FEB 10, 2023 7:23 AM PST

Report Sheds Light on Cannabis Consumers' Cultivar and Terpene Preferences

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Charron

Researchers recently conducted a study of cultivar classification, and terpene content was associated with subjective cannabis effects. There are many common claims that cultivar classification and terpene content produce different subjective effects that are so far are unsubstantiated. 

This is the first study to examine whether classification (sativa or indica) and terpene content (caryophyllene, limonene, myrcene, pinene, and terpinolene) are associated with effects such as pain reduction, anxiety management, and mood enhancement. 

One hundred one regular cannabis users participated in a 2-week long ecological momentary assessment study. Participants responded to questions about their cannabis use, stated their preference (sativa or indica), and reported their subjective effects within 30 min of smoking cannabis. Cultivars were coded for sativa versus indica classification and primary terpene content using the cannabis search engine Leafly. The researchers conducted linear mixed-effect models to examine subjective response by sativa/indica and primary terpene. Other data gathered included covariates such as demographics (age, sex, race, income), cannabis use (medical use, cannabis use frequency, stated preference for sativa/indica, global expected cannabis effects), morning pain ratings, and specific smoked cannabis occasions (hour of day, minutes since use, context, number of hits, and tetrahydrocannabinol potency).

A majority of participants (78.3%) had a preference for either sativa or indica, and their rationale aligned with industry claims about cannabis products. After controlling for covariates, findings revealed that cultivars classified as indica dominant were associated with greater low arousal. For example, participants reported effects of feeling sluggish or slow relative to the unweighted mean of all cannabis cultivars. 

The analysis also revealed participants’ descriptions of terpenes. Cultivars with primary caryophyllene were associated with greater pain ratings and negative effects relative to the mean of all other terpene types. Cultivars with a significant level of pinene were associated with fewer negative effects. Cultivars classified as indica dominant were associated with greater low-arousal effects in models that accounted for both within- and between-person variation, despite the scientific challenges distinguishing between sativa and indica. Preliminary findings also suggest terpenes may play a role in subjective effects. These results emphasize the need for further research, particularly controlled lab studies.

Source: Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kerry Charron writes about medical cannabis research. She has experience working in a Florida cultivation center and has participated in advocacy efforts for medical cannabis.
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