia. It’s also shown promise as both an anti-tumor, and anti-cancer fighter. If you choose a Terpinolene heavy strain, make sure you heat it to at least 361℉/183℃.
Humulene goes by several names. You may find it labeled as alpha-humulene as well as alpha-caryophyllene. It’s most widely found in Vietnamese coriander and hops. Sativa dominant strains typically contain more Humulene than Indica strains. Unsurprisingly, it smells like hops. With a number of serious medicinal qualities, Humulene is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. It also works as a natural appetite suppressant.
Humulene is frequently paired with beta-caryophyllene. This combination can be an excellent treatment for inflammation, making it ideal for sufferers of arthritis and other inflammatory immune disorders. This terpene is a staple of Chinese medicine, meaning you may have already experienced its benefits if you’ve ever visited an apothecary for an anti-inflammatory tea.
Ocimene is found in everything from pepper to parsley, mangoes, and even orchids. That’s because it contains natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Plants use it for defense, which makes it a far reaching terpene in the natural world. You can identify it by a sweet, woody, and herbaceous aroma. This same scent also makes it desirable in the creation of perfume. Ocimene also has natural decongestant and antiviral properties, so if you’re trying to get over an illness, or remain illness free, look for a cannabis strain that produces Ocimene.