How to Max Out the Terpenes in Your Next Grow

Francis Cassidy October 20, 2020 0 comments

Plant-based terpenes not only create flavor and aroma, these have serious medicinal potential.

For anyone cultivating their own cannabis, there are a few tips to ensure a potent crop, laden with sweet-smelling, plant based terpenes. Grow flowers with maximum medicinal benefit.

The Power of Plant-based Terpenes

There are over 50,000 known terpenes across nature. These help plants perform essential functions that extend from attracting pollinators to repelling pests and even enabling plant communication.

As the scientific community begins to understand the inner workings of the cannabis plant in greater detail, consumers are no longer solely motivated by cultivars high in THC. Rather, many are just as interested in the presence of the potent-smelling hydrocarbons, known as terpenes.

Further, the presence of terpenes can serve to enhance the therapeutic benefits of the plant. Cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo headed a study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology (2011), that investigated the medicinal effects of terpenes when consumed in conjunction with other plant compounds.[1]Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364. … Continue reading Researchers found that the synergies that play out between terpenes and cannabinoids serve to enhance cannabis’ medicinal properties. Even for patients looking for relief from more common conditions like anxiety, depression, and pain, the presence of terpenes can have radical effects on the potency of cannabis as medicine.

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When it comes to ensuring optimal terpene content in the plant, that responsibility lies with the growers. Here are some key tips to help home growers ensure that their plants express the terpene content they are capable of.

Plant-based Terpenes for Growers

Terpene production in cannabis comes down to four essential factors:

  • genetics,
  • nutrients,
  • lighting,
  • and timing.

Some cultivars breed the plants to have the genetics to produce more terpene content, but, not all soil has the nutrient profile to support this.

And then, of course, there is the hard-earned wisdom of the top growers, those who know what a plant lacks, when to harvest, and how to cure it for maximum preservation of the terpenes. Novice growers can learn all about these methods to increased plant based terpene content.

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Choose Quality Genetics for Maximum Terpene Content

Quality genetics is one of the most important factors in achieving high terpene content. Not all cultivars are created equal, and with decades of artificial selection, many cultivars produce more favorable terpene profiles than others. Cultivars known for their high terpene content include Hindu Kush, OG Glue, and Bruce Banner.

To start off on the right foot, home growers should research a series of cultivars with the terpene profile that interests them, and pick the cultivar with the terpenes that target the condition they are trying to treat.

Don’t Skimp on Poor Soil

When it comes to evaluating the effects of soil quality on terpene production, it’s perhaps best to compare it to the wine industry. Wines from different parts of the world are renowned for their unique flavor profile. And it’s the characteristics of the soil in which they grow that imparts much of that flavor.

Cannabis is no different, and without the presence of the essential building blocks in the soil, terpene production will never reach its potential.

plant based terpenes represented by field with wildflowers and pine trees in back

Why Light Influences Terpene Production

Whether artificial or natural, light is essential for all plant growth. Those growing under artificial lighting should create an even canopy, with every cola exposed to as much light as possible.

No scientific studies currently exist on how direct sunlight impacts terpene content in cannabis plants over artificial light. But, anecdotal evidence from growers suggests that exposure to natural sunlight can further enhance terpene production. This may be due to the increased presence of other wavelengths of light that plants evolved to grow with.

Regardless of the light source, the most critical takeaway is to maintain an even canopy, something best achieved via effective plant training.

Train Plants for Maximum Terpene Content

Left to their own devices, cannabis plants often engage in a race skyward to consume the available light. The end result is uneven growth. Here, vast swaths of the plant don’t receive enough light to promote optimal terpene expression.

Training helps ensure that the entire canopy can use the available light effectively. It involves several procedures, one of which involves pruning low lying branches not exposed directly to light. Another involves stressing the young plant. The grower can accomplish this by gently tying it to the edge of the pot, and gradually moving it around clockwise every couple of days. This form of plant training helps encourage horizontal growth as opposed to vertical growth. When used in conjunction with a trellis net later in the growing phase, it results in a flat canopy that makes optimal use of the available light.

The Harvest Window

It’s important to harvest at the right time. One common mistake is to wait too long, at which point, the terpene content can begin to break down. Trichomes tend to shift from having a clear appearance to a more cloudy look as they develop. Inspecting the trichomes with a magnifying glass will help ensure optimal timing of the harvest.

Once harvested, climatic control is of paramount importance. The terpene content will quickly begin to degrade within the trichomes. Moreover, during the curing process, it’s essential to control both temperature and humidity.

  • The temperature should ideally remain under sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Humidity should be kept consistent in the forty-five to fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit range.

Handle With Care

Cannabis buds are delicate once cured, and too much movement or touch can dislodge the trichomes. To avoid losing them, handle the buds with care, only when necessary, and avoid agitating them needlessly.

Once dried and cured, storage becomes an important factor in preserving those hard-won terpenes. Always store cannabis in an airtight container away from light, heat, and moisture.

plant based terpenes represented by closeup on cannabis flower

Plant-based Terpenes: Holistic Medicine

With cannabis bud that’s rich in terpene content, medicinal consumers can expect enhanced therapeutic potential in addition to the improved flavor. Finally, whether it’s the elevated mood and stress relief of limonene, the sedating and sleep-enhancing properties of myrcene, or the calming and anti-anxiety effects of linalool, the terpene profile of the plant can greatly enhance its therapeutic potential.

While science continues to uncover more on the benefits of terpenes, cultivators continue to focus their attention on producing these in higher quantities. Accordingly, the future of plant based terpenes in medicinal cannabis seems bright.


Author avatar

Francis Cassidy
Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog

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