What Are Terpenes?


Most people who use cannabis regularly would very much agree that one of the most enjoyable things about the plant is the scent produced by the plant’s flower. Since all the various flowers and strains of the cannabis plant can each create their own unique fragrance, which can smell like anything from cheese-like smells to a more fruity aroma, a cannabis user would have to evolve a certain degree of familiarity to discern a specific cannabis flowers’ chemical composition.

What Exactly are Terpenes?

The chemical compounds found within cannabis Sativa plants and cannabis Indica plants, which result in the specific scent you smell for different flowers, are caused by terpenes. The terpenes are hydrocarbon compounds found in the essential oils of the cannabis plant and are responsible for giving particular cannabis strains their scent, flavour, and colour.

With the legality of cannabis use, both in the form of medicinal cannabis and recreational cannabis, the discussions around the importance of terpenes have grown exponentially.

Terpenes Versus Terpenoids

Although both of the words, terpenes and terpenoids, are used interchangeably in most places you read about them, they both have different definitions. Terpenes are those chemical compounds formed from a naturally occurring arrangement of the carbon and hydrogen atoms, while terpenoids are essentially terpenic compounds that have undergone terpene biosynthesis. Terpene synthases are a form of chemical modification made to the terpene content of common terpenes. The Terpene undergoes a drying and curing process that alters the oxygen content within the Terpene. This changes the original terpene content of hydrogen and carbon by adding oxygen into the terpenes’ chemical makeup.

Relation Between Terpenes and Trichomes of a Cannabis Plant

In a cannabis plant, terpenes are produced from within the trichomes of the plant. A trichome is a sticky and shiny crystal, Shaped like a mushroom that shrouds the leaves and buds of the cannabis plant. The Trichomes on cannabis plants act as a defense mechanism against all the harsh conditions of nature. They specifically do well to protect the plant against insects and animals by way of producing terpenes. The abundant terpenes’ fragrance wards off any insect that may be looking to take a bite out of a cannabis bud. The cannabis terpenes then also allow for the user of the cannabis bud to recognize the physiological effects the cannabis strain would have on the human body, as certain strains have varying results when compared to other different strains.

Though it’s still unclear as to precisely what cannabis terpenes do within our body, many cannabis researchers have found that cannabis terpenes are becoming a more effective and easier way of determining certain cannabis strains and the strains’ effects. However, more cannabis research is required to determine the reactions and identify terpenes of all the different strains.

Cannabinoid and Terpene Content Working Together

Although there is still lots of additional cannabis research required to uncover the role behind why certain cannabis terpenes produce specific effects within certain cannabis strains but not different strains, there are numerous hypotheses put forward by scientists. The leading one supports the idea that within the terpene profiles of a cannabis Sativa or Indica plant, the most dominant terpene present within a cannabis strain works in parallel with the cannabis strains’ pure cannabinoid content.

The hypothesis states that the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinoid (CBD), and other compounds found within a cannabis Sativa or Indica plant react with the most dominant terpenes in the cannabis strains’ terpene profiles to produce the effects that cannabis users often associate with various strains. For example, the different terpene profiles found in the essential oils of two different THC strains of cannabis lead to the THC strains having other effects due to different terpenes reacting with the THC.

Though there are some less dominant terpenes present with the terpene profiles of a cannabis plant, and although these cannabis terpenes react with the other minor cannabinoids. Unlike pure THC and CBD, in cannabis plants’ cannabinoid profiles, their reactions don’t play a significant role in producing the effects of certain cannabis strains.

However, it is important to note that understanding terpenes and terpene profiles’ reactions with cannabinoids requires a lot more scientific research and clinical studies to prove their reactions affect the effects of cannabis strains and provide the potential benefits associated with the strain. Understanding terpenes’ reactions with other compounds found in plant material can teach us the potential benefits and medicinal properties of medical cannabis. As a result, it could prove helpful in treating certain medical conditions someday.

The Diversity of Cannabis

Cannabis grown in whatever part of the earth, whether indoor or outdoor, is a very diverse crop with many varieties in each cannabis plant grown. All of the cannabis varieties found in industrial crops can be attributed to the over a hundred different chemical compounds found within the plant. The differences also occur due to plant development during its growing stages. An example of this would be whether or not the plant was grown at the same or different temperatures throughout its growth period, whether conventional breeding methods were used, and what soil type was used along with the breeding method used. There are numerous other factors that we won’t be getting into for the topic of this article.

