What Are cannabis Terpenes?

Last updated: July 13, 2018 at 21:17 pm

What Are cannabis Terpenes?

Terpenes are molecules within cannabis also known as isoprenoids. These molecules are minuscule and are made up of a compound called isoprene. These tiny molecules are what provides cannabis with its unique smells and flavors. Though these compounds aren’t known as well can cannabinoids they are critical to the physiological and psychoactive effects of cannabis. The effect of the isoprenoids is also known as the “entourage effect” and creates the main differences between cannabis strains.

Why do Terpenes exist? Terpenes play many roles in the plant world from insect protection, environmental stress protection, and even pollination.  What are cannabis terpenes? These tiny molecules are the building blocks of complex molecules such as cannabinoids. The synergy between these compounds is extremely dynamic and can act as a catalyst or to prevent the formation of different compounds within a plant.
I think of Terpenes like fine wine. Terpenes are the elements that create the sum that is a good wine. The subtle flavors and smells that make a unique wine are very similar to quality cannabis. I’m no connoisseur but I do enjoy trying different strains and trying to taste, smell and feel the difference that is unique to each strain.

Terpenes are the smells and tastes as well as medicinal values in medical marijuana. These compounds offer synergistic effects above and beyond the normal effects of marijuana.

Primary Cannabis Terpenes (What Are cannabis Terpenes?)

Image From naturalcannabis.com

α Pinene

α Pinene is responsible for the familiar smell of cannabis which many people describe as reminiscent of pine trees and turpentine. As the most common terpenoid found in cannabis a Pinene is both an anti-inflammatory and a bronchodilator for the human body.


Myrcene which is found in cannabis, thyme, hops, lemongrass, and citrus is also commonly used in aromatherapy. Myrcene concentration in cannabis directly affects the psychoactive effects and how they respond in the human body. Strains with over .5% myrcene will produce a sedative high and strains containing less than .5% myrcene will produce a more energizing of alert effect.


Ocimene is a terpene that helps cannabis plants defenses against pests and has a powerful antifungal effect. Ocimene is most famously known as an ingredient in perfumes because of its pleasant odor profile.


Terpineol is used in aromatherapy due to its beautiful smell, it can often be found in perfume and soaps as part of a fragrance profile.

β Caryophyllene

β Caryophyllene is the only terpene that acts on the body’s endocannabinoid system (CB2). It creates pain reducing and anti-inflammatory effects on the human body.


Another anti-inflammatory terpene is α Humulene. This terpene contains notes of Hops in the overall cannabis aroma. It is also said it acts as an anti-appetite factor but I don’t believe it because I’m always hungry when I’m even near cannabis.


Linalool is a very active terpene in the fact that it creates several responses in the human body including an anti-anxiety, general stress reducer, analgesic and anti-epileptic. Linalool has a floral aroma that smells of spring flowers with a touch of spice.


Limonene a terpene found in the rinds of citrus fruits as well as in cannabis creates a Sativa like effect. Limonene terpenes assist in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and mucous membranes. It is also used to treat anxiety and depression.


Terpinolene, a terpene known to have significant sedative effects on the human
brain when inhaled. This terpene has floral notes that you’ll find in strains such as Jack Herer. In Studies on lab mice, Terpinolene was found to have antioxidant and anticancer effects on cells.


Valencene is another terpene with notes of citrus and can also be found in Valencia oranges. This compound creates citrus notes in many cannabis strains.


Geraniol a compound found in geraniums has a noticeably rose like scent which makes it a popular ingredient for perfumes. It is said that it is a good mosquito repellent though I’ve tried it and got eaten alive. Studies on Geraniol have pointed to the possibility that this terpene could protect against nephropathy.

Secondary Terpenes Found in Cannabis (What Are cannabis Terpenes?)


Phellandrene in recent studies has shown to have anti-depressive effects on the human brain. An essential oil found in plants related to the eucalyptus genus it has a smell of peppermint and citrus.


Terpinene has strong anti-oxidant properties and has no known side effects. Its fragrance is used in cosmetic and food industries.


Borneol has shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive effects. The menthol undertones are a calm sedative and can be helpful in combating fatigue and for recovering from illness or stress.


Found in green tea, phytol is a diterpene that results from the degradation of chlorophyll. Phytol inhibits the enzyme that degrades the neurotransmitter GABA, which may partially account for its relaxing effect.


Sabinene another anti-inflammatory compound is known to relieve digestion issues, improve liver function and relieve pain from arthritis. Its rich earthy tones are reminiscent of oak, spice and black pepper.


Isoborneol is found in Mugwort, not Hogwarts. It is famous for its antiviral properties, specifically, it is an inhibitor of herpes simplex type 1.


Cedrene is present in the essential oil of cedar. Its woody undertones can be found in many strains of cannabis.


Guaiol is an alcohol found in the oil of guaiacum and cypress pine. It possesses anti-microbial properties.

Geranyl Acetate

Geranyl Acetate is a terpene with powerful anti-microbial effects. Geranyl Acetate can be found in the natural oils of many plants such as citronella, lemongrass, sassafras, roses, and many others. The flavor and aroma undertones are subtle and reminiscent of flowers and fruits.


This Terpene compound is created from eucalyptus oil and has an earthy aroma and minty flavor. Studies have shown that it is a powerful anti-fungal agent.


Carene which is extracted from pine and cedar resin has a sweet, pungent odor. It has the strange effect on the body of drying extra body fluids, tears, mucus and sweat.


Fenchol is another compound that has strong antibacterial properties. It can be found in the herb Basil and is used in the creation of perfume.


Bisabolol which is the primary ingredient of German Chamomile essential oil has been shown to create apoptosis in leukemia. Apoptosis is defined as cell death just in case you were wondering. I had to look it up.


Camphene which is an essential oil extracted from various trees. It provides pain relief, anti-cancer, and antioxidant effects.


The compound camphor is extracted from the camphor tree. This substance is easily absorbed through the skin while providing a cooling sensation and a slight anesthetic reaction. Camphor is also a known antimicrobial compound.


Everyone knows how menthol smells and feels. Topically it can be used for everything from a cough to treating inflammatory pain.


The substance known as Nerolidol is derived from oranges. This compound is known to act as a gentle sedative and also antifungal and antimalarial.


Isopulegol which is a precursor chemical to menthol shows many therapeutic uses such as a gastroprotective agent, anti-inflammatory and also reduces the severity of seizures.


Cymene can be found in the essential oils of cumin and thyme. It has documented anti-inflammatory effects, as well as research, shows it protects against lung injury.


Pulegone has a pleasant peppermint aroma and is a strong insecticide.

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