Follow Your Nose: Using Scent to Guide Your Cannabis Choices

Much ado is made over the bouquet of a special wine or the sweet caramel notes of a freshly brewed cup of coffee. Cannabis, too, is famous for its varied scent and flavors, all of which come from the sophisticated interaction of its chemical compounds.

Pungent terpenes give each marijuana strain its characteristic scent and flavor, which is one of the main ways consumers can select the right strain for them. It’s also why cooking with cannabis takes on an extra level of mastery, because pairing the right foods with the right terpenes results in an irresistible culinary experience.

But terpenes don’t just add flavor or aroma to cannabis. They’re also responsible for some of the plant’s medicinal properties. So, going by marijuana’s aroma and flavor is a way to choose the right cannabis strain for your particular medical needs.

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

With hundreds of compounds, cannabis is rich in cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). But the plant also contains unique oils called terpenes. When holding a cannabis bud, it’s easy to see the sparkling, bright hairs on the surface. These are trichomes, responsible for, among other things, terpene production. In fact, most plants, not just cannabis, contain terpenes.

There are over 200 different marijuana terpenes, which vary from strain to strain. They work by interacting with THC, CBD and other cannabinoids to boost their healing powers. Terpenes also have medicinal benefits on their own, and like cannabinoids, they bind to the receptors of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS can affect a lot of the body’s processes from inflammation to pain responses to mood. A balanced ECS means a healthy body, and terpenes can help to balance the ECS.

How Do Marijuana Terpenes Work When it Comes to Scent?

Terpenes create the unique scent in different cannabis strains, which exist to attract pollinators and defend the plant from predators. Through intriguing scents like pine, berry, mint and citrus, terpenes lure pollinators closer.

But for humans, terpenes are about more than scent. Terpenes actually have healing powers of their own. Some terpenes can help:

  • Quell anxiety
  • Fight fungal infections
  • Support the immune system
  • Prevent seizures
  • Reduce pain
  • Support healthy skin cells

More and more cannabis producers are listing the dominant terpenes found in the marijuana they grow. If you know the scent of the terpene that may help address your particular health condition, all you have to do is follow your nose when choosing your medical marijuana. Then, even if your cannabis doesn’t come with a label, you can still be sure you’re ingesting the terpenes that have the most healing power for your individual needs.

Healing Cannabis Flavor Profiles

Here’s an overview of some flavor profiles you may encounter in your cannabis flower and marijuana products. Hopefully, this breakdown will help you determine which marijuana terpenes/flavor profiles are most beneficial to you.

Earthy-Smelling Cannabis Can Help With Insomnia, Inflammation & Relaxation

Marijuana described as earthy generally has scents and aromas of:

  • Pine
  • Rosemary
  • Dill
  • Mixed herbs
  • Hops

These flavors are attributed to the terpenes:

  • Myrcene: An excellent sleep aid, muscle relaxant and anti-depressant. Myrcene’s effects are relaxing and can skew towards sleepy, depending on its concentration. Cannabis strains containing more than 0.5% of myrcene can have a sedative effect, while strains containing less than 0.5% of myrcene produce an energizing effect.
  • Alpha-pinene: This terpene has energizing, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It imparts a focused alertness, which is great for highly functional daytime use. Alpha-pinene is also helpful with memory issues.
  • Humulene: This terpene brings deep earthy, woody, forest floor scents to cannabis. Humulene is known for its anti-inflammatory, appetite suppressant and antibacterial properties.
  • Ocimene: This interesting terpene is found in a diverse variety of plants including mint, pepper, mangoes, orchids and kumquats. Its effects make it a useful decongestant, antiseptic and antibacterial compound. Ocimene is the terpene to consume for helping ease the symptoms of colds and flus.

Earthy cannabis strains you may want to try include:

  • White Widow
  • Kosher Kush
  • Blue Dream
  • Jack Herer
  • Girl Scout Cookies
  • Sour Diesel

Marijuana With Spicy Notes Can Treat Pain, Stress & Inflammation

To most, cannabis with a spicy flavor profile can smell and taste like:

  • Cinnamon
  • Peppercorn
  • Clove

The marijuana that has this flavor profile is mostly due to the terpene:

  • Beta-caryophyllene: This terpene works wonders as an overall anti-inflammatory, pain relief, antioxidant and mood booster. Beta-caryophyllene directly regulates the body’s physiological perceptions of pain. This makes it an excellent aid for de-stressing the body’s overworked adrenal glands.

Spicy-smelling and tasting cannabis strains to sample are:

  • Sour Diesel
  • Northern Lights
  • Bubba Kush
  • GG4

Citrus Aromas in Cannabis Mean It’s Good for Anxiety, Migraines & Gut Health

Citrusy cannabis can smell and taste like:

  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Tangerine

The cannabis you find that smells and tastes like citrus fruit is high in the terpenes:

  • Limonene: This terpene helps relieve anxiety and fight infections. It’s can also help improve gut health and digestion. Limonene is also known for calming high levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Terpinolene: This terpene has a woody aroma that’s overlaid with delicious citrus and floral notes. It’s often used in making wood-smelling soaps and perfumes. Terpinolene is said to relax the central nervous system, which supports a restful night’s sleep. Its sedative effects are mild and can help calm anxiety and ease migraines.

If you’re interested in citrusy marijuana, try these strains:

  • Super Lemon Haze
  • OG Kush
  • Golden Goat

Floral Notes Mean the Marijuana Can Help Ease Depression, Anxiety & Inflammation

Cannabis with floral notes usually smell like the flowers:

  • Rose
  • Geranium
  • Lily
  • Lavender
  • Violet

The terpenes responsible for the floral smells and flavors of these marijuana strains are:

  • Nerolidol: This perfume-like terpene smells like jasmine and tea tree. Nerolido has strong antifungal and antidepressant properties. It also helps relieve skin issues and can help some sufferers ease insomnia.
  • Linalool: Known for its candy-like aroma, linalool is believed to be deeply relaxing, a tremendous sleep aid and generally calming for an anxious body. It can also soothe acne and inflamed skin as well as relax and refresh sore, tense muscles. Linalool can also help manage conditions related to epilepsy or seizures.
  • Alpha bisabolol: Also found in chamomile, this terpene is known for its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties.

If you think floral cannabis may be good medicine for you, some cannabis strains to sample are:

  • Island Sweet Skunk
  • Amnesia Haze
  • ACDC
  • Headband

Photo credit: Kym

If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s easy, private and 100% online.


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