How I Overcame My Fear of Terpinolene (and my fear in the process)

How I Overcame My Fear of Terpinolene (and my fear in the process)

How I Overcame My Fear of Terpinolene (and my fear in the process)

by Anna Ervin

It’s no secret that the terpene profile is an important factor to consider when shopping for cannabis. This data offers patients a deeper look at the aroma, flavor, and experience that each strain might offer, especially in conjunction with cannabinoid percentages. I recently took on my first bud-tending role, and through a quick training course on the science backing the medicinal benefits of cannabis, I was lucky enough to learn a little bit about the terpenes present in my medicine.

Anna Ervin, Portrait by NagyMedia

I use cannabis to help regulate my mental health, combat depression, and ease anxiety. However, as most patients are probably aware, at times those little green buds can induce or provoke anxiety. For years I had been experimenting with different consumption methods and paying attention to the different applications of cultivation in the industry, unable to crack the code and understand why feelings of paranoia and dis-ease sometimes accompanied my high. Finally, I was being presented with a whole new series of potential triggers to explore, and that’s exactly what I did. 

Terpinolene is one of the most commonly found terpenes in the plant, and is responsible for the citrusy, piney flavor many active strains take on. Its benefits are reported to be cerebral focus, mental clarity, and mood enhancement; but it’s important to note that in some cases the pendulum can swing too far, inducing anxiety, paranoia, and, well, too much clarity. In my eyes, I had finally pinpointed the root of my anxieties. Terpinolene must be the problem. 

Now, if you’re under the impression that I am here today to educate on the characteristics of terpenes, I’m sorry to disappoint. However, the majority of the research available can be found through a quick read-up on weedmaps or leafly. The reason I chose to write about this topic is more-or-less focused on consumer experience, and exploring a mindset that I feel I might share with others when shopping for cannabis. Before we dive any deeper, though, I should share a little bit about my background with plant-based medicine.

Cannabis Terpene Guide Information Chart. Aroma and Flavor with Health Benefits and Vaporize Temperature.

A week before my high school graduation, I lost my dad to liver failure. Years of taking prescribed pharmaceuticals destroyed his already weak liver, leaving me to enter adulthood questioning everything I had ever known about authority, medicine and trusting professionals. I hated the pharmaceutical industry for a long time, and I still remember spending much of my time scouring the internet for studies and stories which affirmed my distrust in big pharma. 

A few years later, my mom suffered her second major heart attack. By the grace of the universe she survived, but only after a near month in the hospital and a terrifying road to recovery. For weeks I watched doctors poke and prod at her seemingly lifeless body, and signed off on procedures that threatened her mobility, but would ultimately save her life. During this time my perspective on healthcare softened, and I found myself feeling a tinge of gratitude for the life-saving capabilities of western medicine.

Instead of blaming big pharma for all of the world’s illness, I decided to take a deeper look at preventative health, and explore how both of my parents ended up in hospital beds to begin with— furthermore, how not to end up there myself. 

These experiences invited me to consider how I take care of my body; the way I move, the ingredients I feed it, how often I hydrate. I began eating organic and natural foods, cutting animal products out of my diet, refusing to even touch pharmaceutical or over the counter medications. I consumed cannabis regularly at this time, but it wasn’t until I dove into Oklahoma’s cannabis industry in 2020 that I began to connect the dots and understand the role it played in my biochemistry as well. 

Fast forward to my surface-level research on terpenes: following my new discovery, I took about a 2 month hiatus from strains with high concentrations of Terpinolene. During this time I was settling into my new job at the dispensary. I had finally found a place that felt like home, was beginning to rebuild my finances and taking time to heal and nurture my body. Anxiety was a foreign concept to me, and for that I found myself grateful. I thanked the cannabis gods for allowing me to finally find a way to consume my favorite medicine without any negative side effects whatsoever. I even decided to write a story about Terpinolene and its devilish effect on my mental health. *oh, ehrm… hi*

In order to write this story, however, I needed to do a little more research. After all, what kind of journalist would I be if I didn’t make a habit of reporting first-hand experiences? So, on Monday of the most stressful week of the entire year (if you guessed Christmas we’re the same brand of Grinch), I brought home

 2 of the dispensary’s most active strains, boasting up to 2% concentrations of terpinolene: Heartland Farms’ XJ-13, and Native Veteran’s Windwalker. 

Anna Ervin, Portrait by NagyMedia

Other patients had warned me about the latter, “if you have anxiety, Windwalker is not for you,” but to my surprise, I found both strains to offer pleasant, uplifting, sometimes even dreamy experiences. Confused by this response, and a little disappointed that my story had seemingly slipped away from me, I at the very least found a little joy in discovering two new favorite strains to add to my roster. I began to accept the fact that there simply isn’t enough research on cannabis to help me confidently identify the perfect cocktail of terpenes to cannabinoids to ease the anxious mind… then it happened.

As I rushed out of my house Christmas morning, I decided to take a considerably large bong rip of another beloved favorite of mine by Resonant Cultivation, Monkey Berries. While I typically find myself relaxed and comfortable with this variety, on that particular morning I became overwhelmed with anxiety. My head was racing, I couldn’t focus, I wanted to crawl out of my own mind just to find some peace and quiet. I began thinking about how I had expected this very experience to come from XJ-13 and Windwalker. 

At that moment, the following revelation brought me more peace than any substance, plant, or therapist has instilled in me in my entire life. 

I have to stop blaming cannabis for my anxiety and start asking myself what I’m meant to learn from these moments of distress. 

It’s not the fault of anyone terpene that I sometimes find my thoughts spiraling, nor is THC to blame for the slew of negative thoughts that swim through my mind, promoting paranoia. Cannabis merely brings these issues to the surface in an attempt to help me heal. Sure, Terpinolene might be more or less likely to bring up those feelings, especially when paired with high percentages of THC, but at the end of the day, cannabis is working with my endocannabinoid system to bring my body into a state of homeostasis. In other words, all of these yummy terpenes and cannabinoids are working together to give my body exactly what it needs. 

So, next time my anxiety makes an appearance, I’ve decided to stop asking myself “what did I smoke to cause this,” and instead start taking a deeper look at the emotions those moments of discomfort are bringing up for me. For example, if my fear signals are sounding off like an alarm in my body, what are they trying to communicate to me? Am I safe, taking care of myself, and honoring my boundaries? Or, on the other hand, if the stress is unnecessary and I find something in my life repeatedly causing it, what can I do to shift or diminish its influence? 

I’m sure you’ve seen this quoted somewhere on the internet recently, but healing is not linear. It’s not a straight shot to a healthy, happy lifestyle, and there is no concrete destination. Healing is a constant journey full of highs and lows, giant leaps and major setbacks. Cannabis is simply a compass to help us find our way. It may not always lead us in the easiest direction, but we can count on it to point us in the right direction.


Anna Ervin, Portrait by NagyMedia