We’ve talked about a few of the most important compounds in cannabis before: cannabinoids such as THC and CBD that give the plant its medicinal and euphoric effects. But while we sometimes describe the cannabinoids as the major “active ingredients” in cannabis, they’re hardly the only piece of the puzzle. If you’re new to cannabis or looking to deepen your knowledge, it’s time to get familiar with cannabis terpenes.

A large family of aromatic oils, cannabis-derived terpenes are best known for giving different strains their distinct aromas and flavors. Behind the scenes, these compounds also lend powerful medicinal benefits to the cannabis plant’s already potent effects. Let’s dive in!

What Is a Cannabis Terpene? An Introduction

In scientific lingo, terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons—what many of us might call “essential oils”—found in the cannabis plant. They’re produced and secreted by trichomes, the same tiny silvery glands that produce THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.

But terpenes are hardly unique to cannabis. If you’ve ever wondered why cannabis can smell like fresh fruit, Christmas trees, or even Diesel fuel, terpenes are the common denominator. They occur in countless natural flora, and even in some insects and animals! In fact, some botanists believe that terpenes are the single largest and most diverse group of natural products on the planet. For the purposes of this post, we’ll stick with the topic of cannabis-derived terpenes.

As we’ve hinted, terpenes do more than simply add enticing flavors and aromas to cannabis. Research suggests that terpenes work in partnership with cannabinoids in what’s termed the “ensemble” or “entourage effect” to produce specific therapeutic results. While still theoretical, a growing body of evidence supports the concept, and it may hold the key to future therapies based on cannabis-derived terpenes.

What Is a Cannabis Terpene? Meet the Top Five

There are a great many terpenes in cannabis (at least 150 of them)! Today, let’s begin with the five most common:

Myrcene

Just as THC is the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, myrcene is its most abundant terpene, meaning it is found in some concentration in the majority of strains. Characterized by a fruity and grapelike flavor, myrcene is gently sedative. What’s more, this terpene synergizes and helps potentiate the actions of other terpenes and cannabinoids, making it a crucial player in cannabis’ active ingredient ecosystem.

Myrcene-rich strains include: Skunk XL, White Widow, and Special Kush

Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene

Known collectively as “pinene,” these related terpenes are identified by their distinctively piney aroma. You’ll also find this terpene in pine trees, orange peels, and herbs such as basil and rosemary. Studies suggest that pinene exerts a gentle anti-inflammatory effect, reducing inflammatory responses such as asthma.

Pinene-rich strains include: Strawberry Cough, Blue Dream and Dutch Treat

Caryophyllene

This spicy and peppery terpene is being investigated for its analgesic and anxiolytic effects. It also binds to our cells more readily than many other terpenes, making it a valued ingredient in some topicals and balms.

Caryophyllene-rich strains include: Super Silver Haze, OG Kush, and Rock Star

Limonene

Bright and cheerful-smelling, this citrus-scented terpene adds its uplifting effects to many cannabis strains. Clinical studies underscore its potential use to reduce stress and anxiety. And believe it or not, at least one study suggests limonene may have a role to play in fighting COVID-19.

Limonene-rich strains include: Sour Diesel, Durban Poison, and Jack Herer

Linalool

A main component in the classic “marijuana smell,” linalool may also help fight anxiety and depression. Research suggests this important, cannabis-derived terpene might also help reverse the cognitive impairment and memory loss associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

Linalool-rich strains include: Amnesia Haze, Special Kush, and Lavender

Cannabis Derived Terpenes: Wrapping Up

We hope this introductory guide on cannabis terpenes has been helpful! Not just the flavor and aroma powerhouses of the cannabis plant, these compounds are showing therapeutic promise all their own and may be key to understanding how cannabis offers its multifaceted effects. 

Do you have other questions about terpenes (or anything else in the world of cannabis)? Just ask! We’re here to help. You can always visit our dispensary to learn more about terpenes from our friendly and knowledgeable team, or peruse our online menu to see what we’ve currently got in stock. We look forward to serving you!