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Complete List Of Cannabis Terpenes & Why They Matter

With terpenes, the conversation about cannabis is steering in a new direction. The next crop of consumers wants to know all about terpenes and how these fragrant compounds enhance the effects of different cannabis strains. We thought a complete list of cannabis terpenes and why they matter is a good way to start!

What purpose do terpenes serve?

Terpenes are chemical molecules in plants that perform a variety of lifesaving functions. They not only give cannabis its unique taste and aroma but serve as a natural protector against pests and environmental stress. In a way, terpenes act like nature’s gatekeepers, keeping cannabis flower healthy and preserving its overall medicinal quality. Unlike other plants, cannabis contains over 100 different terpenes.

Part of the reason everyone’s starting to discuss terpenes in greater detail comes down to this: terpenes could have far-reaching health benefits and the potential to change the way people select cannabis products.

Seasoned consumers tend to go for high THC: CBD content, assuming that stronger flower yields stronger effects. Although these cannabinoids house the medicinal properties of cannabis, they alone don’t tell the whole story.

What are the benefits of terpenes?

Terpenes are believed to work synergistically with cannabinoids, often referred to as the “entourage effect.” Within the scientific community, researchers speculate that terpenes positively impact the therapeutic quality of cannabis, alongside THC, CBD, and other common phytocannabinoids.

Supporters of the “entourage effect” argue that the combined effects of terpenes and cannabinoids explain why different strains make us feel energetic, creative, relaxed, or sleepy. Theoretically, the “entourage effect” makes sense, but how it works from a biological standpoint is still unclear. When considering how terpene profiles change THC: CBD effects, most of what we know comes from anecdotal evidence.

That said, on their own, terpenes do have calming effects, similar to the way aromatherapy works. Lavender, citrus, and pine-scented essential oils all contain terpenes. A couple of whiffs from an oil diffuser and you may experience an enveloping sense of calm. That’s terpenes in action! If you’re hearing about terpenes for the first time, you may be surprised to learn that terpenes are everywhere and in everything from perfumes and soaps to fruits, veggies, and herbs.

Where are terpenes found?

In nature, terpenes give pine trees a Christmasy perfume, lemons a citrusy zing, and peppercorns a spicy allure. They’re found in trees, flowering plants, some insects, and fungi. In addition to protecting plants from curious herbivores, terpenes facilitate cross-breeding in some plants by attracting pollinators.

Healthwise, terpenes have known anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-cancer benefits. Next time you’re walking through a park or trekking through a forest (preferably with cannabis), consider the fact that just breathing in the air can be therapeutic for your health. Thanks to the terpenes produced in nature and in cannabis, we all stand to feel a little more uplifted and relaxed.

Where exactly are the terpenes in the cannabis plant? Trichomes, the sparkly “frost” found on cannabis flower, synthesize and store both terpenes and cannabinoids. Harvesters pay close attention to trichome color during the flowering season to preserve these components. The abundance of terpenes varies from strain to strain, and some are more common than others.

Common Terpenes Found In Cannabis **

In this terpenes chart, you’ll find seven of the most common types in cannabis and the name of popular terpene-specific strains. You’ll also see a list of the health benefits associated with each terpene based on findings from preliminary studies.

Myrcene: [MUR-seen]

 

Myrcene Description:

 

[MUR-seen]

Myrcene happens to be the most dominant terpene expressed in cannabis. It’s described as musky, earthy, and spicy.

 

If you’ve ever eaten lemongrass, mangoes, or thyme, you’ve tried myrcene. This terpene is even in hops, so beer drinkers have all had their fair share of myrcene.

Popular myrcene strains: OG Kush, Blue Dream, Granddaddy Purple
Potential benefits: Chronic inflammation, Anti-anxiety
Fun facts: One way to experience the “entourage effect” with myrcene is to eat mango while you smoke cannabis/hemp flower.

 

Some people swear that this combination enhances the effect of THC, or CBD if you’re going the hemp route. Myrcene may help cannabinoids move to the brain quicker and extend their effects.

Linalool: [LIN-uh-lool]

 

Linalool Description:

 

[LIN-uh-lool]

Linalool is known for its floral notes and relaxing effects. Lavender is a linalool-dominant plant, but other species such as rosewood, laurel, and sweet basil also express high linalool profiles.

 

The linalool terpene smells woody, sweet, and fresh, with hints of citrus.

Popular linalool strains: Do-Si-Dos, OG Shark, Lavender Kush
Potential benefits: Pain relief, Anti-anxiety, Alzheimer’s treatment, Stress, Anti-bacterial
Fun facts: Common knowledge about linalool says that it has powerful sedation and relaxation effects. You can amplify cannabis by adding dried lavender into the mix.

 

Another way to trigger the “entourage effect” is to diffuse lavender-scented essential oils in the air as you smoke flower or puff on a vape pen. The boosted linalool may take you to a whole other level of bliss.

Limonene: [LIM-o-neen]

 

Limonene Description:

 

[LIM-o-neen]

Limonene is an abundant terpene found in the rinds of lemons, oranges, and mandarins. Cone-bearing trees such as juniper also produce high amounts of limonene.

 

The smell is described as fresh, ripe citrus. In folk medicine, limonene from fruit and juniper trees has powerful medicinal properties.

Popular limonene strains: Strawberry Banana, Wedding Cake, Purple Hindu Kush
Potential benefits: Anticancer, Digestion, Anxiety, and Stress Relief
Fun facts: When selecting cannabis strains with limonene, special attention should be paid to find third-party tested lab results to confirm terpene potency.

