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What are terpenes?

What are terpenes?

If you are familiar with “essential oils” you already have some experience with terpenes. Terpenes are found in high quantities in various essential oils. For example, limonene is in the essential oil of lemons and limes, alpha and beta-pinene are found in the essential oil of pine needles. The terpenes in these essential oils contribute to the uplifting effects you experience if you smell the rind of a lemon or walk through a pine forest. All of these terpenes, and thousands more, are found in high concentrations in the bud of cannabis.

Terpenes are organic compounds that provide aroma and flavor in cannabis and a variety of other organisms, including plants. Terpenes are responsible for the aroma and flavors of cannabis, and influence its effects by interacting with cannabinoids. Terpenes also play an incredibly important role by providing the plant with natural protection from bacteria and fungus, insects and other environmental stresses.Thanks to the wide variety of factors, over 200 terpenes have been noted to date.

The nose knows.

Aroma and flavor are subjective, and different aromas will appeal to different palates. A distinct, pungent, and unmistakable aroma — regardless of its particular flavor — is evidence of terpenes hard at work within the cannabis plant. So what does this mean for cannabis users? Basically, it gives merit to the idea that “the nose knows.” Our bodies and brains subconsciously have a preference for a particular terpene profile.

So why should I care about terpenes?

  1. Terpenes directly affect your high and contribute to The Entourage Effect of cannabis
  2. Terpenes have medical benefits, like cannabinoids, and work synergistically with other compounds in cannabis on the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).
  3. Terpenes give cannabis and vape oil its natural flavor

What are the most common terpenes?


Effects: Sedating, calming

Also found in: Thyme, mango, lemongrass, and hops

Smells like: Earthy, musky, cloves

Potential therapeutic value: Antioxidant; treatment of insomnia, pain, and inflammation


Effects: Elevated mood, stress relief

Also found in: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint

Smells like: Citrus

Potential therapeutic value: Elevated mood, stress relief, anti fungal properties, antibacterial properties, heartburn and gastric reflux. Improves absorption of other terpenes and chemicals by way of the skin, mucous membranes, and digestive tract.


Effects: Stress relief

Also found in: Black pepper, cloves, cinnamon

Smells like: Pepper, spicy, woody, cloves

Potential therapeutic value: Treatment of pain, anxiety/depression, ulcers


Effects: Uplifting

Also found in: Nutmeg, tea tree, conifers, apples, cumin, and lilacs

Smells like: Piney, floral, and herbal

Potential therapeutic value: Antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer


Effects: Alertness, memory retention, counteracts some THC effects

Also found in: Pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley, dill

Smells like: Pine

Potential therapeutic value: Treatment of asthma, pain, Inflammation, ulcers, anxiety, cancer


Effects: Anti-Inflammatory

Also found in: Hops, coriander, cloves, basil

Smells like: Hops, woody, earthy

Potential therapeutic value: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and appetite suppressant


Effects: anti-oxidative, uplifting

Also found in: Mint, parsley, pepper, basil, mangoes, orchids, and kumquats

Smells like: Sweet, herbal, and woody

Potential therapeutic value: Antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic, decongestant, antibacterial


Effects: Mood-enhancement and sedation

Also found in: Lavender

Smells like: Floral

Potential therapeutic value: Treatment of anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain, inflammation, and neurodegenerative disease

Sources and Research:


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