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Cannabis Terpenes

Terpenes are naturally occurring chemical compounds primarily found in plants, though they are also found in some animal components like scales, yolks, and feathers. These aromatic compounds are found in high concentrations in fragrant plant matter and are responsible for the distinct flavors and smells of various plants, fruits, and flowers. 

Terpenes are a natural component of cannabis plants, and, to date, more than 200 terpenes have been found in its various strains. These compounds are responsible for the distinct aroma that is associated with cannabis and also the unique differences in sensory effects between cannabis strains. Though they account for only 5-10% of the chemical profile of the cannabis plant, terpenes play a significant role in what you smell, taste, and feel when you use cannabis, as well as the overall experience you have.

Terpene Benefits

Terpenes are critical chemical messengers. This role allows them to interact with other compounds in cannabis as well as in the human body once they are consumed. These compounds modulate cannabis’ therapeutic and psychoactive effects by working synergistically with compounds like CBD and THC to impact the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system of cannabinoid chemical receptors helps moderate functions like sleep, pain, memory, immune response, inflammation, and more.

Scientists have found terpenes have many therapeutic effects, including:

  • Anti-cancer – Terpenes appear to target cancer cells and cause effects like cancer cell death and reduced cell viability, slowing the spread of cancer. 
  • Pain Relief – Patients treating conditions that are characterized by chronic pain, like multiple sclerosis or fibromyalgia, may benefit from the analgesic properties of terpenes. 
  • Anti-Inflammatory – Terpenes’ ability to reduce inflammation can be beneficial for those experiencing asthma, arthritis, and some types of cancer.
  • Anxiety Reduction – Patients with anxiety disorders or stress-related anxiety may experience symptom relief with terpenes. 
  • Mood-Boosting – The anti-depressant effects of terpenes are beneficial for many patients, but especially those suffering from depression and other mood disorders. 
  • Anti-Convulsive – Those living with epileptic seizures and epilepsy may benefit from the anticonvulsant properties of some terpenes. 
  • Antioxidant – Antioxidants can help delay or prevent some types of cell damage by capturing or transforming harmful free radicals and neutralizing their effects.
Terpene Benefits

It’s important to note that more research is needed to confirm these early findings, particularly in-vivo studies.

Include Terpenes in Your Cannabis Journal

Maximize Terpenes Benefits

When planning your cannabis use, maximizing the potential benefits should be one of your top considerations. Methods to maximize the benefits of cannabis terpenes include:

  • Read the Label – Some lab-tested products will include terpene profiles naming the most prevalent terpenes and their concentrations. Understanding the information about the terpenes that are present in the cannabis strains you use can help you tailor your experience. 
  • Keep a Journal – If you keep a record of the terpenes in the cannabis products you use and note your reactions to each, it can help you tailor each experience to your needs and body processes. Strainprint is great for this, as it’s a mobile app that makes recording the effects as easy as a few taps.
  • Avoid Heat – Terpenes are more sensitive to heat than cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds. Cannabis users that want to experience more of the terpenes in their product would do well to select products with manufacturing processes that do not use heat, like ice water hash extracts.

Terpene Profiles

Gain a further understanding of terpenes by discovering which strains carry specific terpenes, their potential effects, expected aroma and taste, and other natural sources of the terpene. Though this is far from an exhaustive list of terpenes, learn about some of the most well-known and prevalent terpenes.

Terpenes vs. Cannabinoids

Terpenes and cannabinoids are both molecules found in cannabis plants that can moderate body processes. Terpenes are small molecules that are produced within thousands of different species of plants. They are easily detected by the human sense of smell and require only low heat to evaporate. The way the terpenes work depends on how the cannabis product was used: orally, topically, or inhaled. When used orally, topically, or via inhalation, terpenes appear to directly affect GABA receptors in the brain, inhibiting the neurons responsible for anxiety, stress, and pain. Terpenes can also affect olfactory receptors when inhaled. 

Cannabinoids are larger molecules that are almost exclusively produced by the cannabis plant. They interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system by acting on receptors within the system. This influences how the body experiences anxiety, sleep, pain, appetite, and more. The two most common are THC and CBD: THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis as well as many therapeutic effects, while CBD is not psychoactive but is responsible for other therapeutic effects like pain relief and inflammation reduction. 

Though terpenes and cannabinoids have different effects on the human body, they do work with one another to modulate responses in cannabis patients. Molecules within cannabis, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds, can be separated and studied to determine their effects. However, these molecules are believed to work together once cannabis is consumed to increase and alter the benefits of each individual component. This phenomenon is termed the entourage effect within the cannabis community.

Terpenes and Cannabis Classification

Cannabis users will be familiar with indica or sativa classification for cannabis strains, but you may not realize that the terms were first used to describe different species of the plant. Cannabis indica plants are short and stocky with chunky leaves and bushy greenery. Cannabis sativa plants are tall and lanky with thin, light green leaves. 

Though these are two distinct varieties of the cannabis plant, it is extremely difficult to find a pure strain due to widespread hybridization throughout cannabis history. These terms are now used by dispensaries and consumers to describe how strains make you feel. Indica-dominant strains typically have relaxing effects, while sativa-dominant strains typically have stimulating effects, though it’s important to note that strains affect each person differently. 

Terpenes may play a pivotal role in differentiating between various cannabis strains. Because of the entourage effect and the way cannabis molecules interact with the human endocannabinoid system, researchers believe  the suite of terpenes in a strain’s chemical fingerprint are what drive strain-specific effects.



Earthy and musky, terpene is prevalent in most all cannabis strains. Myrcene is known to enhance the THC uptake in the body. Found in mango, hops, thyme, and citrus fruits. Strains that contain 0.5% of the strain are typically indica, and full of sedative effects. Myrcene is useful in reducing inflammation and chronic pain.


Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, pain relief, sedative, muscle relaxant


Musky, herbal, earthy


Cherry On Top, Boston Cream, Grape Cream Cake, Tangie, Durban Dream, Triangle Kush, Wedding Kush Mints


Hops, lemongrass, basil, mango, thyme, ylang-ylang

Myrcene Image
Limonene Image



Second most abundant terpene, though not all cannabis plants have it. Common in sativas, limonene has the unique ability to quicken the absorption of other terpenes into the body. Associated with elevated mood, and anti-stress. Also in citrus rinds, juniper, and mint.


Anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, antifungal, anti-bacterial, improves mood, relieves nausea




Minty Blizzard, Tangie, Cherry Punch, Cotton Candy, Cherry Malt, Sour Jack, Strawberry Milkshake


Lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, rosemary



Most common naturally occurring terpene. Main contributor to cannabis’ piney aroma. Found in conifer trees, rosemary, basil, parsley, and orange peels. Pinene helps improve the airflow and respiratory functions, and helps reduce the memory loss related to excessive THC consumption.


Anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, boosts energy, improves focus


Pine, dill, woody


Jack Herer, Fruit Pops, OG Kush, Northern Lights, East Coast Sour Diesel, Grape Bubblegum


Conifer tree, pine needle, parsley, basil

Pinene Image
Linalool Image



Floral scents, reminiscent of sharp and sweet wildflowers. Also in lavender, laurel, birch, and rosewood. Calming and sedative properties help with anxiety. Helps patients with arthritis, depression, seizures, insomnia, and cancer.


Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, pain relief, sedative, muscle relaxant




Cherry Malt, OG Kush, Ice Cream Candy, LA Kush Cake, Rocky Road, Strawberry Milkshake, Th Soap, Watermelon Burst


Lavender, birchwood, cinnamon, mint, rosewood, sweet basil



The only terpene proven to interact with the endocannabinoid system. Peppery, woody and spicy, also found in basil, oregano, pepper and cinnamon. Beta-caryophyllene binds to CB2 receptors, which makes it an ingredient in anti-inflammatory topicals and creams. Shows promise in treating alcohol withdrawal.


Anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, pain relief, muscle spasms, sedative


Peppery, spicy, earthy, woody, cloves


Apricot Stomper, Banana Muffin, Boston Cream, Cherry Malt, Cherry On Top, Grape Cream Cake, MAC 1, Jet Fuel Gelato


Black pepper, cinnamon, hops, clove, oregano, rosemary

Caryophyllene Image
Humulene Image



Earthy scent. First terpene found in hops, also found in clove, sage, black pepper and coriander. Can be an appetite suppressant, offers anti-inflammatory abilities, relieves pain and fights bacterial infections


Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, pain relief, anti-suppressant, antifungal


Hoppy, woody, earthy, herbal


Watermelon Burst, GG#4,  OG Kush, East Coast Sour Diesel, Florida I-95, Pineapple Express


Hops, tobacco, sage, ginseng, cilantro



Piney aroma with notes of herbs and wildflowers. Natural insect repellent. Exhibits anti-cancer and sedating effects. Least common terpene. Also in rosemary, sage, and cypress.


Anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, sedative


Floral, lilac, lemon


B52 Bomber, Apricot Stomper, Jack Herer, Strawberry Cough, Yum Yum, Tangie


Nutmeg, tea tree, apple, lilac, sage

Terpinolene Image

Other terpenes prevalent in cannabis include:

  • Alpha-Phellandrene: This terpene has a citrusy peppermint scent and has medical value as an antifungal, anti-cancer, and pain-reducing agent. 
  • Bisabolol: A terpene with a soft floral aroma, bisabolol was primarily used in the cosmetics industry until its health benefits were discovered in cannabis.
  • Camphene: Known for the aroma of damp woodlands and fir needles, camphene has shown potential as an anti-fungal and antibiotic. 
  • Farnesene: This terpene has a woodsy, floral, vegetable flavor and is frequently found in lubricants and cannabis strains Fairy Godmother and Citral Glue. 
  • Guaiol: A terpene with a rose-like aroma, geraniol has medical value as an anti-fungal, antitumor, and neuroprotective agent. 
  • Ocimene: Known for its woody and sweet smell, ocimene is an anti-fungal also found in mint, basil, parsley, kumquats, and orchids. 
  • Terpineol: A terpene with a lilac and flower blossom scent, terpineol often accompanies pinene and is typically responsible for the “couchlock” effect. 
  • Valencene: Valencene has a sweet and citrusy aroma and is found in the Sour Diesel and Tangie strains.
Terpenes Guide

Find the Right Terpene Profile by Strain Type

Your cannabis experience will rely heavily on the cannabinoids and terpenes within the strain you choose and how you consume; however, this is not the only consideration to make when choosing to use cannabis. It is also important to choose a high-quality dispensary to ensure the products are of the highest quality. Learn all about various types of cannabis strains and their terpene profiles to find products that will work best for your needs.


  • Costa, A. M., Senn, L., Anceschi, L., Brighenti, V., Pellati, F., & Biagini, G. (2021). Antiseizure Effects of Fully Characterized Non-Psychoactive Cannabis sativa L. Extracts in the Repeated 6-Hz Corneal Stimulation Test. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 14(12), 1259.
  • Sommano, S. R., Chittasupho, C., Ruksiriwanich, W., & Jantrawut, P. (2020). The Cannabis Terpenes. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(24), 5792.
  • Tomko, A. M., Whynot, E. G., Ellis, L. D., & Dupré, D. J. (2020). Anti-Cancer Potential of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids Present in Cannabis. Cancers, 12(7), 1985.

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