THC stimulates brain cells to release dopamine and is responsible for most of the psychoactive effects of consuming marijuana. While it is responsible for a lot of the experience, there are more components that make up our cannabis and the effects we feel from it than just THC. Marijuana is also made up of terpenes, organic compounds found in many different types of plants.

Continue Reading Below

There are dozens of different terpenes present in a single nug of cannabis, and hundreds of variations in existence. Most high percentage THC oil strips away these terpenes in an attempt to give you the most THC possible. However, when you lose the terpenes, you lose the entourage effect and experience a much different high than what you would get from smoking flower.

The Entourage Effect

Terpenes are responsible for the aroma that dances around your fresh flower. You can credit terpenes for their presence in many herbs, giving distinct aromas to mint, basil, and other favorites. Different strains have different terpenes, which contribute to the flavor and scent of your flower, as well as the quality of your high. The synergy between cannabinoids and other organic compounds found in cannabis create what researchers have coined “the entourage effect”.

Entourage effect iStock / Madeleine_Steinbach

The term was coined by scientists who realized the synergy between different compounds present in marijuana could magnify the therapeutic benefits of the plant. The scientists who coined the entourage effect realized that marijuana as a whole plant could be more beneficial than its individual parts. This comes in contrast with lots of research spent on CBD in an isolated setting to ease anxiety and other ailments. While there are benefits to using the individual parts of the plant, allowing the different compounds to work with each other to create more powerful effects is the whole idea of focusing on terpene profiles.

Continue Reading Below

The 2011 study, “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid Entourage Effects”, looked at the therapeutic benefits of terpenoids, and found a wide range present in cannabis, but typically lacking in isolated CBD oils.

This emphasizes the notion that all of the pieces present in cannabis work better as a whole, rather than individual parts. When we light up some flower, we are experiencing the synergy between all of the terpenes and organic compounds, resulting in varied effects depending on the combination of compounds present. The entourage effect is the result of this interaction, and why so many people are moving towards focusing on all components of the plant for cannabis-based medicines.

According to the 2011 study, the world of natural cannabis-based medicine may have even more promise with the incorporation of whole-plant medicine. The researchers found that “phytocannabinoid-terpenoid synergy, if proven, increases the likelihood that an extensive pipeline of new therapeutic products is possible from this venerable plant”. The study focused on alleviation of different ailments, including pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, cancer, addiction, and different types of bacterial or fungal infections.

Focusing On Terpenes in Your THC Oil

Because of how unique the makeup of terpenes is for each individual strain, users can narrow down what kind of effects they want much more precisely than just looking at the THC or CBD content. Keeping the entourage effect in mind, there are some cannabis manufacturers that emphasize the importance of terpenes in their process. Heylo Cannabis in Seattle makes oils that follow a very specific extraction method to keep the terpene profiles intact. According to a blog post about their extraction method, they

believe keeping the thousands of active compounds like cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids together, in their native ratios, is crucial to both wellness and fun”.

They strive to make oils that maintain the same therapeutic effects the original plant contained because the overall result is a more beneficial high. Heylo Cannabis prides itself on quality bud from start to finish, emphasizing the importance of starting off the process with great flower. They use pesticide-free cannabis, as they produce oils which concentrate the pesticides further during the process. In order to keep the THC oil as close to the plant, they process at low temperatures for long periods of time.

The goal is to never over process or remove all of the unique compounds found in the bud. By keeping the terpenes intact for their THC oil, users can still get a more pleasant, synergistic response from vaping with oils as opposed to the whole plant. 

The synergy helps speed up the movement of cannabinoids to your bloodstream. Different terpenes have different effects on your body, which explains why users experience unique highs based on different strains. Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes, found in large amounts of cannabis. It helps cannabinoids cross into your bloodstream. Linalool, another common terpene, helps cut back from any anxiety present from consuming marijuana, as it has sedative effects which can ease a user’s anxiety. These different profiles created from terpenes are responsible for the entourage effect we get from smoking whole plant cannabis.