Terpenes are not only responsible for the smell and flavour associated with cannabis, but also many of the health benefits too.
In fact, many studies have discovered that when terpenes are combined with cannabinoids, they can have powerful effects on the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. This is also known as the “entourage effect”.
So the question is, what exactly are terpenes, and how can we make the most out of their benefits when consuming cannabis?
Thankfully, we’ve created this handy guide to teach you everything you need to know about cannabis terpenes. Keep on reading to learn how to maximize their health benefits.
What Are Terpenes?
When you smell various plants and herbs, they all seem to have this distinct aroma that seems to have different effects on our well-being. The smell comes from the different aromatic compounds called terpenes.
Aside from smelling good, terpenes play multiple roles in the plant’s life, including repelling insects, attracting pollinators, and warding off hungry predators. These terpenes also help to protect the plant by strengthening its immunity, helping it to repair faster, and fighting off infectious bacteria.
Many laboratories have found out how to maximize the effects of terpenes by extracting them from plants and adding them as flavors and natural scents in products such as skin care products and perfumes.
Terpenes exist in everything from lavender to rosemary, sage, and of course, even cannabis. Some of the main benefits of terpenes are:
- Mood booster
- Pain relief
- Appetite control
- Brain function
- Stress relief
- Improved digestion
This is just a small list of the hundreds of benefits that terpenes offer the human body. The diversity of terpenes comes from the enzymatic activity, known as terpene synthesis. These enzymes are responsible for the structure of the terpene, and the production of new terpenes.
If curious you can check out our terpene directory that covers all the major compounds found in different cannabis products.
What Are Terpenoids?
Terpenes are the natural form of the aromatic compound in a living plant, but when the plant is dead, the compound changes. In the process of drying and curing cannabis, the terpenes become oxidized and shift their molecular structure to terpenoids.
Terpenes can only exist as hydrocarbon, and terpenoids can only exist with the molecule oxygen present. While they may both have different molecular structures of carbon and oxygen, both terpenoids and terpenes offer the same benefits to the human body.
What is Unique About Cannabis Terpenes?
Do you ever wonder how you can tell the quality of the cannabis just by smelling it? This is because you can naturally tell how well the plant has been cured and cultivated, just by observing its pungent aroma. The same goes for herbs and flowers, the stronger and more detailed the scent, the better quality of the plant.
Cannabis has hundreds of terpenes, which all offer different benefits for the human body. That being said, there are a few main terpenes in cannabis that are known for their powerful effects.
Caryophyllene is a terpene located within the cannabis plant. This terpene has been widely studied for its ability to reduce inflammation and neuropathic pain.
It is also found in cloves, rosemary, and hops, which you can tell by the unique aroma of this terpene. You will also find this terpene in cannabis strains like Purple Punch.
Beta-caryophyllene is a terpene found in multiple vegetables, as well as herbs and spices such as black pepper and cloves. Some studies have discovered that Beta-caryophyllene can help reduce the symptoms of pain that are associated with nerve pain and high inflammation.
There is a possibility that Beta-caryophyllene will be used shortly as an alternative pain-reliever to pain medications.
Just as the name suggests, Limonene is typically found in citrus fruits, and it is also found in the cannabis plant. Limonene holds properties that can help boost the immune system, reduce the growth of gallstones, and lessen the symptoms of heartburn.
It is also used in many household cleaning products because of its fresh scent and ability to rid of bacteria. One recent study discovered that Limonene can also help with:
- Reducing cancer
- Reducing signs of diabetes
It helps to reduce the chances of viruses by modulating the way certain cells behave, this is why people also take Limonene as a nutritional supplement.
You will commonly find this terpene in cannabis strains like Wedding Cake and Lemon Haze.
Humulene is another active terpene in cannabis that also can help to reduce inflammation and reduce pain. It is also present in hops, sage, clove, ginseng, basil, and black pepper.
Humulene can also help to reduce the symptoms of asthmatic allergic reactions. This is being thoroughly studied in the case it could save lives from airway reactions in the future.
It also helps cells fight off free-radical damage, which can protect against cancer. You will commonly find this terpene in cannabis strains like GSC (Girl Scout Cookies).
Myrcene is another powerful terpene located in cannabis that has numerous benefits for the human body. Many studies have discovered its ability to protect the brain of mice from oxidative damage following a stroke.
Another study found that Myrcene reduces the inflammatory effects of osteoarthritis, and can even reduce the breakdown of cartilage.
Myrcene also helps to protect the heart, and reduce chances of heart disease, and repair following a stroke. You will commonly find this terpene in cannabis strains like OG Kush, Cherry Pie or Blue Dream.
Ever wonder why lavender smells so good and is so relaxing? That is because of its high Linalool content. Linalool is a common terpene used in various forms of aromatherapy, because of its potent relaxation benefits.