The cannabis varieties also extend to their compounds as even they show variety since they can either be isolated compounds, volatile compounds, or a few others. All these varieties in these naturally occurring compounds extend over to cannabis products, where users of cannabis can buy a variety of products based on the effects they wish to receive from a particular blend.

Can Terpenes Get You High?

In a traditional sense, terpenes will not get you high, though regardless of this, some terpenes are still considered psychoactive due to the way they affect the brain of their user.

While it has been found that terpenes are not intoxicating on their own, they can become intoxicating if the Terpene consumed is done with THC, as research has found that terpenes will enhance the psychoactive effects of THC. THC is the compound found in cannabis, which gets its users high and puts them in a state of euphoria.

Many people who sell cannabis, and even those who grow the plant, claim that the people who buy the cannabis products often tend to put a lot of emphasis on the amount of THC in the cannabis strain they are purchasing. The buyers of cannabis products assume that the THC level within the strain is the most crucial factor when determining the type of high and effects that the strain will have on them. When in fact, sellers and people who grow the cannabis strains preach to the buyers of their products that it is the terpene profile of a cannabis product which they should focus on to determine whether or not it will provide them with the desired effects and high they are looking for.

According to a few studies conducted, researchers have found that not only do terpenes affect the high you get from a specific marijuana strain, but it also helps to enhance a bit of the strain’s medicinal properties as well, specifically in clinical cannabis. Cannabis terpenes were found to help with certain health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. We will talk more in-depth about individual terpenes and their associated benefits a little later on in the article.

How do Terpenes Compare to Cannabinoids, Specifically THC and CBD?

There are over one hundred different kinds of cannabinoids present within a single cannabis plant, of which CBD and THC are just two. However, despite these two only being a small fraction of the different cannabinoids you can find within a cannabis plant, these two happen to be the most abundant cannabinoids present in any given plant. Due to them being the most readily available cannabinoids, they have been studied the most and have been at the center of various research projects.

Though cannabinoids and terpenes are very inherently different compounds, when studied together, they can give away a lot of clues about the effects of a particular cannabis product.

The interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes, which results in the effects created for a particular cannabis strain, is called the ‘Entourage Effect.’ The entourage effect is essentially a hypothesis that every single tiny chemical compound found within a cannabis plant, from terpenes and cannabinoids to whatever other compounds are within the plant, all work together to create the sensation and effects of the certain cannabis strain in question.

In simpler terms, the entourage effect refers to the hypothesis scientists have come up with that a small amount of a lot of things are a lot more beneficial than a significant amount of one beneficial thing.

There have been numerous investigations that have somewhat verified the validity of the entourage effect. An example of such a study was conducted back in the year 2010, where scientists had figured out that though THC on its own was a pretty good medication for pain-related issues, the combining of CBD with THC made the pain-relieving effects of THC significantly more pronounced. Thus, the findings of the study concluded on what the entourage effect hypothesis stated.

Another study relating to the entourage effect, which was carried out in the year 2018, found that breast cancer tumours, placed in a Petri dish, responded a lot better to a form of ethanolic extract of cannabis flowers rather than when it was presented with THC alone. However, the anti-cancer properties found within the cannabis flower extract were said to be due to the THC reaching with other cannabinoids and not terpenes. Despite this, the entourage effect is still proven as the findings, once again, fit the bill for what the hypothesis of the effect stated. The findings of this experiment have been published under the title “Antitumor action of a pure cannabinoid versus a botanical drug preparation in preclinical models of breast cancer” and can be found in the medical research journal titled “Pharmacol.”

It is a good idea to keep in mind when going through any form of cannabis treatment for your health problems. For example, if you have been making use of CBD on its own for some of its therapeutic effects but have not been successful in having it help out with your problems, you should go ahead and try a CBD product that is full-spectrum. A full spectrum product would not only contain CBD, but it would also contain every single one of the different cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemical compounds found in marijuana plants and would even comprise small quantities of THC. The full-spectrum CBD product should prove itself to be more useful than the CBD isolate product in helping with whatever treatment you are using CBD for.

