Shopping For Legal Cannabis

Ask A Bud: Shopping by Terpenes

Terpenes, the fragrant oils found in many types of plants, give cannabis strains their unique aromas and flavours. Budtender Leslie Pawliw of Inspired Cannabis shares the best ways to sniff out your next favourite cannabis product.

Photo of Leslie Pawliw, a budtender at Inspired Cannabis in Welland

With so many different strains, brands and ways to consume, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by choice when browsing your local cannabis store. Instead of wading through all that information to select the perfect product, it can be easier to follow your nose. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in cannabis and many other plants. These hints of pine, citrus, earth and musk play a big role in how we experience different cultivars.

“Two years ago, hardly anyone put terpenes on their label,” Leslie Pawliw, budtender — and level 2 CannaReps sommelier — at Inspired Cannabis in Welland, explains. “Today, a majority of LPs not only label terpene contents, but percentages as well. This opens up the conversation between budtender and consumer about why different cultivars create different experiences.”

With this in mind, we asked Leslie to walk us through how to choose our next favourite strain.

Why are terpenes important and how do they contribute to the overall cannabis experience?

“Terpenes play a very important part in the overall aroma and flavour of a cultivar. Without terpenes, cannabis would be very generic. When you crack open a jar for the first time and your nose fills with sweetness, gassiness, sourness or earthiness, that’s terpenes in play. And while terpenes won’t make you high, they can help guide the experience in a certain direction and add flavour.”

What are the most popular terpenes and
which ones should I consider?

Myrcene is present in over 60% of cultivars today. This plant compound is also commonly found in hops, thyme, lemongrass and cardamon, and it has a wide spectrum of aromatics from earthy to musky like cloves to a tropical fruity scent like ripe mangoes. Some cultivars high in myrcene are OG Kush and FPOG. Everyone has their favourites. I personally like terpinolene. It has a sweet, paint thinner, turpentine scent, which sounds unique but is found in sage, rosemary, apples, tea trees and nutmeg. High terpinolene cultivars include Durban Poison and Ghost Train Haze. Terpenes in other plants have key properties; for instance, linalool, a common terpene found in lavender, may be associated with relaxation, but we’re still learning what terpenes bring to the table in cannabis.”

Some also believe in the theory of “the entourage effect,” referring to the possibility that cannabinoids and terpenes work together in the overall effect of cannabis. As of now, these are just theories — impact of terpenes beyond flavour and aroma has yet to be scientifically proven.” Learn more about the top five terpenes found in cannabis.

What are synthetic terpenes and
how are they made?

“Synthetic terpenes are produced in a lab and are meant to mimic certain aromas or tastes found naturally in cannabis. And synthetic terpenes’ flavour profiles can be custom-made. More berries? More grape? There are over 100 natural terpenes in the cannabis plant, and currently only about 60 synthetic terpenes are being produced.”

Do different consumption methods affect
what you get out of the terpenes?

“It depends on the person. Someone who vapes may experience a completely different effect than someone else with that exact same product.”

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