All about the terpenes

Veritas Fine Cannabis is changing the way people shop for bud by including terpene profiles on every label

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Courtesy Veritas Fine Cannabis

There are a lot of elements involved with choosing the right bud when you’re perusing a dispensary. There’s the classic sativa versus indica dilemma; then there’s the state of the strain’s trichomes, how good the flower smells, its color and, of course, the THC percentage listed on the label.

All of those are important factors in selecting a cannabis strain to take home. But, according to Jordan Plunkett and Conor Shea with Veritas Fine Cannabis, many of their customers and cannabis consumers in legal states around the country put too much emphasis on that last factor: THC percentage. When, actually, they should be looking for terpene profiles.

“It’s like buying beer: people think higher ABV … content, and the effects are going to be way more profound,” says Shea, the grow manager at Veritas Fine Cannabis. “But that’s not exactly right with cannabis.”

High THC content doesn’t necessarily make for the best high, Shea says. Instead, “It’s all about the terpenes.”
“Those are what gives a strain its flavor, the smell profiles and its potency,” Plunkett, the marketing director at Veritas, adds.

However, in most cases, shopping by terpenes is easier said than done. Most dispensaries and producers don’t include that information on their menus, cannabis containers or websites. Most dispensaries only list the THC and sometimes CBD percentages.

Veritas is trying to change that, though, Shea and Plunkett say. Not just by describing each individual strain’s effects, with words like “tranquil,” “unwinding,” and “dreamy” on their labels; and by listing what each strain pairs well with, like “getting lost” or “stargazing.” But Veritas is also detailing each strain’s specific terpene profile on every label. All with the hope of changing the way people shop for their bud.

“It’s actually really uncommon in this industry right now to advertise [terpene profiles],” says Plunkett. “We list the top three terpenes within each strain. So when a customer sees those three terpenes, they know that this strain is for them, or not for them.”

Generally defined: terpenes are oils, secreted by a strain’s trichomes — those sticky, crystalline glands on the cannabis flower. They give each strain its distinct flavor, smell and, importantly, its unique effect on individual users. Because everyone’s natural cannabinoid receptors are different, different combinations of terpenes and cannabinoids produce different effects for different people. They work in tandem with one another — something known as the “entourage effect.”

There are over 100 different terpenes that cannabis strains exhibit. But there are a handful that are more common than others: there’s Myrcene, which has an herbal smell and flavor, often found in hops, mango and lemongrass; there’s Pinene, which is found in pine needles, rosemary, basil and dill; Caryophyllene, found in black pepper, cloves and cinnamon; Limonene, a citrusy terpene found in fruit rinds, juniper and peppermint; and Terpinolene, which is in nutmeg, tea tree, cumin and lilacs.

Those botanical compounds, in combination with a strain’s unique concentrations of THC, CBD and hundreds of other cannabinoids, all interact synergistically. This changes the behavior of other compounds already within the body to provide more profound energizing effects, more powerful relaxing effects or more relief from pain.

Terpenes increase potency as well, Shea explains. A strain with 15% THC and 5% terpenes can feel a lot more potent than one with 40% THC and .5% terpenes. That’s the entourage effect at work, he says.

And it’s why Veritas’ small-batch, hand-grown craft cannabis lists the top three terpenes on every label. That way, Veritas customers can choose their bud accordingly, which is a much more informed way of choosing between different kinds of bud, Plunkett and Shea say. In a market that is becoming increasingly connoisseur, it’s a more accurate way for users to find the bud that they’ll enjoy most.

Veritas is also pushing terpene education and information through its social media platforms and website.

“We really want to make sure our customers are educated and know what they’re getting, and why they like it,” Plunkett says.

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