If you’ve ever walked through a forest and inhaled deeply, stopped to smell a rose, or peeled open a ripe, juicy mango, you’ve come in contact with terpenes.
Terpenes are a diverse group of naturally-occurring, highly-aromatic chemical compounds produced by thousands of plants (and a few animals) whose purpose is to attract pollinators, deter pests, or to attract symbiotic organisms that would feed on those pests.
The terpenes in cannabis are produced in the trichomes, the sticky, resinous and crystalline glands found on the flower and some specialized leaves that might resemble a blanket of dust or a sheet of freshly-fallen snow. The trichomes are also the production sites for cannabinoids, THC and CBD being two of the best-known.
As well as giving strains of cannabis their distinctive aromas, terpenes can also interact with the cannabinoids to produce a myriad of different effects in our bodies, which can be unique from one person to another. Studies are currently underway to determine the specifics of the interactions between terpenes and the human body, although there is a significant amount of research that already confirms their many potential benefits.
It’s important to know that there are several factors that can affect one’s experience with cannabis, including (but not limited to) the method and amount of consumption, as well as the individual’s body mass, tolerance, metabolism, mindset and much more.
While there are more than 200 different terpenes found in cannabis, only a small percentage of these are found in significant concentrations to produce a measured effect. Here are some that you should get to know:
Name: Myrcene *
Smells like: earth, musk, ripe tropical fruits
You’ll know it from: mangoes, hops, lemongrass, bay leaves, thyme
It may you feel: sedated, sleepy
Potential benefits: sedative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic
* Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis flowers, commonly-associated with plants from the indica species, and is thought to enhance the interaction of THC within the body.
Name: Pinene *
Smells like: sweet wood, pine, citrus
You’ll know it from: pine needles, parsley, dill, sage, oranges,
It may you feel: energized, sharpened
Potential benefits: antibiotic, bronchodilator
* Pinene is the most common terpene in the world.
Name: Caryophyllene *
Smells like: spice, savoury herbs, pepper, earth
You’ll know it from: black peppercorns, basil, cloves, cinnamon, caraway seeds, oregano
It may you feel: balanced, relieved
Potential benefits: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic and local anesthetic
* Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system like a cannabinoid, and although it may not have psychoactive properties on its own, it works with cannabinoids and terpenes to provide a synergistic experience.
Name: Limonene *
Smells like: citrus, mint, flowers, fresh herbs
You’ll know it from: lemons, oranges, peppermint, juniper, rosemary
It may you feel: euphoric, energized
Potential benefits: antitumor, sedative, anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant
* Limonene is the second most common terpene found in nature
Smells like: citrus, wood, fresh earth, herbs
You’ll know it from: hops, cloves, basil, coriander
It may you feel: motivated, meditative
Potential benefits: anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, analgesic
Smells like: flowers, mint, tree bark
You’ll know it from: lavender, mint, birch bark, rosewood, laurel
It may you feel: calm, mellow
Potential benefits: antimicrobial, sleep-inducing, anticonvulsant
Name: Cineol (aka Eucalyptol)
Smells like: cool mint, fresh-picked herbs
You’ll know it from: eucalyptus, mint, bay leaves, tea trees. basil, sage
It may you feel: revitalized, uplifted
Potential benefits: anti-infective, antitussive
Smells like: flowers, citrus, sweet spice, nuts
You’ll know it from: chamomile flowers, the bark of the candeia tree
It may you feel: comforted, relaxed
Potential benefits: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal
Smells like: tropical flowers, wood, green herbs
You’ll know it from: mint, basil, allspice, pepper, parsley, orchids
It may you feel: refreshed, cleansed
Potential benefits: antifungal, antimicrobial
Smells like: smoke, pine, citrus
You’ll know it from: pine needles, lapsang souchong tea, limes, lilac flowers, eucalyptus leaves
It may you feel: relaxed, calm
Potential benefits: antitumor, analgesic, anti-inflammatory
Smells like: mint, spice, fresh herbs
You’ll know it from: mint, ginger, rosemary, tarragon, camphor
It may you feel: invigorated, energized
Potential benefits: anti-cancer
Smells like: flowers, spice, citrus, fruit, wax
You’ll know it from: geraniums, lemons, tobacco leaves, roses, carrots, blueberries
It may you feel: relaxed, calm
Potential benefits: antitumor, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
Smells like: flowers, herbs, pine
You’ll know it from: pine trees, nutmeg, tea tree, cumin, apples, lilac trees
It may you feel: cleansed, sedated
Potential benefits: antioxidant, anticancer, sedative
Smells like: fresh cut wood, sweet spices
You’ll know it from: neroli, jasmine, ginger, lavender, roses
It may you feel: pacified, soothed
Potential benefits: antifungal, sedative, antimicrobial
This article was compiled from sources that include the National Institutes of Health, the British Journal of Pharmacology and Health Canada. Research on the efficacy of terpenes in cannabis is ongoing. This page will be updated as new information is released.
The potential benefits listed for each terpene have not been scientifically proven yet and are just based on what research is showing may be potential in the future.