Cannabis is often known for its signature, easily recognizable scent. However, those more familiar with the plant understand there’s much more to cannabis, like its extensive terpenes profile — what may provide its flavorful and dynamic sensory experiences. Cannabis terpenes and CBD terpenes are usually what smokers / vapors are actually referring to when they indicate taste and scent preferences. But exactly what are terpenes?
What are terpenes?
Although they’re found in many plants, terpenes are the organic aromatic compounds many people commonly associate with cannabis because the plant contains such high concentrations of them. Each plant’s combination of compounds plays a key role in its signature scent and even flavor, like lavender and rosemary. Terpenes found in nature also protect their host by repelling predators, fending off germs and luring in pollinators, often acting in harmony with the plant’s immune system.
Cannabis terpenes are secreted from the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD. With over 100 different terpenes identified in the cannabis plant, each strain presents its own special terpene combination and composition. Outside of nature, manufacturers use selective terpenes to create or enhance the scent and flavor of everyday products like soaps, perfumes, foods and even cannabis products.
How do terpenes affect the body?
While it's suspected that cannabis terpenes play a key role in the differing effects of certain strains — especially given their bioactive properties — more research is needed to truly understand how and to what extent. Some terpenes have been studied a bit more than others though, lending some clarity on how they affect the body. It’s also become common practice in many cannabis analysis labs to test for terpene content, so a strain's details can usually provide buyers with more helpful information.
Research suggests that some terpenes, similarly to aromatherapy, may positively affect cannabis users’ mood and stress levels. Some also believe terpene’s presence in cannabis enhances users' traditional high. The “entourage effect” dictates how the effect profile of any given cannabis or CBD terpene may change or be altered in the presence of another, therefore impacting the effects of THC and CBD in the body.
Also Found In
● Pine needles
● Critical Mass
● Blue Dream
● Big Smooth
● Cherry Pie
● Granddaddy Purple
● OG Kush
● Fruit rinds
● Wedding Cake
● White Fire OG
● Ghost Train Haze
● Jack Herer
● Black pepper
● Original Glue
● Purple Punch
● Cookies & Cream
List of terpenes that are popular in cannabis and CBD
After the question “What are terpenes?” has been answered, a buyer's next thought may be: “Which cannabis terpenes / CBD terpenes are best forme?” Pinene, Myrcene, Limonene, Terpinolene and Caryophyllene represent the five most common terpenes in many popular cannabis strains. Above is a simplified terpene chart, and below is a small explanation of each cannabis terpene, what makes them unique and their potential benefits. .
Smells / tastes: Natural, Piney, Woodsy
Pinene is known for being the most common terpene in the natural world, found in everything from herbs to the humble pine needle. This cannabis terpene can be found in strains like Blue Dream, Critical Mass and Big Smooth, promoting an overall calming effect. It’s often used in hopes of helping to treat anxiety, inflammation, pain and ulcers.
Smells / tastes: Earthy, Herbal, Musky
Myrcene is one of the most common terpenes in modern, commercial cannabis. Naturally, it can be found in lemongrass, mango and thyme, as well as in strains like Granddaddy Purple, OG Kush and Cherry Pie. Found in strains popular for their sedative and relaxing properties, it’s potential benefits include treating inflammation, insomnia and pain.
Smells / tastes: Citrus, Lemon, Tropical
The more energizing terpene of Limonene is believed to encourage a calmed sense of joy and relief. Found also in fruit rinds and juniper berries, this cannabis terpene also finds a home in strains like White Fire OG, Do-Si-Dos and Wedding Cake. It’s potentially beneficial effects include stress relief — combatting anxiety and depression — elevated mood and anti- inflammation.
Smells / tastes: Floral, Herbal, Piney
The uplifting terpene Terpinolene is extremely popular and dominant in many cannabis strains. Found naturally in other plants like cumin, lilacs and nutmeg, Terpinolene can be found in strains like Ghost Train Haze, Chernobyl and Jack Herer. It can potentially provide antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer effects.
Smells / tastes: Peppery, Spicy, Woody
Caryophyllene is uniquely the only cannabis terpene that also acts as a cannabinoid. Also found in cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, this terpene can potentially provide anti-inflammatory effects, treat pain and help ease anxiety / depression. It’s known to find a home in strains like Original Glue, Purple Punch and many in the “Cookies” family.
How vaping cannabis or CBD enhances terpenes
Those looking to make the most out of cannabis or CBD terpenes should consider vaping, especially opposed to smoking a joint or out of basic bongs. Vaping is best for experiencing terpenes, since it provides much more control and smoking efficiency — it amplifies the taste and aromatic aspects of cannabis. For example, vape pens like Vessel’s allow users to control the temperature while vaping, and because terpenes are expressed at different temperatures, this may help enhance certain terpenes effects as well as their flavor.
The short answer: no. The cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is what creates the high users experience when using cannabis, not its terpenes. Though some terpenes can possess some of the same properties as cannabinoids, they are not THC and therefore, will not get users high. Terpenes may simply enhance the high created by THC and provide slightly altered effects.
Terpenes are legal on their own, although their legality in a cannabis context is largely dependent on the plant's legal status where its users live. Unlike THC and CBD, terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many different plants — as well as used in food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. But ultimately, cannabis terpenes specifically do follow the plant's legal status.
Cannabis strains that sport “high terpene levels” indicate a large presence of the highly aromatic compounds, possibly affecting a person’s mood and stress levels. These high levels also suggest a higher potential for the “entourage effect” to take place and enhance or alter the effects of THC and CBD in the body. Buyers should be cautious of large amounts of synthetic terpenes though, always favoring the botanical, organic compound.
Cannabis terpenes are the naturally occurring compound that give cannabis strains their unique taste and flavor. With potential medicinal benefits for the mind and body, CBD and cannabis terpenes allow you to customize your experience. For even more customization, try vaping your cannabis, as the different temperature settings allow you to take even more control!