Terpenes! What are they and why do they matter?

Depending on how familiar you are with cannabis, you may have heard a little something about terpenes. If you aren't familiar with cannabis, check out our previous posts on the endocannabinoid system and the one on cannabinoids so you are up to speed!

Terpenes are a large and diverse group of compounds produced by a variety of plants in nature. They often have a strong odor and are produced by plants to help protect from a variety of pests and diseases, as well as to lure pollinators.

In relation to cannabis, these terpenes are secreted in the same glands that produce the cannabinoids we know and love such as THC and CBD, and they are responsible for the distinct aromas and flavors that you can find and smell in a variety of strains, from citrus to mint to pine to berry.

These terpenes aren't just natural flavor additives however. Terpenes seem to play a key role in differentiating the perceived effects of various cannabis strains. Some may promote focus, others may promote relaxation, and everything in between.

So far over 100 different types of terpenes have been discovered in cannabis, with each strain tending to have its own unique terpene profile, in addition to its unique total cannabinoid profile. Both the terpene profile and the total cannabinoid profile impact each other in what is known as the entourage effect, giving each cannabis strain its unique effects and flavors.

What this means is that when people find a strain that “works” for them, they have really discovered the ideal terpene and total cannabinoid profiles that help fuel their unique endocannabinoid system! Terpenes add depth to the therapeutic benefits cannabis.

So lets take a quick look at a few of the most common terpenes found in cannabis!


Myrcene is also found in mango, lemongrass, and hops. This terpene is believed to promote calming effects. Also seems to be sedating, with potential therapeutic value as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, an analgesic (anti-pain), and a sleep aid. Most commercial cannabis strains are myrcene dominant. Famous myrcene strains include OG Kush, Cherry Pie, Blue Dream, and Granddaddy Purple.


Limonene is also found in juniper, lemon rind and orange rind and rosemary. This terpene is believe to promote stress relief and provide an elevated mood. Possible therapeutic effects include anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-cancer. Well known limonene trains include Strawberry Banana, Do-Si-Dos, White Fire OG, and Wedding Cake.


Caryophyllene is also found in black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. It is the only known terpene to also act as a cannabinoid by activating our endocannabinoid system to provide anti-inflammatory effects. Other possible therapeutic uses include as an analgesic, anti-ulcer, anti-anxiety, and anti-depression. Well known caryophyllene strains include Girl Scout Cookie, Purple Punch, and Original Glue.


Terpinolene is also found in tea tree, nutmeg, lilacs, conifers, apples and cumin. This terpene is believed to have uplifting mood effects as well as being an antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-cancer. Famous terpinolene strains include Jack Herer, Ghost Train Haze, XJ-13, and Chernobyl.


Pinene is also found in rosemary, pine needles, basil, dill and parsley. This terpene shows therapeutic value as a treatment for asthma and anxiety as well as exhibiting analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-cancer properties. It is the most common natural terpene in the world. Well known pinene strains include Big Smooth, Critical Mass, and Snoop's Dream.


Humulene is also found in coriander, basil, cloves and hops. It has an herbal aroma and may provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Well known humulene strains include Girl Scout Cookie, Sherbert, and Gelato.


Ocimene is also found in parsley, pepper, mint, mangoes, orchids, basil and kumquats. This terpene shows promise as an anti-viral, anti-fungal, antiseptic, antibacterial, and decongestant. It is commonly used in perfumes due to its sweet citrusy aroma. Well known ocimene strains include Clementine, Amnesia, and Dutch Treat.


Linalool is also found in lavender and birch bark. This terpene is believe to promote relaxation and calming effects. It also shows therapeutic promise in the treatment of anxiety and depression, as a sleep aid and pain reliever, and in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Famous linalool strains include Kosher Kush, Zkittlez, and Do-Si-Dos.

There are more terpenes out there but these are some of the most important and common in regards to cannabis.

Now combine the knowledge of these terpenes with your knowledge of the endocannabinoid system and how the various cannabinoids and endocannabinoids activate your receptors, and you are ready to move beyond cannabis strain pseudoscience!

You are now empowered and ready to pick out which strains will actually work for you! Not based on their subjective names (which can serve as useful guideposts but also be misleading and confusing) but on their total cannabinoid and terpene profiles and the synergistic entourage effects offered within.

Knowledge is power!

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