What are Cannabis Terpenes and What Do They Do?

What are Cannabis Terpenes and What Do They Do?

Published on 9/3/19

Picture this: you walk into a dispensary and ask the budtender to show you their favorite strain and they pull out Blue Dream. Your budtender holds a jar out to you and tells you to take a whiff. You stick your nose in and take a deep breath, your senses are hit with a fruity sweet smell and then an earthy vanilla aroma. In this article we will discuss how terpenes cause cannabis to have such amazing aromas and flavors, as well as the benefits they add to each strain.

What are Terpenes?


Terpenes, also called terpenoids, are oils secreted within glands in the cannabis flower which are responsible for giving the plant its potent smell and flavor. Terpenes are not exclusive to cannabis, with nearly every plant containing a unique spectrum of the aromatic oils. Plants produce terpenes as a defense mechanism, with strong odors repelling potential predators. The cannabis plant is covered in very small sticky and shiny crystals called trichomes. Terpenes are secreted in the trichomes, which not only protect the plant from insects and other predators but also lure insects that help with pollination.

To date, there are over 50,000 different terpenes that have been discovered in plants all across the world, with at least 145-150 known terpenes in the cannabis plant! Terpenes don't just create great aromas in the cannabis plant, they also have the ability to interact with cannabinoids like THC to create different positive effects within the human body!

What are the Benefits of Cannabis Terpenes?

Throughout history, ancient civilizations have discovered the powerful benefits of different terpenes through aromatherapy. In addition to their amazing aromas, terpenes also add great flavor to the cannabis that you smoke. However, terpenes do more than just smell and taste great, they are also beneficial to the human body.

Just like cannabinoids, terpenes are able to bind to receptors throughout the body to produce a variety of positive effects. Terpenes have been known to help with things like brain function, stress, nausea, inflammation, pain relief and insomnia. Terpenes don't just work with our body's receptors, they also work together with cannabinoids, which is known as the entourage effect.

What is the Entourage Effect?

The Entourage Effect is the name given to the process of multiple compounds of the cannabis plant working together. Terpenes help accelerate uptake of cannabinoids into the body's bloodstream. In addition to this, terpenes have the ability to change the way cannabinoids interact with receptors in the body. Studies have even shown that some terpenes have the ability to reduce memory loss associated with THC use! What's more, terpenes can also mitigate the psychoactive effects of THC.

List of Cannabis Terpenes


Listing every single terpene found in the cannabis plant would be tedious and overwhelming. Instead, we've listed a few that we think you might be more familiar with.


Myrcene has a musky herbal smell with hints of citrus. It is often used to help treat chronic pain and inflammation.Myrcene can be found in marijuana strains like Chemdawg, White Widow and Blue Dream. Outside of cannabis, it can be found in fruits such as mangos!


Caryophyllene has a peppery smell with hints of wood. It is great for treating anxiety and inflammation and can be found in strains like Cookies & Cream, Gorilla Glue #4 and Deathstar. Outside of cannabis, this terpene can be found in cloves!


This terpene is probably one of the most distinct and recognizable - it has a strong lemon and citrus scent. It works well as an antidepressant or as an antioxidant. It can be found in strains like Super Lemon Haze and Lemon Skunk. Outside of cannabis, limonene  can be found in lemons.


Humulene has an earthy aroma with hints of spice. It is great for treating chronic pain as well as inflammation. It can be found in strains like Headband, Girl Scout Cookies and White Widow.  Other than in the cannabis plant, this aromatic terpene  can be found in hops.


Just like the name suggests, pinene smells like pine trees! Pinene is a great anti-inflammatory and helps keep lungs clear, making it great for those who suffer from asthma! It can be found in strains like Strawberry Cough and Blue Dream. Other than in your favorite marijuana strains, pinene can be found in pine trees!


Linalool has a sweet floral scent with hints of citrus. This terpene is great for treating anxiety and pain as well as reducing stress. It can be found in strains like Lavender Jones, Skywalker OG and Special Kush. Outside of cannabis, linalool it can be found in lavender.

What Do Terpenes Have to Do with Indica and Sativa?


More recently there have been debates on whether or not to categorize strains by indica or sativa, or to call them something else completely. Sativa strains are known to be uplifting and energetic, while indica strains are known to be mellow and relaxing. But what makes a strain Indica or Sativa? A strain's classification can be attributed to the terpenes found in each plant, known as the "terpene profile." Taking a closer look at the terpene profile of a cannabis plant will give users a better idea of what their high will be like.

While we listed six different terpenes, there are four terpenes that every smoker should know to make the best of their highs: myrcene, linalool, limonene and pinene. Being able to identify each of these terpenes can help users have a better understanding of each strain just by its smell t! With myrcene and linalool, users will feel relaxed and calm (Indica). While  limonene and pinene will cause users to feel energetic and alert (sativa)! By mastering these four terpenes, users can identify the terpene profile of just about any strain! Plus, users can impress others by being able to tell people all about a strain just by the smell of it!

Creating Customized Terpene Flavors


Similar to how cannabinoids can be extracted from the cannabis plant, so too can terpenes. Not only are dispensaries beginning to sell terpenes individually, many cannabis companies are now selling products that promote a certain mood or feeling, rather than sativa/hybrid or india. As mentioned above, more and more people seem to be moving away from old labels and are instead interested in a strains terpene profiles.

Users don't need to visit a dispensary to find terpenes, just hop online and order from a reputable online vendor! Cannabis terpenes can be taken on their own or added to anything that users are smoking; whether that be dabs, edibles or a good old bowl!

How Can I Tell What Terpenes are In Each Strain?

The best way to identify what terpenes are in each strain is through the aroma. However, sometimes our noses get confused when there are a variety of smells present. Don't be afraid to ask your budtender, they are there to help! Most budtenders are familiar with the strains they are selling and can provide an accurate profile description. Plus, most budtenders have tried all the weed in the store and know the details of each strain. If all else fails, hopping on the internet is always a great option! Researching the genetics of strains will give users a thorough explanation of the marijuana they are smoking, with a detailed list of all the terpenes contained in the strain.

Are Terpenes Psychoactive?

By themselves, terpenes are not psychoactive. However, all terpenes have different properties which can each affect your high in a number of different ways. As mentioned above, some terpenes increase the intensity of your high while others may decrease the intensity. Myrcene for example, enhances the potency of THC because it accelerates uptake of the cannabinoid into the body's bloodstream. Pinene actually decreases the effects of THC, which is great for users who are focused more on CBD and less on THC! So, while terpenes are not directly responsible for  the psychoactive high you feel when smoking, they do play a major role in how each strain makes you feel.

What's the Difference Between Terpenes and Essential Oils?


It is easy for people to confuse essential oils and terpenes, both are known for their aromatic presence. Essential oils contain terpenes and a number of other different compounds, while terpenes are individual entities. Think of it as a garden, essential oils are the entirety of the garden with all the flowers combined, while terpenes are each individual flower type.

Next time you are at the dispensary, smell all the different strains and see if you can identify the terpene profile of each strain! What is your favorite strain right now? Can you tell which terpenes are present? If you could create your own customized terpene profile, what would it smell like?

Let us know in the comments section below! Be sure to check out where to grab your favorite strain at a dispensary near you, check out our siteto find the location with the best deals!

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