Both lavender and Linalool have much more benefits than relaxation, as they both are also used for reducing bacteria, and pests such as fleas, ticks, and lice.
Some of the other benefits of Linalool are:
- Reduces tumor growth, lowering chances of developing cancer
- Protects the brain (a neuroprotectant)
There are many more studies coming out on linalool, especially for reducing signs and symptoms of mental health.
Linalool is commonly found in strains like Do-Si-Dos and Kosher Kush.
As the name suggests, the terpene Pinene is found in many trees and plants such as the pine tree, basil, rosemary, and many others. There are two main forms of Pinene, Alpha-pinene, and Beta-pinene, both of which hold that beautiful cleansing scent and health benefits.
Pinene acts as a bronchodilator, which helps your lungs to open up to more air. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect, particularly in the lungs. This helps your lungs to remove bacteria and viruses when inhaled.
Pinene also affects our overall well-being. This was discovered during studies on forest bathing as scientists were trying to figure out why being in the forest creates a “euphoric” effect. They found that Pinene emits an aroma that calms the nervous system, which can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Terpinolene is found in approximately one in ten cannabis strains. This common terpene is identified by it’s woody aroma with hints of citrus. From a medicinal perspective, Terpinolene is known for it’s antibacterial and fungal healing properties.
You’ll find Terpinolene in lilacs, nutmeg and cumin but also in sativa-dominant strains like the classic Jack Herer or Ghost Train Haze.
The Enterouge Effect
Similar to an orchestra, where every single musician plays a role in the overall sound of the music, the same goes for cannabis and terpenes. Cannabis alone may have some undesirable effects such as the “stoner’s high” from THC (differences between THC and CBD), which can lead to sensations of paranoia and anxiety.
Thankfully, when cannabis is mixed with terpenes, those unwanted side effects seem to dwindle away. Also, if you are consuming cannabis for its healing properties, its the added terpenes which help you to get those effects that you desire. The combination of the both cannabis and terpenes also assists you with absorbing more Cannabidiol (CBD).
This is another reason to find full plant cannabis (indica, sativa, or hybrid), rather than extracted and isolated compounds from the plant.
Can Terpenes Get You High?
Terpenes alone cannot get you high, however, the mix of terpenes with specific cannabis strains are what’s responsible for their unique effects. Terpenes are compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and herbs, all of which have no psychoactive effects.
However, the use of terpenes can affect your mood, and have the ability to shift you into a “euphoric” like feeling because of their ability to reduce anxiety and related disorders. But depending on the reason you’re using cannabis you might want to consider them when picking a new strain.
How Terpenes Affect the Flavor of Cannabis
Different strains of cannabis have different flavors, including blueberry, strawberry, garlic, black cherry, lemon, etc. These flavors come from the specific terpene in that strain.
For example, Myrcene is located in Cherry Pie, Grandaddy Kush, and other strains with similar flavors, which is why they all have similar flavors. If you love the flavor of citrus fruits, then you would love MAC 1 as it contains the same terpene responsible for citrusy smells and tastes.
Learn More About Cannabis Terpenes
Now that you have learned about cannabis terpenes and they roles they play in the overall effects of cannabis, it’s time to find your favourite strain of cannabis!
Cannibros is a third party website that is dedicated to testing and reviewing different strains and cannabis brands. With years of experience in the professional industry of cannabis, we truly know how to find and rate each cannabis strain on the market.
To learn more, check out our about page for more information.
References and additional reading
- “The Organic Chemistry of Cannabis” by John W. Huffman
- “Terpenes and Terpenoids of the Essential Oil of Cannabis sativa L.” by Ethan B. Russo
- “Cannabis Terpenes: The Flavors of Marijuana” by Leafly
- “The Effects of Terpenes on the Body and Mind” by Dr. Ethan Russo
- “A Guide to Cannabis Terpenes” by Project CBD
- “The Science Behind Terpenes and Their Role in Cannabis” by Healthy Hemp Oil
- “Terpenes in Medical Cannabis: A Review” by Mario F. Laprise and Mark A. Ware
These resources can provide in-depth information about the chemistry, biology, and effects of cannabis terpenes, and can be helpful for those who want to learn more about this topic.
I’ve smoked for the last 12 years and had no idea how much terpenes affected the flavour, effects, etc. This is so interesting and never something I thought much about until recently. Are there more then listed here? Would like to read a bit more on this topic.
Hi Tamara! I believe there are several hundred terpenes but not all are found in cannabis.
limonene gives a lemon pledge taste
Lemony goodness 😛
This pretty much sums up why I prefer the companies that include the terpene shields.
Totally agree. We’ve made that point a couple of times during different reviews.