The highest THC doesn’t always produce the best high, or even the highest one. All compounds matter.
When you consume cannabis you want to experience the effects you love and prefer. Some of us prefer to be snuggled into the couch with a large bag of Hot Cheetos. Some want relief from anxiety as they prepare for an upcoming meeting. Others want all of the THC while dodging the negative effect it has on short-term memory. Each of those experiences is a result of different chemical compounds in cannabis working together – this is called the entourage effect.
The entourage effect was coined in the late 90s by a group of scientists that included the Father of Cannabis Research. It was then popularized in 2011 by a study on the synergy of cannabis compounds. The cannabis plant produces over 400 compounds, and each one has a unique and specific biochemical effect on our bodies. Although, up until recently, much of the focus has been on a few well-known cannabinoids.
Thanks to the current wave of legalization and research, we are beginning to understand the plant we pluck our flowers from is a lot more complex than we initially thought. Before, it was believed that cannabinoids were the only active compounds able to affect us at all. Modern research negates that, with proof that cannabis is the sum of all its parts. Despite that, many cannabis products for sale today are still focused primarily on THC and CBD. This leaves the average consumer clueless about the full scope of their cannabis products. But, sometimes chaos has its reasons.
Ever heard of terpenes? Terpenes are a crucial part of our daily lives and are found in almost everything we consume. They are the aromatic oils found in herbs, trees, and fruit. Their presence is critical to the amazing smells, flavors, and some of the effects associated with cultivars such as Sour Diesel and Purple Haze. Terpenes have a working relationship with cannabinoids, and together they produce a range of different effects.
For example, the terpene beta-caryophyllene binds to CB2 receptors in our immune response system and helps fight inflammation – this gives beta-caryophyllene its gastro-protective properties. This terpene has the potential to treat ulcers, inflammation, and other gastric disorders. It all makes sense, considering that CB2 receptors are expressed throughout the gut. If you want to experience the medicinal benefits of this terpene, look to cultivars in the “Cookies” family.
Keep in mind that each cultivar could have a slightly different cocktail of terpenes. Which, in turn, can create varying effects when combined with other compounds.
Remember the experiences mentioned in the first paragraph? Let’s run those back but with a little bit of science.
Locked to the couch with a large bag of Hot Cheetos
(Myrcene + THC)
Considering that a heavy high is in demand and there are multiple relaxing terpenes, this experience is almost always within reach. The effects that lock you to the couch are myrcene’s fault. Myrcene is already a sedative on its own, but when combined with THC those effects are enhanced when combined with THC, resulting in pain relief and relaxed muscles.
According to testing laboratory Steep Hills Labs, cannabis that contains more than 0.5 percent myrcene will generally have a tranquilizing effect that promotes appetite and sleep. On the other hand, cannabis samples with less than 0.5 percent may produce uplifting, energizing, and cerebral effects. These effects will vary across cultivars with differing cannabinoid and terpene profiles.
Relief from anxiety before an important meeting
(Linalool + Limonene + CBD or THC)
This scenario suggests that you need to both focus and calm down. Luckily, there are plenty of cultivars available to create it. For decades research has shown CBD to aid in reducing stress and promoting feelings of tranquility and relaxation. But of course, the full plant profile plays a crucial role in boosting these therapeutic effects.
Limonene, found in the rinds of fruit, is an uplifting terpene known for its anxiety and stress-relieving properties. Not only that, but in 1955, nine out of 12 patients treated with limonene showed a decrease in their need for antidepressants as well as an increase in immune system functioning and a return to normal stress hormone levels.
Linalool, found in lavender, produces a relaxing but calming effect. Lavender plants and their essential oils are often a choice in aromatherapy. However, that barely scratches the surface of how beneficial linalool can be. Studies show that linalool vapors reduced levels of anxiety and lowered depression-like behaviors in mice. In these tests, mice exposed to linalool vapors spent more time in environments that invoked fear, and they continued to work to escape a seemingly hopeless situation.
Both limonene and linalool have properties that reduce anxiety. Research suggests they work well with CBD to enhance its medicinal benefits. So, if you are ever trying to quiet your mind to focus, find yourself a CBD product with both linalool and limonene, and feel your stress melt away.
Cultivars with both limonene and linalool are rare if you take into account that only a few have high amounts of linalool. Below are a few cannabis cultivars containing trace amounts of both terpenes. Note that each one will always have more than just two terpenes.
Blackberry Web (Limonene + Linalool + CBD/THC)
Do-Si-Dos (Limonene + Linalool + THC)
Scooby Snacks (Limonene + Linalool + THC)
Get high without affecting your short-term memory.
(Pinene + THC)
Do you feel like your memory is taxed every time you toke? Well, THC is widely known to impair short-term memory. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A cultivar rich in the terpene pinene can potentially counteract the impact THC has on memory.
Pinene slows the breakdown of a neurotransmitter associated with memory function. Other chemicals with this function are often used in medications for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.
Whether relaxing or energizing, cultivars with high amounts of pinene typically promote deep focus. It all depends on the accompanying terpenes. Blue Dream, for instance, is known for its mellow euphoria, but its dominant terpene is myrcene – pinene comes in close second. This combo balances the influence of both while giving Bule Dream the famous uplifting and creative effects.
Choosing the best cultivar should be about the experience you want to have. Even if all you want is to get high, what you want out of that high will always matter. The labels Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid aren’t always reliant when determining effects. And the highest THC doesn’t always produce the best high, or even the highest one. Terpenes matter.
*We are not medical doctors. Your cannabis research should not end here. Take this extremely condensed information and use it to further your journey in learning about one of the most complex plants we’ve ever consumed.*