All the Most Common Terpenes and Their Effects

More than one hundred different kinds of terpenes are found within the cannabis plant, and due to the sheer amount of terpenes there are, differentiating between each and every single Terpene can prove to be a bit difficult as the difference between one and another terpene would be very minute. However, despite the issue of subtle differences, many scientists have managed to find a way to classify groups of terpenes based on the effects they cause. This classification process of putting certain cannabis terpenes in groups based on their similarities rather than their subtle differences has made it a lot easier for patients and cannabis consumers to distinguish between the terpenes in marijuana products.

In the broadest classification range scientists have come up with, the terpenes are distinguished from one another based on their taste. The four taste classifications are spicy, sweet, bitter, and sour. Each classification can be further broken down into more in-depth classifications relating to the terpenes’ smell. The certain smells which the terpenes are classified into are found within specific strains of marijuana, which in turn, give away the effects that that certain plant has.

A Terpene’s Scent and Its Effect on Your Mood

A marijuana flower that has a scent that is a bit sour would perhaps smell something like a lemon. A marijuana strain that smells like lemon, namely the famous strains of lemon haze and lemon skunk, has certain effects which you would exactly find on strains that have a different scent to them. The marijuana strains which have a scent similar to that of lemon usually come from the cannabis Sativa plant. Some cannabis Sativa strains are known as zesty sativa come with the aforementioned lemon scent, and the benefits of cannabis Sativa are an increase in one’s energy levels, as well as feelings of euphoria.

Getting a better understanding of all of the terpenes and their individual scents can tell you about all of their effects. Eventually, it can help you in determining what cannabis plant sits in front of you and what its effects may be by simply breathing in the aromas of the plant. This ability to determine a plant’s effects by simply smelling it would prove useful to everyone who deals with cannabis in some way, whether they consume it as a recreational drug, as medicine, sell it, or even grow it.


This is the first of the many common terpenes we will learn about. In fact, after learning about this Terpene, you will notice you already know a fair deal more about terpenes than what you originally thought. In reference to the aforementioned examples about terpenes that smell like lemons, the lemon’s scent comes from the Terpene named ‘Limonene.’ Not only is limonene the reason behind the lemony smell found in some cannabis plants and strains, but it is also the exact reason you find the lemony smell in lemons, oranges, limes, and other citrus fruits. This is due to the fact that limonene is the exact same Terpene you find in citrus fruits and citrus-smelling cannabis plants. In addition to those products, you can also find limonene readily available in some fragrances such as perfumes and also in cleaning products such as bar soaps.

Limonene is known mainly for all of its antimicrobial properties, and in essence, it kills off bacteria and fungi. The antibacterial properties of the Terpene allow for it to act as a natural insecticide, which is useful, especially in the case of cannabis plants where the plant doesn’t need to be looked after as much due to it having a natural, microbial-resistant terpene. The Terpene’s uses don’t end there as it can also be used as a treatment for any fungal infection, especially the toenail fungus humans often suffer from.

The limonene terpene can readily be absorbed by way of inhaling, and, as an added benefit, it can help improve the absorption of other terpenes that you consume along with it. It eases the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and body tissue, such as the mucous membranes of the digestive tract. In addition to all this, limonene is known for its amazing ability to relieve stress from its user, as well as its ability to put its user in a better mood by way of the aforementioned stress relief.

Lastly, there is some antitumor activity and cancer-fighting properties that limonene gives marijuana users, which is all the more reason to consume this Terpene.


Much like how the terpene ‘limonene’ is most commonly found in citrus fruits, the terpene ‘pieces are notoriously found within pine trees. There are, in fact, two variants of this Terpene, the first of which is the alpha variant. The alpha variant mainly smells like pine needles, though there are also some more subtle notes other than pine needles. The alpha variant of the Pinene Terpene is the one that is mostly found within nature. The other variant of the Pinene Terpene is the beta variant. The beta variant of piene smells mostly of a number of different things, though, namely, the scent is reminiscent of parsley, dill, rosemary, and basil.

Aside from being found in pine trees and cannabis plants, one can also find the Pinene Terpene in other places in nature, such as citrus peels, turpentine, and even conifer trees.

