What Are Terpenes In Cannabis And What Do They Do?

What Are Terpenes In Cannabis And What Do They Do?

Many people tend to find the aroma of cannabis soothing to the mind, body, and spirit. Whether it’s the fruity taste of Tangerine or that skunky smell that snaps out at you from a nice flower of Chem Dog, we know there’s something going on under their complex and flavorful bouquets.

Terpenes are what you smelling.  As a cannabis connoisseur, you will be wanting to know what these unique terpenes are, and this will expand your appreciation of cannabis whether you’re a medical patient or recreational consumer.

Terpenes work together with cannabinoids to offer an array of effects and are found in different combination in different strains of cannabis.

Secreted in the same glands called trichomes,  cannabinoids like THC and CBD are also produced.  Terpenes are aromatic essential oils that permeate cannabis varieties with distinctive flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine.

Terpenes play a major role in the effects of cannabis strains. Some terpenes promote relaxation and stress-relief, while others promote focus and acuity, hence why different strains make you feel different.

Much like any other strong-smelling plants and flowers, the formation of terpenes in cannabis began for adaptive purposes such as to repel predators and lure pollinators. Many factors that influence a plant’s development of terpenes, including climate, weather, age and maturation, fertilizers, soil type, and even the time of day can have an impact.

Terpenes are prevalent in cannabis and there have been over 100 identified in the cannabis plant.  Every strain has a unique terpene blend and composition. In other words, a strain like Kimbo Kush and its descendants will likely have a unique Kimbo smell, and Tangerine offspring often inherit the smell of oranges.

The diverse palate of cannabis flavors and aromas are impressive enough.  One of the most fascinating characteristics of terpenes is their ability to interact synergistically with other compounds in the cannabis plant like cannabinoids. In the past, many cannabis strains have been bred to contain high levels of THC, and as a result, other cannabinoids like CBD have fallen to low amounts. This has led many researchers to believe that terpenes play a key role in the varying effects of cannabis strains.

Terpenes are associated with unique effects. Some terps promote relaxation and stress-relief, while other terpenes promote focus and acuity. Linalool, for instance, is believed to be relaxing while limonene elevates your mood.

The effect profile of any given terpene may change in the presence of other compounds in a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. Aromatherapists have been combining these different terpenes for decades to enhance each terpene with another terpene. More research can still be done on this subject as there is not a lot known on how all the terpenes interact with each other.

Terpenes are very unique and can add great depth to the horticultural art and the connoisseur’s love of cannabis. Terpenes may also offer additional medical value as they mediate our body’s interaction with therapeutic cannabinoids.

Many cannabis analysis labs now test terpene content.  This way you may have a better idea of what effects a strain might produce when you know what is all in a strain. With their unlimited combinations of synergistic effects, terpenes will open up new scientific and medical options for cannabis research.

Common Cannabis Terpenes


Aroma: Pine

Vaporizes At: 311ºF

Potential Effects: Alertness, memory retention, counteracts some THC effects

Perceived Medical ValueTreatment of asthmapaininflammationulcersanxietycancer

Also Found in: Pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley, dill


Aroma: Cardamom, cloves, musky, earthy, herbal

Vaporizes At: 332ºF

Potential Effects: Sedating “couchlock” effect, relaxing

Perceived Medical Value: Antioxidant; treatment of insomniapain, and inflammation

Also Found in: Mango, lemongrass, thyme, hops


Aroma: Citrus

Vaporizes At: 348ºF

Perceived Effects: Elevated mood, stress relief

Potential Medical Value: Treatment of anxietydepressioninflammationpain, and cancer

Also Found in: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint


Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt)

Aroma: Pepper, spicy, woody, cloves

Vaporizes At: 266ºF

Potential Effects: Stress relief

Perceived Medical Value: Treatment of painanxiety/depressionulcers

Also Found in: Black pepper, cloves, cinnamon


Aroma: Floral

Vaporizes At: 388ºF

Perceived Effects: Mood enhancement, sedation

Potential Medical Value: Treatment of anxietydepressioninsomniapaininflammation, and neurodegenerative disease

Also Found in: Lavender


Aroma: Hops, woody, earthy

Vaporizes At: 222ºF

Perceived Medical Value: Anti-inflammatory

Also Found in: Hops, coriander, cloves, basil


Aroma: Sweet, herbal, and woody

Vaporizes At: 122ºF

Perceived Medical Value: Antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic, decongestant, antibacterial

Also Found in: Mint, parsley, pepper, basil, mangoes, orchids, and kumquats


Aroma:  Piney, floral, and herbal

Vaporizes At: 366ºF

Potential Effects: Relaxing

Perceived Medical Value: Antioxidant, sedative, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer

Also Found in Nutmeg, tea tree, conifers, apples, cumin, and lilacs

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