What you should know about cannabis terpenes

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Terpenes are a class of hydrocarbon molecules found in plants. There are over 100 different kinds of terpenes found in nature, and each one has a unique scent and taste. Cannabis terpenes give it many unique aromas, including the familiar smell of a pine tree, lemongrass, or the citrus tang of a tangerine. 

When it comes to medical marijuana, most people know that the cannabinoids contained in cannabis can have therapeutic effects on the body. But did you know that terpenes also have many health benefits? Terpene profiles can vary depending on the strain and growing conditions, so they’re worth understanding if you want to get the most out of your pot product. Read on to find out more!

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are organic compounds that give plants their aromas. They are responsible for the smells of pine trees, cherries, and lemongrass. Cannabis, like other plants, contains terpenes that give the plant its unique aroma and taste. Terpenes are part of the natural essential oils of a cannabis plant and are also present in many species of conifers, flowers, herbs, and fruits. Terpenes in cannabis play a significant role in how we perceive the effects of cannabis.

Why are terpenes important?

If you consume enough marijuana regularly, you have probably noticed that some strains have more potent effects than others. This is due to the presence of certain terpenes within the strain’s resin/oil glands which makes it unique and gives it its own unique set of properties and effects related to its chemical composition.

The primary role of terpenes is to protect the plant from pests and disease, but they have many therapeutic effects. Cannabis terpenes are not psychoactive and generally have an uplifting effect, inducing a state of relaxation and well-being. Apart from giving cannabis its different flavors, some terpenes have medicinal properties.

Cannabis terpenes have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-spasmodic properties. They are widely used in aromatherapy. You can find them in various forms of plant medicine such as frankincense, myrrh, lavender, eucalyptus, lemon balm, tea tree oil, and many more.

Limonene terpene is quite common in cannabis and other plants. It has a pleasant citrus scent and is best known for its mood-boosting effects. Limonene also has antibacterial properties and is an effective antifungal, which may be why it can help relieve nausea. Humulene terpene has been the subject of much research, including black pepper, hops, and ginseng studies. One study demonstrated that Humulene could be an effective anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and appetite suppressant.

Which cannabis terpenes are suitable for you?

Cannabis terpenes are the cream of the crop when it comes to cannabis extracts. When used in conjunction with other cannabinoids, their medicinal and psychoactive properties can create profound healing, stimulate the mind, and even elevate mood. Cannabis-derived terpenes have also been shown to reduce anxiety levels and prevent psychosis in certain instances.

The following is a comprehensive list of cannabis terpenes and the benefits associated with each:

Myrcene terpene in cannabis


The most common terpene found in marijuana, myrcene produces an Indica-like sedative effect. It is responsible for the “couch-lock” feeling associated with Indica strains. It is often used as an ingredient in massage oils and other topical products, helping with muscle pain and tension.

Myrcene is also commonly found in hops and lemongrass where it produces a sedative effect. It is also found in mangos and basil.

What strains contain myrcene? Strains that contain most Myrcene are Grandaddy Purple, OG Kush and Harlequin.

Alpha-pinene terpene in cannabis


Acts as an antibiotic; anti-inflammatory; antiviral; bronchodilator; decongestant; enhances memory; increases alertness; helps prevent psychosis; improves muscle growth; acts as an insect repellent. Found in pine trees, rosemary, and eucalyptus.

Alpha Pinene is commonly found in herbs such as parsley, basil, dill and rosemary as well as some citrus fruits.

What strains contain Alpha Pinene? Strains that contain most alpha-pinene are Great White Shark, Blue Dream and Pineapple Kush.

Beta-caryophyllene terpene in cannabis


Antioxidant; anti-inflammatory; analgesic (pain reliever); antidepressant; antipsychotic; helps prevent cancer cell growth. Found in cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and oregano

What strains contain Beta-caryophyllene? Girl Scout Cookies, Sour Diesel and Bubba Kush.

Limonene terpene in cannabis


Another terpene that is a principal constituent of citrus peels. The scent of this terpene has been described as anything from lemons to limes to oranges. It is used in perfumes, cosmetics, cleaning products, and food flavorings due to its pleasant scent and citrus taste. In cannabis, limonene has antifungal properties and may also help treat stomach ulcers, gastric reflux disease, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.

What strains contain limonene? Strains that contain limonene are Wedding Cake and Cherry Kush.

linalool terpene in cannabis


It smells like floral lavender, and it’s one of the lesser-known terpenes found in marijuana plants. Linalool isn’t psychoactive, but it can impact your mood by altering your brain chemistry. Linalool possesses anti-anxiety effects, which may be due to its ability to influence GABA receptors in the brain.

What strains contain linalool? Amnesia Haze, Mazar and Wedding Cake.

Humulene terpene in weed


It’s most recognized for its powerful, dank aroma and flavor, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties. Humulene is a prominent aromatic terpene that has been shown to exhibit antifungal properties and increase the permeability of cell membranes. It is an analgesic and sedative-like myrcene, making it popular among Indica strains. Humulene is commonly found in sage and hops.

What strains contain humulene? Girl Scout Cookies, White Widow and Skywalker OG.

How do cannabis terpenes affect your high?

Terpenes aren’t intoxicating on their own. In fact, terpenes only affect the body when they’re ingested in conjunction with cannabinoids like THC. However, some terpenes do affect neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA and may have a calming effect on the brain.

Some cannabis strains contain more psychoactive terpenes than others. For example, indicas are often associated with a body high because they have higher myrcene levels than sativas. This is why you might feel sleepy after smoking an Indica. Myrcene directly impacts your level of sedation by targeting your central nervous system.

The way cannabis smells indicate its genetic makeup; the more robust the odor, the more fragrant and flavorful a strain’s smoke tends to be.THC levels are highly variable between strains and even within strains. Still, terpene profiles can be very consistent from plant to plant, making them a better indicator of the effects to expect from a specific strain.

How do cannabinoids and terpenes work together?

Cannabinoids affect different receptors in our brains. These receptors are involved in several processes and sensations, including memory, motivation, pleasure, pain, and stress. The different receptors respond differently to different cannabinoids. Terpenes interact with the cannabinoids within the plant to create unique effects. 

The “entourage effect” is a hypothesis that suggests that all of these components have to work together to produce the desired effects. In other words, cannabinoids and terpenes need each other to create the sensations we associate with cannabis.

The bottom line

Terpenes are the “perfume” of cannabis. The best way to learn about different terpenes is to experience them first-hand. There are plenty of marijuana strains out there with different terpene profiles for you to check out. Look for strains with a strong, aromatic scent, and you will likely find the most aroma-rich terpenes in that plant.

If you want to get even more familiar with cannabis terpenes, talk with some of your favorite budtenders or shop around in your local dispensary. They might be able to decode the aromas of specific marijuana strains and advise you on which ones to try out if you’re looking for specific effects!

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