 

Limonene appears in small traces, usually less than 2%, which is why it’s always a good idea to double-check and make sure the lab results stand up to the number advertised on the label.

Pinene: [PIE-neen]

 

Pinene Description:

 

[PIE-neen]

Pinene might be the most recognizable terpene to the nose. Around Christmas time, pinene is cherished for its earthy and fresh fragrance.

 

This terpene is commonly found in pine needles, rosemary, dill, basil, and orange peels.

Popular pinene strains: Harlequin, Blue Dream, Big Smooth
Potential benefits: Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer, Antioxidant, Brain health
Fun facts: One way to get the most out of pinene is to take your smoke sesh outdoors, preferably around pine trees.

 

Depending on your location and the legal status of cannabis in your state, consuming cannabis in the open air may enhance the overall medicinal effects.

Caryophyllene: [carry-OFF-uh-leen]

 

Caryophyllene Description:

 

[carry-OFF-uh-leen]

The smell is described as musky and peppery. Caryophyllene is commonly found in cloves, cinnamon, hops, and black pepper.

 

As you smoke caryophyllene-dominant strains, your nose may crinkle from the spicy scent.

Popular caryophyllene strains: Cookies and Cream, Bubba Kush, Girl Scout Cookies
Potential benefits: Anti-inflammatory, Anxiety, Depression
Fun facts: Even though it’s the most difficult terpene to pronounce, studies with caryophyllene show promising binding activity to CB2 receptors (that’s good news).

 

In cannabis, caryophyllene could help reduce inflammation better than other terpenes, thanks to its unique molecular shape.

Humulene: [HYOO-myu-leen

 

Humulene Description:

 

[HYOO-myu-leen]

The smell of humulene is considered woody and hoppy. Alcoholic beverages like beer have high humulene profiles. Humulene is also found in cannabis, sage, and ginseng.

 

Although humulene is a common terpene found in cannabis, it presents itself in lower quantities than the other listed terpenes.

Popular humulene strains: Death Star, Headband, Candyland
Potential benefits: Memory booster, Reduces allergies, Appetite suppressant
Fun facts: Humulene has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its anticancer and antioxidant properties.

 

Modern medicine featuring humulene continues to grow as scientists learn more about the medicinal properties of this pungent terpene.

Terpinolene: [ter-PIN-uh-leen]

 

Terpinolene Description:

 

[ter-PIN-uh-leen]

Terpinolene, while found in cannabis, also expresses itself in nutmeg, cumin, tea tree, and apples.

 

The smell is described as herbaceous, citrusy, floral, and piney. In terms of smell, this terpene is a little all over the map.

Popular terpinolene strains: Jack Herer, Golden Pineapple, Dutch Treat
Potential benefits: Anticancer, Antioxidant
Fun facts: Terpinolene doesn’t appear as often as other terpenes in the cannabis plant. However, you will see it listed from time to time after pinene, myrcene, and limonene.

 

At this time, terpinolene has received some attention from scientists studying its anticancer and antioxidant properties.

Terpenes vs Terpenoids

The two terms are used interchangeably, however, the difference between them comes down to chemistry. When hydrocarbons form, plants synthesize terpenes in their leaves and flowers.  

High temperatures cause cannabis to decarboxylate (lose carbon) and subsequently become terpenoids. When you smoke cannabis, the molecular structure of terpenes changes. All in all, professionals in cannabis use both terms to describe the smell and taste of marijuana.

Final Thoughts: Terpenes In Cannabis

What’s so exciting about terpenes is the potential they have to change the way people select cannabis products. Terpenes affect the overall experience of cannabis by giving strains a distinct character, aroma, and taste. As cannabis research receives more funding for studies featuring terpenes and cannabinoids, recreational consumers and medical marijuana patients will be able to buy cannabis uniquely tailored to their individual needs and conditions.

Hopefully, a deeper understanding of terpenes at the scientific level will allow cannabis professionals to move beyond general explanations of different types of cannabis, i.e. Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid. In the meantime, terpenes can help us pinpoint our favorite strains and allow us to shop for cannabis beyond THC content.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do terpenes get you high?

 

Terpenes alone do not have psychoactive components, otherwise known as the “high” part of cannabis. Compared to THC, which is where the intoxicating effects of cannabis come from, terpenes are nonpsychoactive and abundant molecules found everywhere in nature. Terpenes are synthesized in the sticky residue produced by trichomes, but they’re separate from THC.

What’s the difference between terpenes and terpenoids?

Terpenes are a precursor to terpenoids. They have hydrocarbon atoms that break down when exposed to heat. From there, they become terpenoids. Both of these terms are used interchangeably in the cannabis community. Don’t be surprised if you hear the word terps either—terpenes, terps, and terpenoids all refer to the aromatic compounds that make cannabis smell and taste so wonderful.

Are terpenes psychoactive?

Not at all. The average human consumes terpenes every day without even realizing it. When you drink lemonade or get close to pine trees, you’re interacting with terpenes. Essential oils in soaps, lotions, and perfumes all contain terpenes. Although terpenes are found in the cannabis plant alongside THC, they’re nonpsychoactive and cannot make you “high.”

What plants have terpenes?

Plants, fruits, and vegetables all contain terpenes. If it’s green, comes from the ground, or grows on a tree, it probably has terpenes. Terpenes are commonly added to foods and beauty items to enhance their taste and smell. The cannabis plant contains over 100 terpenes.

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