There are a number of benefits one can avail of when they consume Pinene. Piene is a very strong bronchodilator, which essentially means that it helps a lot in increasing airflow to our lungs, and hence, it makes Pinene all the more useful for people who differ from conditions such as asthma. Pinene has also shown itself to have some anti-inflammatory properties, as well as has proven its ability to act as a local antiseptic. Due to its ability to act as an antiseptic, the usage of this commonly found Terpene can be dated back thousands of years. The ability of this commonly found Terpene to easily move through the blood-brain barrier allows for this Terpene to improve a person’s memory, as well as increase their alertness levels. It is even found from several studies that the memory benefits that this commonly found Terpene provides could very easily counteract all the memory loss problems that are reported to come with the use of THC.


Another very abundantly found Terpene is ‘Myrcene,’ which, aside from marijuana plants, is most commonly present within hops, lemongrass, mangoes, and thyme. Myrcene is also the most commonly found Terpene in almost every cannabis plant.

Myrcene is a very important part of cannabis, not only for the scent it provides or the health benefits it gives its users but due to its presence in a cannabis strain determining whether or not a strain is derived from a cannabis Indica plant or a cannabis Sativa plant. According to some studies published by Steel Hill Labs, if a marijuana plant has anything more than 0.5 percent myrcene content, then that specific marijuana plant will produce the effects of a cannabis Indica plant. If there is less than 0.5 percent myrcene content present within the marijuana plant, then that distinct marijuana plant will possess the effects of a cannabis Sativa plant. There are also a few health benefits with the consumption of myrcene which include the Terpenes antibacterial properties, its anti-mutagenic properties, and lastly, its ability to act as a painkiller. Unfortunately, this Terpene does not come with any anti-inflammatory effects like the Pinene Terpene.


The last of the terpenes we will be discussing today is ‘Linalool.’ In addition to marijuana plants, you will be finding the likes of this Terpene in flowers such as lavender, and will easily be able to distinguish its unique light, floral scent.

Linalool is widely renowned for its potential to help reduce feelings of stress and thus is often found to be used to treat patients with anxiety and depression. It is also used as a sedative in certain cases. Another benefit this specific Terpene has over the others is its ability to help in relieving symptoms of seizures, as well as its potential to help patients suffering from psychosis. Unfortunately, once again, this Terpene also does not have any anti-inflammatory effects.

Terpenes and Vaporizing

Due to different terpenes having completely different molecular structures, pretty much all terpenes have different boiling points in comparison to one another. As a result, noting down the temperature at which you are vaporizing your terpenes could help you better understand what effects are produced at each linearly varying temperature, and in turn, you could even find the temperature at which your desired effects are produced. In chemistry, it is common for certain chemical compounds to have higher boiling points as compared to others for them to vaporize, whilst there are other chemical compounds that could be, more or less, unaffected at even the highest of temperatures. This is true for all chemical compounds, including the ones found in terpenes and cannabinoids.

The difference between the boiling points of different compounds found within marijuana plants can be quite different. For example, the boiling point of THC would occur at 315 degrees Fahrenheit, while the Terpene Linalool’s boiling point is slightly higher at a temperature of 388 degrees Fahrenheit.

Due to this difference in boiling points of all the different compounds found within a marijuana plant, one must buy a vaporizer that can change and adjust its temperature. There have been a lot of new and innovative vaporizers which have come out on the market which allow you to adjust the temperature of your vaporizer directly from your smartphone, which provides marijuana users with not only ease of use but also a wide range of temperatures to choose from, to get exactly the effects they desire from the vapour.

Vaporizing Versus Smoking

Vaporizing and ingesting is also a lot better than other inhaling methods of consumption. For example, smoking is not very ideal for getting the benefits of cannabinoids and terpenes found within a marijuana plant due to the process by which smoke is produced, combustion. The by-products of the combustion process, the process required to make the smoke you inhale when seeking the effects of marijuana, are very detrimental to the health of your lungs. The alternative, which is vaporizing, is a lot more gentle in comparison, as well as simply a better way to get the effects. Vaporizing produces a higher concentration of the terpenes and cannabinoids that you seek to ingest than the concentration produced by smoke, as smoke also contains the aforementioned unhealthy by-products.

Most cannabinoids and terpenes often begin to vaporize at around 285 degrees Fahrenheit, while the undesirable process of combination begins at around 392 degrees Fahrenheit. Messing around with varying degrees of temperature will eventually allow you to find the temperature at which your desired effects are produced.

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