2020 Isolation Grow: Cultivars & Terpenes

May 6, 20202020 Isolation Grow Blog

One day in the garden with Brenden, we were silently and happily pruning. Brenden was working on a Harlequin plant displaying a Fibonacci sequence in its growth. We were both staring and marveling at the beauty, and the surprise of the discovery. Brenden took a deep breath, and with it, he noticed the Harlequin leaves smelling slightly like basil. I noticed the same scent. Made us both think about making Harlequin pesto. The reason for this odor is the terpene, myrcene, which you also find in basil, hops and mango. (Btw, mango is definitely a THC enhancer)

Odor is simply the surface value of myrcene. Did you know this terpene is also an analgesic, and an anti-inflammatory?

Myrcene is only one of approximately 200 terpenes that develop on cannabis. Generally, about 15-30 terpenes are the most likely to be found on cannabis and the majority of those develop in resin heads atop trichomes. 

When you walk into a cannabis garden that is flowering, and you are inundated with the onslaught of odors, what you are smelling are the terpenes as they develop on the flowers. When connoisseurs and budtenders of this plant discuss scents and flavors of specific cultivars, they are talking about terpenes.

Much time is justifiably spent discussing the medical properties of CBG, CBD, CBN etc. The farther we get into this plant, the more I’m understanding terpenes being one of the great, though least understood secret weapons of medical cannabis. 

We test for terpenes every year. Knowing these will tell you what that particular cultivar contains in terms of medical help. It also allows us to make special tinctures that combine both analgesic and anti-inflammatory terpenes. Mix in a few mood enhancing terpenes, and you’ve got a medical cocktail. We have had some success outside our family testing the veracity of our tinctures.

A couple years ago, my teacher at Oaksterdam had a friend in a jaws of life car accident. His leg was shattered, something like 60 different breaks. He was immediately put on opioids for the pain, and he did not want to remain on opioids.

We were asked if we could possibly give this man some of our tinctures, to see if they could help. This was the first chance we’d had to test if what we were making had any medical value for someone in real pain, who did not know us. 

When we were asked if we could help, I specifically remembered the words of another grower, who told me these words from another, older grower that had been passed down to him: “If you grow something special, share it. If someone is in need, give it.”


After that first weekend of trying our medicine, he spent the remainder of his recovery taking our tinctures, and not the opioids. He had a couple of daytime tinctures, and one for night. He said they were perfectly adequate for pain, and he slept through the night.

To be clear, we gave him a lot of CBD, and solid indica, but within those tinctures was a vast supply of terpenes as well. It all worked to help him over his traumatic injury without opioids.

One of the most interesting aspects of my cannabis journey has been discovering medical cultivars with little or no cannabidiol.

I shared our Blacklight story in the last blog. It remains our absolute go-to indica for knock out sleep. But as we’ve discovered, effective sleep is about more than indica. If our bodies are uncomfortable, our sleep will be impacted. I have been made deeply drowsy by indica, but still unable to sleep because of other varying forms of pain and discomfort. But if you can take a heavy indica that also provides analgesic and anti-inflammatory responses via terpenes, the body relaxing has a much greater chance of working.

In the case of Blacklight, her terpene profile was double or triple any other plant we’ve ever grown. I noticed when I ingested that cultivar, I experienced a general decrease in body pain similar to ingesting CBD. While there was half a percent of CBG in Blacklight, the cause for my relief was probably terpenes. Karen sleeps better on Blacklight than any other plant we’ve grown. 

I mentioned earlier that when Karen is badly flared up, she’ll take AC/DC or Ringo’s Gift, but she will also give herself a generous dose of White Widow. For whatever reason, the THC and terpene profile of that plant seems to cut through some of Karen’s arthritic pain.

Something else I did not know about terpenes before growing this plant is the role terpenes play in protecting flowering cannabis. Terpenes carry properties that can discourage pathogens.

As our testing has shown, terpene profiles vary wildly from plant to plant, even within the same cultivar family. For example, we have grown multiple seeds from specific cultivars in given years. The only difference was they were in different raised beds. They got the same food, water, and treatments, at the same time as all the other plants. Yet, they are markedly different in virtually every testable category. 

This is another strong endorsement for annual testing of harvest. If you don’t know, you cannot possibly make the best medicine from what you grow. You can guess based on previous years, but that is foolish. The same plant will grow entirely differently, and flower with different potency, from seed to seed, and year to year. 

(Regarding varying potencies from year to year, I recognize this is an opportunity for a further discussion of clones. I’ll get to that over the summer. It is also an example of how genotypes differ from seed to seed)

It helps to see specific cultivars tested year after year. Just like wine, there are good years and not so good years. With each year, I’m gaining knowledge about the cultivars that grow best, and most consistently in my beds. This year, I will be growing nothing but cultivars I’ve previously grown. Last year, all but one cultivar was brand new to me. But after four years, I’m beginning to understand the plants that like it here. That’s why I purchased AC/DC feminized seeds, as well as White Widow. We have grown those two cultivars very well, and will grow them again, because they continue to show medical value.

Perhaps the greatest frustration I have as a grower is I simply will never have enough time to try growing as many cultivars as possible. I am constantly searching for that breakthrough plant. I am currently interested in finding cultivars high in CBG. If anyone out there is enjoying this blog, and you have some spare Magic Jordan seeds lying around, I’m really interested for next year. 

More on that when I blog about CBG, CBD, CBN, etc.

For what it’s worth, this is our ranking for the CBD cultivars we’ve tried:

  1. AC/DC

      2)  Ringo’s Gift

      3) Harlequin

      4) CBD Therapy

      5) Sour Tsunami

      6) Harle-Tsu

      7) Omrita-RX

      8) Cannatonic

      9) Canna-Tsu

     10) CBD God

I don’t have negative things to say about any of these. The ranking is based entirely on how these cultivars worked for us. They all have medical value. CBD God is listed last, only because she had so little CBD. We’re going to grow her again, and see if we get different results. We loved CBD God as an indica dominant hybrid, however. She is also one of the most beautiful cultivars we’ve ever grown. That is her at the top of the page. The kief at the bottom is from the Sour Tsunami. We capture kief from every plant we trim.

Jeffery Hickey
Oaksterdam Alumni

Jeffrey Hickey is a 2014 IPPY award winning novelist, performing in over 900 Reader’s Theater shows that featured his authorship of adult novels, and books for children. His accomplishments include a program of self-empowerment and effective oral communication, “Find Your Voice,” that he taught in public and private schools throughout Northern California. Jeffrey is the father of twin sons, and is arguably the happiest married man on the planet.