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THC Percentage Isn’t Everything: The Entourage Effect

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If you’re buying cannabis based solely on THC percentage, you’re missing out on some of the dankest products on the market.

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is an important indicator of potency, but it doesn’t dictate how strong or enjoyable the effects of a given strain will be.

Other compounds found within the plant (such as terpenes and flavonoids) work synergistically with cannabinoids to determine the overall experience and felt effects.

This is known as The Entourage Effect.

The Importance of Terpenes

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds produced by cannabis that determine the aroma and flavour of specific cultivars.

Recent research shows that terpenes also affect the high produced by cannabis, along with the potential medical and therapeutic benefits. Terpenes are found in the trichome glands of cannabis plants, but they also naturally occur in a variety of plants, flowers, spices, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Here is a simple way to think about how aromas and flavours can affect your high —

When you eat or smell a sour lemon, you may feel a sense of heightened alertness and energy. Similarly, cannabis strains high in limonene (the terpene found in both lemon rinds and cultivars like Sour Diesel) may give some an energetic effect.

Many use lavender rocks and products to relax and fall asleep. Similarly, strains high in linalool (the terpene found in both lavender and cultivars such as Pink Kush) are known for their relaxing and calming effects.

Your Nose Knows

Strains that smell desirable to you personally will likely produce an effect that is desirable to you, personally. “Your nose knows” what kind of cannabis you like. We have scent jars prominently displayed in our shop so you can see and smell the buds before buying. Choosing a strain based on terpene composition (and aroma) is usually more effective than choosing based on Indica/Sativa distinction or THC percentage.

Moving Past THC and Effects

Besides, effects and high aren’t the only things you should be considering when buying weed. Finding strains that smell, taste and burn well can make smoking (or vaping) much more enjoyable.

Learning to enjoy different cannabis flavours and aromas can take your consumption experience to the next level. Wine connoisseurs aren’t drinking just to get drunk – they derive pleasure from the textures and tastes of each vino. Cannabis can be enjoyed in a similar manner.

The way your weed burns (in a joint, blunt or bowl) is crucial.

Cannabis smoke should be smooth and flavourful. White ash indicates that the bud you are smoking is clean and has been flushed and cured properly. A wet ring of oil around the cherry of your joint indicates that the cannabis you are smoking is highly resinous and potent. Cannabis that has been grown and finished properly should burn evenly and effortlessly, without having to be re-lit.

High in Terpenes

One perfect example of a Certified Dank strain that is lower in THC is the B.C. Organic Apple Toffee from Simply Bare. This strain comes in around 18% THC but tests over 3% terpenes, resulting in an insanely flavourful flower covered in trichomes. Apple Toffee (aka Jungle Apples) is grown from exotic genetics acquired from the Jungle Boys.

The combination of high quality genetics, growing methods and trimming/finishing processes makes this one of the best buds available on the legal market, regardless of THC percentage. Those who choose to only buy based on THC would likely pass on Apple Toffee and miss out on some of the finest cannabis around.

“Apple Toffee gets me way higher than some of the other, higher-THC strains that we carry. It doesn’t matter if it’s 18% or 28% – loud weed that tastes good will always get me feeling right.”

— SPENSIR, FOUNDER AND PRINCIPAL OF THC CANADA

An opposite example would be the Kush Mints strain from Qwest. This bud tested at almost 32% THC but produced lackluster effects and burned unevenly.

Although our budtenders suggested lower THC strains over the Kush Mints for this reason, many still bought it strictly for the percentage on the label. THC percentage can be misleading.

The Most Common Terpenes

According to most sources, there are at least 20,000 different terpenes in existence, with around 100 of those being found in the cannabis plant. Some of the most common terpenes you should know about are:

Myrcene

The most common and prevalent terpene found in cannabis, Mycrene typically produces an earthy, musky, clove-like aroma. Found in strains like White Widow, OG Kush, Harlequin and Blue Dream.

Pinene

This terpene is produced in both cannabis and conifer trees like pine and herbs such as rosemary. Found in strains like Jack Herer, Moby Dick and Super Silver Haze.

Limonene

This terpene is produced in both cannabis and fruit rinds, particularly citrus fruits. Found in strains like OG Kush, Super Lemon Haze and Sour Diesel.

Linalool

This terpene produces a calming, floral and spicy aroma. Found in lavender and strains like Do-Si-Dos and Zkittlez.

Caryophyllene

This terpene has a spicy aroma and gives black pepper, hops, cloves, cinnamon and basil their flavours. Commonly found in strains such as Original Glue, Bubba Kush, GSC and Gelato.

The Problem with Cannabis Lab Testing

The issues with buying cannabis based solely on THC percentage go deeper than just the Entourage Effect. The truth is, the process of legal market lab testing is flawed. Cannabis flower and products are not all tested by one, objective, government-run organization.

Instead, Licensed Producers work directly with privately-owned labs to create COAs (Certificates of Analysis) which are then provided to provincial cannabis boards. LPs selectively send in the top colas (the most potent buds) to be tested and then label their entire harvest at that percentage.

Additionally, LPs can re-submit the same flower as many times as they’d like until they receive a result they are happy with. Many send the same flower to several different labs and only choose the highest THC percentage test to publish.

Just because the jar you are buying says “28% THC”, doesn’t mean that the actual buds contained inside would test that high

This is just another reason that buying weed isn’t as simple as a mathematical equation of highest THC for the lowest price.

Our budtenders can speak to you extensively about each of the products we carry. We know which strains are fresh, which are the most flavourful, which burn well and which provide the most potent effects.

Researching terpene profiles, listening to budtender recommendations and smelling/examining the buds yourself are much more effective strategies than looking at cannabinoid percentages.

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