Cannabis terpenes

What are terpenes?

When people start talking about medical cannabis terpenes what they are really talking about are the compounds that produce the particular fragrance associated with cannabis. Now while that might seem trivial it actually plays a key role in how effective cannabis plant compounds can contribute or even augment a plant’s given health benefits.


Terpenes (or terpenoids) are not unique to cannabis, in fact, they exist in all plants. They are used to attract pollinators and also to act as a defence mechanism of a kind. Terpenes are metabolites found in the oils that are from plants. At the moment there are estimated to be around 20,000 terpenes and about a hundred of those are in the cannabis plant. As you can imagine that means cannabis is pretty rich in terpenes comparatively.


In the manufacture of cannabis plants, the terpenes are the reason why every strain becomes unique. Depending on a terpene profile the medical cannabis might smell like pine, lemons, berries, or many other things. However it doesn’t stop there, terpenes have various effects as well as smells. While research is ongoing some terpenes are associated with highly sedative effects while others may provide relief from chronic pain or reduction of inflammation.  

The Entourage Effect

One of the more interesting effects of cannabis is how the compounds within work in combination with other cannabinoids. This process actually improves how well a cannabis plant can actually work, which is known as the entourage effect. In essence, this means that the terpenes can pass a little easier through our bloodstream. Also, in this entourage effect, the psychoactive effect of medical cannabis is diminished.


CBD (cannabidiol), which is thought to be non-psychoactive in nature, works to lower the long term risk of memory loss and other psychoactive effects promoted by compounds, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). But where some effects are curtailed others are modulated, for example, certain strains will make one feel less anxious than usual. As you can see terpenes may alter the effects of certain cannabis strains.


Cultivating and fine-tuning this kind of chemical make-up is a growing field in the medical cannabis industry. With this kind of precise technique involved it’s possible to get more than was possible ever before from medical cannabis plants. For that reason, it’s important to figure out which terpene combinations ideally suit your own needs.

How terpenes work in the body

Unfortunately, there isn’t as much research on cannabinoids as we would like. More work needs to be done in the field but there are still some things that we know now. At the moment, we have learned that terpenes have an enhancing or lightening effect on cannabinoids like THC and CBD (there are many others though).


Terpenes may have a lot of different effects in the body, for example, preliminary research indicates that terpenes may have profound effects as antidepressants, regulating emotions, even enhancing pleasurable experiences. Not to mention the more traditional feelings of relaxation produced by cannabinoids interacting with neurotransmitters.


As we mentioned more research needs to be done on the therapeutic effects of terpenes on our minds and bodies. With further knowledge growers as well as consumers can tailor their strains using unique terpene to balance their respective effects.

What terpenes exist in cannabis

As we’ve mentioned there are around a hundred terpenes that exist in cannabis. We’ll now look at a few of the most intriguing terpene profiles you should be aware of.



Myrcene can actually be found in mangoes, lemongrass and even basil and it is the single most common terpene in cannabis. In fact, it typically makes up fifty per cent of a cannabis plant’s terpenes. It may work well as an anti-inflammatory or as a sedative. This usually produces a very earth-rich and musky fragrance. In indica strains, there are often high levels of myrcene which may lead to the oft-portrayed, relaxed-euphoric feeling.



This is a citrus aroma terpene that would remind consumers of lemons, oranges, limes or other citrus fruits. This kind of terpene may help with stress relief and, while more research needs to be done, signs indicate it might have antibacterial properties. Because of its absorption improving nature, it’s also really useful when applied to topical solutions and ointments.



Caryophyllene can be found in black pepper, rosemary, lavender, cinnamon leaves, cloves and studies have shown that it can contribute towards helping anxiety, depression, and work as anti-inflammatory. This is most typically found in sativa-rich strains of medical cannabis.



This is actually terpene alcohol which is found in over two hundred flowers and spice plants. It has a floral fragrance with a pinch of spiciness. This particular terpene may cause relief from stress, aid your immune system, and might have some anti-inflammation properties. It also may help with the anxiety-inducing effects of THC.



Last but not least is pinene which is the most common terpene in the world. As the name might suggest it is a component of pine tree resin and is found in many coniferous plants. Strains with a lot of this terpene may assist in countering effects to long term memory loss and promotion of alertness but further research will be needed.


Now as we’ve said there are at least a hundred terpenes in cannabis but these are some of the more common and certainly some of the most powerful there are.

Flavonoids vs. Terpenes

Now if you've heard or read about terpenes there’s a high chance that the word flavonoid might have popped up along the way. These are not the same thing, though flavonoid does sound like something to do with flavour it’s actually more directly concerned with the colour. Flavonoids from one of the largest nutrient giving families in the world with over 6,000 members. Twenty of these are present within cannabis and they may provide some antioxidant benefits.