The Different Highs of Cannabis and Why

Kindling Cannabis
The Different Highs of Cannabis and Why

Ah, that first taste of summer. That brisk morning air, that warmth of the sun on your skin, watching that glorious sunset. That moment has finally arrived— after a long, dark, tense and wacky winter, we are here, and we are ready for it. As we start to prepare for our weekend getaways, pool gatherings and nights with friends under the stars, many of us will be bringing cannabis along to join in on the fun. A part of the fun, naturally, is the THC high. The seasoned cannabis consumer will tell you that no two THC highs are ever the same. Sometimes we feel super lively and elated, sometimes we become chatty and deeply existential, sometimes we feel like a sloth, and sometimes we become so introverted that we want to stay in our own world and our own thoughts without the noise of the world. Like the weather, THC high’s lack consistency. Have you ever paused to wonder what it is that causes different strains of cannabis to produce such different highs? When you think about it, it can’t be just because of the THC.

An average strain is usually composed of about 15-25% THC. So how would such a minor percentage be able to cause such vastly different effects in terms of our emotions, brains and cognitive processes? It doesn’t add up…. Turns out, what is responsible for the different kinds of high that we feel comes down to a strain's terpene makeup (that’s right folks, another compound found in cannabis), mixed with its cannabinoid makeup (reminder: THC or CBD). What terpenes do to us remains a little bit of a mystery. But isn’t it the unknown that always draws people in? It has certainly gained the attention of leading cannabis researchers who are continuously looking at terpenes as a way to better analyse cannabis and make better predictions as to what the effects will be. So, before we pack up our overnight bags, and set our expectations around what THC can do, let’s get the full story.

Terpenes? What Are Those?

Good question. Terpenes are a naturally occurring compound that is basically responsible for making the smell or taste of different strains of weed unique to the experience. So the next time you step out to your local cannabis retail store and you stop to smell the flowers, the different scents you will encounter are all due to the various terpenes. Found mostly in plants, terpenes are thought to be protective against grim weather and predators. Aside from cannabis, they can be frequently found in citrus fruits and aromatic herbs such as thyme or sage. Unlike THC or CBD, which are actually totally odourless, terpenes are composed of various sequences of aromatic hydrocarbons. This is responsible for the delightful, and oftentimes distinct aromas we know all too well. That citrusy smell of an OG Kush or Lemon Haze? Those are generally high in the terpene limonene.

The ones with that unmistakable pine aroma? Those terpenes would be Alpha and Beta-pinene, but more on these guys later. David Watson, along with his business partner, Robert Clarke, were the first to link the different highs of weed to the existence and affluence of terpenes.(Source) Watson’s hypothesis was that the “psychoactive flavours” that are notorious for blessing us with that THC high, and the severity and variance of that high, is directly related to terpenes. He put his theory to the test by comparing the effects of a terpene infused whole-plant cannabis resin to that of a 100% pure THC extract. He discovered that the whole-plant resin, regardless of the fact that it had half the amount of THC, was actually much stronger than the 100% pure THC extract.

There are some crucial similarities between terpenes and cannabinoids. For starters, they are both essential oils that are secreted by the cannabis plant’s resin glands. They both originate from a molecule called geranyl pyrophosphate known as “the building block”-- meaning how they are synthesised and where they are located in the cannabis plant are the same.

So, Different Terpenes = Different Kinds of High?

Precisely. However, there is still LOTS to be discovered when it comes to the different terpenes found in cannabis, and the different types of high they produce. They're working on it. In the meantime, please refer to this concise and relevant list of the most common terpenes you will encounter and what they can do to your mind and body.
  • Myrcene. This one you’ll come across pretty often. It’s got that OG musky, earthy kind of scent. It’s been known to help in relieving pain and inflammation, therefore, a solid muscle relaxer. As far as what kind of high you will feel? This is good for couch hangs with friends, or any other activity that involves doing absolutely nothing.
  • Limonene. Like an actual lemon, this terpene can be used for many different reasons. Known for its citrusy smell, it can be used to improve your mood, kill microbial bacteria, dissolve gallstones, and relieve acid reflux and heartburn.
  • Alpha and Beta-pinene. This terpene is the most common plant terpene in the world. It has that potent pine aroma and is known to improve energy levels, alertness and memory. It can also treat people who suffer from asthma.
  • Linalool. Nose-worthy for its scent of lavender, Linalool is known to reduce depression, anxiety, and the stress of life. It could also be used topically as a natural medication for treating acne and other skin conditions.
  • Beta-caryophyllene. This terpene is best known for being found in edible herbs such as oregano. Due to its ability to bind to CB2 receptors in the immune system, it has been found to help treat autoimmune conditions and inflammation.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Terpenes interact with cannabinoids in order to instigate activity in parts of our brain. However, there is still so much that is unknown regarding each of their unique psychoactive effects. We know that everyone on this planet is different down to our very core.

Our chemical makeups are different, and therefore each THC high will naturally be different for each of us. Until more is discovered, let’s embrace our differences, just like we were taught to, and ride out the wave, taking observations for improvements along the way. My friends, let summer begin.

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