Jul 18th 2021
What Are Terpenes in Cannabis and How Do They Work?

Terpenes are aromatic molecules that almost every kind of plant contains, and they are responsible for the plants’ flavor and aroma. One of their main functions is to keep predators away and increase resin yield. Cannabis can have up to 120 different terpenes, of which 100 are exclusively found in marijuana plants. Every different strain has a different concentration of terpenes, allowing for a never-ending combination of flavors and effects.

Scientists have recently begun discovering that terpenes don’t just affect the flavor and aroma of cannabis, they might also influence the effect you get from the cannabinoids in your medicine. It was previously thought that cannabinoids were the only part of the plant responsible for the “psychoactive” effect, but now scientists theorize that terpenes come into play with cannabinoids and can actually increase and intensify effects. Two strains with the same cannabinoids but with different terpenes may be able to produce many different effects as your body doesn’t ingest them in the same manner.

Cannabis contains over 100 Terpenes, each with its own unique benefits. Keep reading to learn more.

Terpenes – Basic Overview

When talking about cannabis, most people pinpoint cannabinoids and their benefits. However, those are not the only compounds present in cannabis. Like other plants, cannabis also has terpenes, organic substances that give the plant its specific flavor and scent.

Cannabis terpenes are why every strain has a distinctive smell.

The reason plants develop terpenes in the first place is to attract pollinators and reject predators. Research has suggested that these compounds can have medicinal properties and can play a vital role in cannabis as medicine.

How Do Terpenes In Cannabis Work?

Much of today’s discussion is focused on the study of major cannabinoid-like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), while terpenes are rarely the topic of discussion. Today’s research is starting to consider the wide array of health benefits of cannabis terpenes.

If we want to explain terpenes and their effects, it would be best to discuss their interaction with the bodies. Terpene interaction with certain receptors can elicit biological responses affecting sleep, stress, mood, appetite, pain, inflammation, and more.

Terpene interaction with cannabinoids is often referred to as “the entourage effect,” in which a cast of compounds works together to maximize their therapeutic potential. Terpenes are able to moderate certain THC effects by limiting or increasing their absorption into the body and reduce its negative side effects.

Other terpenes have a more specific effect, such as Myrcene, which can increase cellular permeability and cannabinoid absorption. Limonene acts on serotonin production, something that can affect your mood. For medical patients, certain strain genetics can contain the optimal ratio of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds that can provide specific and targeted relief for some medical conditions and symptoms.

To take the guesswork out of finding this optimal ratio, you could use a product called Strain Genie, their genetic analysis matches you with the right ratio, strains, terpenes, and cannabinoids all in your personal cannabis DNA report.

Different Types Of Terpenes And Their Effects

A cannabis strain might contain several different types of terpenes, affecting both its smell and effectiveness. Below you will find an overview of the major kinds of these compounds to better help you understand what role they play in your medicine.


Myrcene is a monoterpene, this terpene isn’t one of the most well-known terpenes, but it is the one that’s found the most in cannabis plants, appearing in percentages of up to 65% in some Skunks, White, and Kush strains. Its scent could be comparable to cloves since it is both earthy and musky. Apart from marijuana, you will find this compound in lemongrass, thyme, eucalyptus, and citrus fruits.

As for the effectiveness, it is the terpenes and THCrelationship that is worth discussing. This terpene increases cannabinoid absorption, producing a much faster and more intense effect. It is also indicated as an efficient treatment when it comes to potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects itself, and possibly being efficient to treat the side effects of chemotherapy. Myrcene helps THC act more quickly than usual.  


This terpene is known for improving the airflow to the lungs, it is also thought that it can even be used to fight asthma. Currently, research is being done regarding the anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and pain relief effects. As the word suggests, this compound delivers a pine-like scent, and you can find it in pine trees as well as parsley and rosemary, but also balsamic resin and citrus fruits. It is interesting to note that pinene reacts with other substances and creates other terpenes.


Limonene is another common terpene found in cannabis. You will find it in citrus fruits, especially limes, lemons, and oranges. The human body reacts well to limonene, which is why it reaches the bloodstream quickly. Some studies indicate that it can reduce appetite and play a role in the weight loss process.

Caryophyllene or Beta-Caryophyllene

This terpene delivers a spicy, peppery aroma and is also produced by basil, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, hops, oregano, and rosemary. Caryophyllene acts as an analgesic and is effective in combating systemic inflammation, depression, anxiety, cancer and has even been shown to help with recovery from addiction to alcohol. It can also help induce sleep for those who suffer from insomnia and is antimicrobial and antifungal. 

Other Types of Terpenes

Here are some additional popular terpene types:

  • Linalool – the one of the best smelling terpenes, it is soothing since it reminds of lavender. This terpene can be found in Lavender, Cinnamon and Mint. It has a relaxing effect and can help with depression, arthritis, Insomnia and even neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Terpinolene – This terpene is usually only found in small amounts. It can be found in fragrant plants like apple trees, lilacs and herbs like rosemary.  Studies suggest that terpinolene can be used as an antioxidant and have seen it produce sedative effects.  It is suggested that Terpinolene may be used to decrease cancerous cell growth and proliferation.
  • Camphene – Camphene is a terpene found in cannabis, as well as other plants, such as Douglas fir and camphor tree. It is also found in nutmeg. This terpene exhibits therapeutic properties with antimicrobial, antiviral, and pain-relieving effects, and can provide cough relief.
  • Humulene –This terpene produced by the cannabis plant contributes to the herbal aroma of not only cannabis, but of many other plants such as hops, sage, and ginseng.  Humulene is believed to have anti-inflammatory benefits, and usually considered a secondary terpene due to it appearing in lesser quantity then the more dominant terpenes.

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