Q&A with Jorge
THC and Terpenes
Your Marijuana Horticulture Bible is awesome! I’ve read every single page and know it by heart. But why do various buds smell and taste so different, like Mango, Blueberry, Bubble Gum, etc.? I know it has something to do with terpenes, but can you add or subtract a substance to create a certain type of smell in the buds, or is it just inherent to different strains?
Sprinkling essential oils on buds will make them smell differently, but it will not change the psychoactive effect. Cannabis is the only plant that produces cannabinoids, and cannabis can produce up to 200 different terpenes or essential oils. Terpenes are complex molecules present in many other medicinal plants that also have aromatic properties. The specific cannabinoids and terpenes produced are a factor of the genetics of each cannabis plant. Cannabis plants need to grow in the best possible conditions and to their full genetic potential to develop each molecule completely. Plants that grow outdoors under natural sunlight with a well-balanced organic fertilizer will develop to their fullest potential and yield the best cannabinoids and essential oils. This natural “cocktail” of cannabinoids and terpenes gives each strain its particular fragrance and taste. It would be very difficult to mimic the delicate balance of terpenes and cannabinoids in, say, a bathroom laboratory.
The cool thing about cannabinoids (other than THC) is that they are not psychoactive when ingested by themselves, but they do play a part in the way THC affects us. Change the mix of cannabinoids and terpenes and the THC will affect us differently. Medical patients provide a good example of this, because they find more relief from different specific strains. By definition, a molecule always has the same atomic structure, meaning that the THC is the same in all cannabis plants. But when you mix in other elements with THC (i.e., cannabinoids and terpenes), the psychoactive effect is distinct.