Cannabinoids + Terpenes 101

Leave the Googling to Me

You know, when I started out this whole project to be a public stoner, I didn’t think I was going to have to brush up on my neuroscience and chemistry. But I was wrong. So very wrong. In this article I will explain the abbreviations and other sciencey words in layman terms, hopefully clearing up some of the confusion and saving you guys from a lot of googling.

When trying to predict how different strains might affect us, we often revert to sativa or indica, but it is becoming increasingly common to see cannabinoid and terpene percentages with our cannabis. Things like THC and CBD, and sometimes terms like pinene and linalool. What is all this stuff? What does it all mean?

Species or, what we thought was important

What you will find almost everywhere, is that the cannabis plant comes in three species: sativa, indica, and the lesser known ruderalis. Even still there is confusion and debate about this.

Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa is the warm weather plant, originating along the equator in Africa and South Asia. These plants love intense sun and grow tall to accommodate it. In the past (and currently) we associate a sativa strain with energy, euphoria, and giddy smoke sessions.

Cannabis Indica

Cannabis Indica is a landrace that originated in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. Cannabis Indica is suited for temperate climates and are bushy and thick. Indica strains have always been associated with narcotic type effects, couch lock, sleep, and pain relief.

Cannabis Ruderalis

Cannabis Ruderalis is the least known of cannabis species. Originating from Eastern Europe, Siberia and the Himalayas, ruderalis is suited for northern climates. These plants are smaller than their counterparts, and have very little in the way of psychoactive properties.

Common lexicon has always taught the stoner that strains from sativa plants are uplifting, focusing, and energizing while indica strains are relaxing and analgesic (pain relieving). However, advances in cannabis research has taught us that a lot more is going on beyond the species of plant.

In today’s cannabis landscape the species really just denotes geographical locations or physical characteristics of the strain. Sativa and indica are actually terms more for cannabis growers than cannabis consumers. And as it turns out, the species of cannabis plant has a lot less to do with the effects it has on us then we thought.

Cannabinoids: Where the Magic Lives

As our understanding of cannabis has expanded, so too has our knowledge of cannabinoids, the real building blocks behind how marijuana affects us. It is very likely that as we march into this new age of understanding, cannabis will be sold based on cannabinoids and terpenes, and not based on being sativa, indica, or hybrid.

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that are responsible for how the plant affects us. Right now there are 113 known cannabinoids that have been isolated by scientists, all with varying effects.

Humans and other mammals, as well as birds, fish and reptiles, have cannabinoid receptors. These are what the cannabinoids interact with to produce whatever effects we feel. Currently we know of two types of cannabinoid receptors, termed CB1 which affects the mind, and CB2 which affects the body, with evidence of more receptors.

Some Common Cannabinoids

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)

THC is the most well-known cannabinoid and is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. This is the stuff that gets us high and makes us fly. THC is also pain-relieving, an antioxidant, anti-depressant, anti-spasmodic, and reduces nausea.

CBD (cannabidiol)

CBD has become hugely popular because of it’s medicinal benefits. It is completely non-psychoactive, meaning, it does not make you “stoned”. Because of this it can be used safely in children, opening up a world of research into treatment of epilepsy and autism. Cannabidiol is pain relieving, anti-inflammatory, relieves anxiety, is antidepressant, anti-spasmodic, anti-eleptic, antibacterial, reduces nausea, relieves psoriasis, aids digestion, is a bone growth stimulant, treats rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, inhibits tumor cell growth and minimizes organ rejection. Amazingly, it also seems to combat memory loss associated with THC in mammals.

CBN (cannabinol)

Cannabinol is the mildly psychoactive byproduct of degrading THC. CBN is known for its sedating effect, acting as an excellent sleep aid. It is also pain relieving, stimulates appetite, and is anti-inflammatory as well as anti-convulsive.

CBG (cannabigerol)

CBG is non-psychoactive, and seems to be found more often in hemp rather than cannabis. Used to treat glaucoma and inflammatory bowel disease. CBG also seems to counteract the more paranoid head high of THC, as well as decreasing anxiety and muscle tension.

CBC (cannabichromene)

Cannabichromene is the second highest found cannabinoid in marijuana, so you can be sure you are getting some of it. It relieves pain, is anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and likely attributes to the overall analgesic properties of cannabis.

Terpenes: Those Which Delight the Senses

Terpenes are an easier concept to grasp because we encounter them every day. Terpenes are the huge class of hydrocarbons found in essential oils of many plants (and some stinky insects), notably in conifers and citrus plants. Think of the sharp and distinct smell of your morning coffee and you’ll get what terpenes are. Terpenes are the building blocks of essential oils and are responsible for the scent and taste of our cannabis. As most stoners have figured out, cannabis comes with a range of scents and flavors, from earthy to peppery to lemony to spicy. The reason for this lies in the terpenes.

Common Terpenes found in Cannabis


Pinene has the aroma of pine and can be found in many plants and herbs such as rosemary, pine needles, basil and dill. Pinene is known to promote alertness and memory retention. It is antiseptic, and can be used to treat asthma. Pinene also counteracts THC effects. Jack Herer is a cannabis strain with lots of pinene.


Myrcene is a fascinating terpene whose aroma can be described as cloves or spice. It is responsible for the sedating and relaxing effect, otherwise known as “couch lock”. Myrcene is found in hops, explaining why those dark ales make you sleepy-drunk. It is also found in thyme and mangos. Myrcene is an antioxidant and is anti-carcinogenic. It works well for treating muscle tension and insomnia, as well as pain and depression.


Limonene is easy to spot with its strong citrus scent. It’s found in the rind of fruit, peppermint and juniper. Citrus has long been associated with being antifungal, antibacterial and anti-carcinogenic. It’s also a natural mood-enhancer and can be used for stress relief. Limonene treats heartburn and may ease gastrointestinal issues.


My favorite terpene! Linalool is found in lavender, the aroma of mental balance. Lavender treats anxiety and sleeplessness. It’s an antidepressant and excellent for the skin. Also, it smells heavenly. The cannabis strain Lavender is one of my favorites for sexy times is Lavender, high in linalool.

Other factors Attributing to the Effects of Cannabis on Us

The Unique Conditions of the Grow

Like wine’s concept of terroir, cannabis is uniquely affected by the conditions of its growth. Two seeds, same strain, same species, grown in different ways, in different parts of the world, harvested in different ways, cured for different lengths of time… these seeds may grow into marijuana that effects the same person in two different ways.  

Your Own Unique Chemistry

It is so important to keep our unique self and chemistry in mind when researching strains. There is always a margin for error and you know yourself best. Read strain reviews to your heart’s content, but remember that you are as unique as the flower you smoke. You have your own terrior, if you will.

To really begin understanding how marijuana affects you, it’s a lovely idea to start a strain journal. Just like wine notes, you would notate the strain name, source, smell and appearance, and then, how it makes you feel. In the end this little journal may be the key to you finally figuring out your perfect dosage.

I hope this post helps to clarify some of the reasons cannabis makes us feel the way we feel. I wish you all the best of luck on your personal cannabis journey! As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Getting on my mailing list is a great way to do just that. You can just reply to my emails and BAM! We’ve got a direct line of communication!


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The Stoner Mom is a pulled-together, WAHM, SAHM, boo-boo kissing supermom. Most would assume she is not stoned. Most would be quite wrong.