When choosing a strain of cannabis, many people mistakenly assume that THC potency is the single most important factor. One of the most often asked questions to budtenders is “What strain has the highest THC?”

While potency is an important factor, the latest science points to the flavor profiles of a plant, in combination with THC content, to determine the experience a particular strain might deliver. These flavor profiles come from terpenes, which can be anything from lemony, piney, floral, woody, or fruity.

Terpenes are not unique to cannabis. They can be found in the essential oils of all plants – like citrus rinds, black pepper, and pine needles. More than 100 different terpenes have been identified in cannabis plants alone. Any subset of these can be found in the leaves, stems, flowers and fruit of the plant, specifically in the trichomes – the same glands that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are found. The aromatic oils of the terpenes give each cannabis plant its distinct aroma and flavor.

When smelled, inhaled, or ingested, terpenes interact with a person’s body chemistry and are directly responsible for the unique feelings associated with each strain. Any two cannabis plants can have vastly different terpene profiles – thus delivering different experiences.

Certain people are drawn to certain scents, so it is important to first smell a strain. If an individual enjoys a certain scent, it’s a good indication that particular strain and/or terpene profile will work well with their body chemistry. Some people prefer the more gaseous strains such as Chemdog or Hindu Kush, while others prefer more fruity scents such as Tropicana Cookies or Sundae Driver.  Others may even prefer a more musky or woodsy scent like that of Blue Dream or Amnesia Haze. Linalool, which has the relaxing scent of lavender (found in strains like Lavender Kush) is known to produce a calming effect, while Alpha-Pinene, which has a piney scent, can produce a more uplifting effect.

Before choosing a strain:

  1. Smell several different strains across different aromatic profiles to become familiar with those you gravitate to.
  2. Once you find aromas and flavors you enjoy, take note of them. Are they piney? Floral? Lemony? Once you identify their aroma, you can use them to find other strains in that same flavor family.
  3. Take note of how various terpenes make you feel. This will help you identify what you do and don’t like about their effects.