Cannabis Terpenes 101: What Are They & How Can They Help You?

Blog, Featured, Education

Editorial / April 11, 2020


New users and connoisseurs alike know that there is something special about the taste and aroma of cannabis. Whether it’s a bright fruity, flavor, pungent skunk, or diesel smell, the sensory experience of cannabis can make you appreciate your favorite strains even more. In fact, it may be one of the primary reasons you fall in love with a strain in the first place.


The terpene profile of each strain determines its unique taste and smell. But, while you have likely heard of cannabis terpenes before, you may not be clear on what they are exactly, and how they impact your overall experience, or how they interact with your body. This guide will answer all of your terpene-related questions and help you discover why you might prefer one strain over another.


In this post, we’ll cover:


  • What are Cannabis Terpenes and How They Affect the Body
  • The 8 Most Common Cannabis Terpenes
    • Myrcene – Herbal
    • Limonene – Citrus
    • Caryophyllene – Peppery
    • Terpinolene – Fruity
    • Pinene – Pine
    • Humulene – Earthy
    • Ocimene – Woody
    • Linalool – Floral


What are Cannabis Terpenes and How Do They Affect the Body?


Terpenes are one of the active chemical compounds in cannabis that contain the same aromatic oils found in plants, trees, flowers, and herbs. Like cannabinoids, terpenes are produced by the trichomes, the frosty resin glands on the outside of the bud.


Each strain’s terpene profile determines its taste and smell, so a large part of the sensory stimulation you get from cannabis is from the terpenes. More importantly, each terpene interacts with the body differently—some terpenes may ease stress, promote sleep, or increase energy and focus. So, we can often look at a strain’s dominant terpenes to understand its effects.


When combined with cannabinoids, terpenes are more effective than in their isolated form. In return, terpenes also make cannabinoids more beneficial because they can modify the rate of absorption, potency, and overall effectiveness of the cannabinoids.


This process produces the phenomenon known as the “Entourage Effect,” which is thought to increase the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. The Entourage Effect is one reason whole flower and full-spectrum cannabis products are more effective than those with isolated compounds.


8 Most Common Cannabis Terpenes


While there are over 120 cannabis terpenes, the 8 outlined below are the most common and most abundant. To help you select the best strains for your needs, we highlight the potential benefits of each terpene and which strains you are most likely to find them in.


1. Myrcene

Found in: Mango, Thyme, Lemongrass, and Hops


Aroma: Herbal


Strains: Granddaddy Purple, OG Kush, Green Cush, Mimosa, Iced Lemonade, Malibu Pure Kush, and Cannadescent CALM


Myrcene is the most common cannabis terpene. In 40% of all cannabis strains on the market, myrcene is the most abundant terpene. Studies on myrcene show it to be an effective pain and inflammation reducer. This terpene acts as a powerful relaxant, so it is commonly found in indica leaning hybrids, such as goodbrands Iced Lemonade and Canndescent CALM.


2. Limonene


Found In: Citrus Fruits, Lemon Rind, Orange Rind, and Juniper


Aroma: Citrus


Strains: Wedding Cake, Apple Fritter, GMO, and Garlic Breath


Limonene — the terpene known for its citrusy flavor and aroma — has been shown to increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, triggering feelings of happiness and contentment. There is also evidence to suggest that limonene can act as an anti-inflammatory and antifungal. For flavorful strains high in limonene, shop goodbrands Wedding Cake and Baker’s Garlic Breath.


3. Caryophyllene


Found In: Black Pepper, Cloves, and Cinnamon


Aroma: Peppery


Strains: Original Glue, Purple Punch, Cereal Milk, Peach Ozz, Grease Monkey, and Lava Cake


Caryophyllene (beta-caryophyllene) is unique in that it also acts as a cannabinoid so it can bind directly to the CB2 cannabinoid receptor. As part of the endocannabinoid system, the CB2 receptor regulates the immune system and the peripheral nervous system.


When the CB2 receptors are activated, it can reduce inflammation and pain. Strains high in caryophyllene, such as goodbrands Peach Ozz and Grease Monkey, can help warm the joints, making movement easier. Caryophyllene is also thought to make strains fast-acting.


4. Terpinolene


Found In: Lilacs, Nutmeg, and Cumin


Aroma: Floral, Fruity, and Herbal


Strains: Jack Herer, XJ-13, and Durban Kush


Terpinolene offers uplifting and energizing effects and is often found in sativa strains, such as Baker’s Jack Herer. Despite its energizing effects, terpinolene can also be found in indica and hybrid strains. Most strains with a high concentration of terpinolene are THC-dominant and only have a small percentage of CBD (cannabidiol), so it’s hard to find a lot of 1:1 stains with terpinolene.


