The Second most active ingredients in Cannabis are Terpenes. They play a defining role in the overall aroma of cannabis. Terpenes are what give oranges, lemons and limes their citrus smell. They are the reason you sneeze when you smell fresh cracked pepper. They make pine smell like pine, mint smell like mint, and roses smell so sweet. In other words, Terpenes are compounds that determine how something smells.
Terpenes and Cannabis
Terpenes were originally thought to only control the smell of Cannabis. However, further research has concluded that they also influence the effects of the Cannabinoids. Similar to the soothing effects of Lavender, some terpenes can affect the overall experience of consuming cannabis. In fact, by working together, terpenes and cannabinoids create something called “the entourage effect”. This “effect” refers to the benefits you experience as a result of combining all of the available cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds found in cannabis. By working together, each compound grows stronger with the others’ presence, hence the term “entourage effect.”
Many people receive relief from either CBD Isolate or THC Distillate (single cannabinoid extracts). The greatest benefits of cannabisare most prevalent in full-spectrum extracts. Full-spectrum refers to receiving benefits from the full-spectrum of compounds present in cannabis. In fact, many cannabis concentrates are manufactured and marketed as HTFSE or “high terpene full-spectrum extracts”. Terpenes can either intensify or corral the effects of cannabinoids, depending on their presence in the overall terpene profile.
To date, over 20,000 different terpenes have been identified and studied. A single cannabis plant can contain over 100 of these unique compounds. Most of the terpenes in cannabis can also be found in many other plants and organic matter. Many of them exist in small, even unnoticeable amounts. Below we will identify and describe the most prevalent terpenes contained in the cannabis plant.
Caryophyllene has spicy notes of wood and black pepper. You can find it in cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and Thai basil. Also, you can find it in small quantities in lavender. Additionally, It is a large part of the manufacturing of chewing gum. For its signature taste, Chewing gum uses Caryophellene and a combination of other natural and artificial flavours.
Caryophyllene is a natural anti-inflammatory and is excellent for treating anxiety and depression. It has also shown great promise in use for cancer treatment plans. Research has proven that Caryophyllene selectively binds with the CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, which reduces the psychoactive effects of other cannabinoids.
You can find Caryophyllene in cannabis strains like Rockstar, Skywalker OG and Super Silver Haze.
Humulene has earthy notes of hops and clove. You can find it in hops, cloves, basil, and Vietnamese coriander. For our beer enthusiasts, Humulene is what gives beer its distinct flavour. For example, hoppier beers like IPA’s are brewed with the addition of large amounts of hops. The hops are boiled to release the Humulene so that the aroma and flavour remain in the final product.
Humulene is a potent anti-inflammatory, especially when combined with Caryophyllene. In fact, Humulene is an isomer of Caryophyllene, meaning they share the same number of atoms, just in a different arrangement. Also, Humulene acts as an ant-bacterial and an anti-tumour compound. It is most commonly used as an appetite suppressant and has been prescribed in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years.
You can find Humulene in cannabis strains like Girl Scout Cookies, Liberty Haze and Sour Diesel.
Limonene has sweet notes of bright citrus like orange, lemon and lime. You can find it in citrus fruit rinds, juniper, peppermint, pine needles and rosemary. Additionally, Limonene is also a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal compound. Plants actually use Limonene as a natural insecticide. As a result, you can find most household cleaning products use Limonene for its combination of scent and cleaning power.
Limonene is the second most prevalent terpene in cannabis. Limonene is an excellent stress reliever on top of its other benefits and has a profound impact on mood and attitude. It can be used preventatively to combat cancer cells’ growth and is currently undergoing clinical trials in the treatment of breast cancer. Limonene also assists the skin and other tissues in absorbing other terpenes.
You can find Limonene in cannabis strains like OG Kush, Super Lemon Haze and Sour Diesel.
Linalool has light floral notes and undertones of lavender. You can find it in over 200 species of different plants. However, it is most prevalent in birch, cinnamon, lavender, mint and rosewood. It has incredible anti-anxiety, anti-depression and stress-relieving effects. In addition, it makes an excellent sleep assistant. The EPA has approved Linalool as a flavouring agent and a scent, as well as a pesticide to combat cockroaches, fruit flies and fleas.
Linalool is also a strong anti-inflammatory. Some people use it regularly to boost overall health and immunity. It does this by activating certain immunity cells directly. For example, it has been shown to increase cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients by repairing damaged and diseased cells. Linalool can also assists in reducing lung inflammation caused by the carcinogens in tobacco.
You can find Linalool in cannabis strains like Amnesia Haze, Pink Kush and Super Silver Haze.
Myrcene has earthy and musky notes of clove and herbs. It is what is responsible for giving cannabis its signature scent. You can find it in bay leaves, citrus fruits, eucalyptus, hops, lemongrass, mangoes and wild thyme. It is praised for its relaxing qualities as well as being a powerful anti-inflammatory. Additionally, Myrcene lowers the resistance across the blood-brain barrier. This allows chemicals to pass through much more quickly. As a result, it allows for a higher maximum effect from cannabinoids.
