What are terpenes?


You may or may not have heard of terpenes, but even if you didn’t know it, you’ve spent your life surrounded by them. In the simplest terms, terpenes are the chemicals responsible for the way things smell. From the piney aroma of the woods to the pungent odor of a recently angered skunk, the essence of each individual scent is derived from terpenes.

Terpene or Not Terpene?

Why should you care about terpenes? Well, when it comes to cannabis, terpenes have the potential to help shape your experience. Different terpenes have been shown to invoke a variety of strong human responses and are often considered an effective method of mood enhancement. From relaxation to concentration, terpenes offer an extensive array of mood-promoting scents to complement your flower. Studies indicate that depending on their medicinal properties, terpenes can even add therapeutic value to the cannabis plants.

So now that you know what terpenes are, how can you put that knowledge to use? The first step is familiarizing yourself with some of the terpenes more commonly found in cannabis plants. From the hoppy smell of an IPA to the delicate floral aroma of lavender, each smell has a personality all its own. The following is a non-comprehensive list, compiled by Analyticalcannabis.com, that explores the wide world of terpenes in the context of cannabis:

The Terpene Chart

Currently, there are at least 20,000 different terpenes in existence and the cannabis plant has more than 100 of these terpenes. Many terpenes that are produced by the cannabis plant are also found elsewhere in nature. However, there are a couple of terpenes that are in high concentrations in cannabis plants. Here are the ones to know.

Myrcene terpene

Myrcene, which can also be found in mangoes, is the primary terpene found in cannabis plants. In fact, some plants can have up to 65 percent of their terpene profile made up by myrcene alone. Myrcene has relaxing properties as well as anti-inflammatory properties.

Limonene terpene

The second most abundant terpene found in cannabis, limonene can also be found in various citrus fruits and is responsible for the citrusy smell. However, it may not be present in all cannabis strains. Limonene has powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties, and its great smell means that it is a common additive in household cleaning and cosmetic products. Limonene can also help to bust stress and enhance mood.

Pinene terpene

This terpene’s name says it all, really. Pinene is found most abundantly in the pine tree and is what gives pine needles their distinctive smell. It’s found in two varieties: alpha, which is responsible for that wonderful pine aroma, and beta, which has a scent like rosemary, dill, or parsley. Pinene is a strong bronchodilator but also has strong anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects that have been used for centuries in herbal medicines.

Linalool terpene

If you’ve ever used lavender for its relaxant effects, then you’re familiar with the terpene linalool. Linalool is widely known for its stress-relieving, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant effects. Linalool can help to balance out the anxious side effect sometimes produced by THC which makes it an ideal terpene for the treatment of anxiety.

Caryophyllene terpene

This terpene, which has a spicy, woody, peppery scent, is also found in black pepper and cinnamon. Studies indicate that this one small terpene is capable of performing the big job of treating anxiety, depression, and inflammation.

Humulene terpene

While many other strains help to increase appetite, which is beneficial to those who have conditions which include nausea and loss of appetite, strains that contain humulene may actually help to decrease appetite. Found in hops, cloves, and basil, humulene has also shown anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties in research.

Source: Jacobs, Michael. The Difference Between Cannabinoids and Terpenes. Analytical Cannabis. 21 February 2019.