5. Pinene


Found In: Pine Needles, Rosemary, and Basil


Aroma: Pine


Strains: Snoop’s Dream, Blue Dream, and Pie Face OG


Many strains have the pine tree scent associated with pinene, but it is rare to find pinene as a dominant terpene. Most strains are dominant in one of the four strains listed above, myrcene, limonene, caryophyllene, and terpinolene. However, pinene is often the second or third most dominant terpene.


Although research is still new, pinene is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain. Strains with pinene, such as Baker’s Pie Face OG, are recommended for people who use cannabis to combat physical ailments or chronic illnesses.


6. Humulene


Found In: Hops, Wood, Basil, Coriander, and Cloves


Aroma: Woody and Earthy


Strains: Sherbert, GSC (Girl Scout Cookies), Headband, Lava Cake, and Candyland


Humulene is known for its strong hoppy flavor, similar to beer. This terpene has the same chemical makeup as beta-caryophyllene. Therefore, it is often present in the same strains as this close relative. You can find both Humulene and caryophyllene in goodbrands Lava Cake.


While humulene is often present in small amounts, when compared to other terpenes, it typically contributes an earthy, floral note to the cultivar’s overall taste and smell. Studies also show that humulene oil may have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.


7. Ocimene


Found In: Mint, Parsley, and Orchids


Aroma: Herbal and Woody


Strains: Dutch Treat, Amnesia, and Green Crack


Ocimene has a distinctly fresh scent and is found in many perfumes and lotions. This terpene is thought to act as a protectant for the cannabis plant—helping to repel predators, attract pollinators, and ensure harmful elements don’t damage the buds. Ocimene also seems to have the same effect on the human body — a 2014 study found that ocimene can act as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.


While Ocimene can appear in both sativa and indica leaning strain, it is frequently found in sativa strains like Green Crack and Canndescent CHARGE.


8. Linalool


Found In: Lavender and Birch Bark


Aroma: Floral


Strains: Kosher Kush and Do-Si-Dos


Linalool is the dominant terpene in lavender. And, like lavender, linalool is known for its sedative effects, as well as its ability to induce sleep and ease stress. This is one reason you will find linalool in several indica and indica-dominant hybrid strains on the market. However, it is very rarely a dominant cannabis terpene.


There is also research suggesting that linalool can reduce inflammation and ease muscle pain, so it’s perfect for people who have trouble sleeping due to backaches or other discomforts. For an indica leaning strain that is high in linalool, we suggest Canndescent CALM or goodbrands Garlic Breath.


Frequently Asked Questions


How do you know the terpene content of a cannabis product?


Most products that contain lab-tested cannabis flower, such as flower jars and pre-rolls, will list the terpene profile on the label or in the product description.


Some cannabis extracts and concentrates may also list the terpene content if the terpenes have been added back into the oil.


However, edible products will not list the terpene profile since they are made with various strains that make it difficult to pinpoint the exact profile.


Do terpenes get you high?


Isolated terpenes, such as those found in essential oils and some cannabis products, will not have any psychoactive effects. Researchers believe that terpenes and cannabinoids, such as THC, CBD, and CBN, work together to create a strain’s overall effects, both psychoactive and non-psychoactive.


When choosing a strain, it is best to look at the subspecies (indica, hybrid, sativa), cannabinoids (THC and CBD percentages), and the terpene profile to determine whether it will produce the desired effect. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis because they bind to the CB1 receptors concentrated in the brain and the central nervous system.


What terpenes are good for sleep?


Myrcene is the most relaxing and calming of the terpenes and is often found in indica leaning strains. However, myrcene may also be found in sativa strains, so be sure to look at the other features when determining the best cannabis strains for sleep.


What is the difference between terpenes and terpenoids?


The difference in the name refers to the chemical changes that take place when the cannabis flower dries. In its raw form, terpenes are simply referred to as terpenes. When dried, terpenes are referred to as terpenoids.


Shop for Products With Your Favorite Terpenes


Terpenes offer unique therapeutic benefits that can enhance your experience with cannabis. When it comes to trying new strains, don’t be afraid to experiment, but listen to your body — what works well for you may not be right for someone else. Always remember to look at the entire profile of the flower — the subspecies, cannabinoids, and terpene profile — when choosing buds, but pay special attention to the terpene profile, as it can give you a good idea of the strain’s flavor, aroma, benefits, and overall effect. To try products with a wide range of strains and terpenes profiles, shop our full assortment of Canndescent Brands products and have them delivered right to your door.

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