Myrcene is the primary terpene in the cannabis plants. In fact, some plants can have a terpene profile that includes up to 65% Myrcene. It plays a defining role in the classification of cannabis strains. Those with a chemical makeup containing over 0.5% Myrcene are classified as Indica. It is the Myrcene that gives Indica strains their famous “couch-lock” effects. This makes Myrcene excellent at treating both pain and insomnia.
It is also a powerful analgesic, antibiotic and anti-mutagenic, blocking certain pro-mutagenic carcinogens. Finally, due to the prevalence of Myrcene in mangoes, it has become commonly practiced to ingest mango approximately 30-45 minutes before smoking cannabis to increase its effects.
You can find Myrcene in cannabis strains like Blue Dream, OG Kush and White Widow.
Ocimene has sweet notes of citrus, wood and herbs. You can find it in a wide variety of fruits and plants. It is most prevalent in basil, kumquats, mangoes, mint, parsley, pepper and orchids. However, it is also in a long list of botanicals. Perhaps its most common use as a fragrance in perfumes.
Ocimene has many potential medicinal benefits, including antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and antiviral properties. Additionally, it makes an excellent decongestant. In the wild, Ocimene acts as a natural defence for plants against climate changes.
You can find Ocimene in cannabis strains like OG Kush, Space Queen and Strawberry Cough.
Phellandrene has sweet notes of wood, peppermint and light citrus. It was first discovered in Eucalyptus oil, earning a distinction outside of limonene and pinene. In fact, many essential oils depend nearly entirely on Phellandrene.You can find it in black pepper, cinnamon, dill, eucalyptus, garlic, ginger, grand fir, lavender, parsley, pine and Tumeric. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicines for hundreds of years to combat digestive disorders and fungal infections.
Phellandrene absorbs easily through the skin, making it ideal for use in cosmetic products. When used in conjunction with limonene, it can provide powerful anti-depressive and pain-reducing effects. Additionally, Phellandrene also has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
You can find Phellandrene is cannabis strains like the fabled Jack Herer and Trainwreck.
Pinene has strong aromas of, you guessed it, Pine. However, it also has subtle notes of dill, fir, parsley and rosemary. It is responsible for giving pine needles their unmistakable scent. In fact, Pinene is the most commonly occurring terpenes in nature. It is especially prevalent in balsamic resin, citrus fruits and of course, pine woods. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicines as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic for hundreds of years.
When combined with other chemicals, Pinene can actually form new terpenes, such as Limonene and other beneficial compounds. It assists to reduce inflammation in bronchial paths and the lungs and as a local antiseptic. Additionally, the Pinene collected from fresh pine needles has shown promise as an anti-cancer compound. Finally, Pinene works to lessen the effects of THC in the endocannabinoid system.
You can find Pinene in cannabis strains like Blue Dream, Mango Haze and Strawberry Cough.
Terpinolene has a much more complex aroma than any of the other terpenes. While most terpenes have a distinct scent, Terpinolene’s scent is more a combination of other aromas. You can detect flowery notes of pine and herbs and sweet fruity notes of apple and citrus. Similarly, the flavour is a combination of light citrus and herbs. As a result, it is ideal the production of perfumes and soaps. You can find Terpinolene is apples, cumin, lilacs, Monterey cypress, nutmeg, rosemary, sage and tea tree. In fact, it is a huge part of the makeup of both sage and rosemary oils.
Scientists have discovered Terpinolene’s profound impact on the central nervous system. It acts as a depressant in that it induces drowsiness and reduces excitement and anxiety. Also, Terpinolene has a strong impact on reducing the development of certain proteins that form cancerous cells.
You can find Terpinolene in cannabis strains like Chernobyl, Ghost Train Haze and Jack Herer.
- Bailey Rahn (2014) “What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?” Leafly. Available from https://www.leafly.ca/news/cannabis-101/terpenes-the-flavors-of-cannabis-aromatherapy (Accessed January 22, 2021)
- Michael Jacobs (2019) “The Difference Between Cannabinoids and Terpenes” Analytical Cannabis. Available from https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/the-difference-between-cannabinoids-and-terpenes-311502 (Accessed January 22, 2021)
- “Introduction to Terpenes” Medical Jane Cannabis Classroom. Available from https://www.medicaljane.com/category/cannabis-classroom/terpenes/#introduction-to-terpenes (Accessed January 22, 2021)
- “Terpene” Wikipedia. Available from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terpene
1 thought on “Cannabis 103: A Guide to Terpenes”
Wow, I had no idea how much I didn’t know about cannabis. I knew Sativa INdica Hybrid sure, but this, this goes to such another level. Like some scents can change the way a strain makes you feel? That’s insane. We really don’t know anything about cannabis compared to what we think. Thanks for posting this article, very informative, I’ve got some reading to do!