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The unique musk, skunk, and spicy aroma of cannabis is beyond doubt: most people can smell it even before they see it. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that determine the odor of many flowers and herbs, give cannabis a unique odor and contribute to its flavor.
Cannabis contains more than 150 terpenes. Although most terpenes exist only in trace amounts, the more prominent terpenes combine to provide different cannabis varieties with their unique odor characteristics.
Where do terpenes come from?
Terpenes are natural compounds found in the trichomes of female cannabis plants. The trichomes are sticky translucent glands covering the surface of the buds, which are much less abundant on the leaves and stems. Crucially, trichomes contain resin glands that produce terpenes.
Terpenes play an indispensable role in the growth and survival of cannabis plants. In addition to producing a unique fragrance, these organic compounds also enrich the color and pigment of the leaves and buds, and contribute to the flavor of hemp. In short, terpenes help increase the attractiveness of plants to certain organisms, while preventing other plants that may cause harm.
For example, certain terpenoids, such as geraniol, can repel insects or herbivores, and they may be lured into snacking on cannabis. Other terpenes, such as terpinene and linalool, can attract insects and other small creatures to spread pollen. These aromatic compounds support the plant’s immune system by transmitting information about the surrounding environment, protecting plants from stressors and pathogens, and helping to trigger an immune response.
A series of variables affect the amount of terpenes produced by the cannabis plant. Factors such as whether the plant grows outdoors or indoors, exposure to light, temperature, certain growth media, nutrient levels, and harvest time will affect the terpene content.
Many terpenes are volatile compounds, which means they are easily lost during the standard cannabis extraction process. However, increasing awareness of the therapeutic value of terpenes has led to more sensitive extraction methods, such as active resins.
The active resin is made from fresh frozen cannabis plants and maintains the freezing temperature during the entire extraction process to protect the terpenes and other volatile compounds in the plants, thereby bringing a more aromatic, complex and delicious cannabis experience.