Cannabis Terpenes 101: What are they and how do they affect the body?

When discussing the effects and characteristics of different cannabis strains, we often refer to cannabinoids, or the percentages of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids they contain. But there is another lesser-known compound that has an important role in the aromas, flavors and effects produced by the cannabis plant: terpenes.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants and some animals. They are best known for producing the scents, tastes and even colors of different vegetation—for example, the varying smells and tastes associated with different cannabis strains—but they also help protect plants by repelling predators like animals, fungi and insects.

Terpenes are produced in the trichomes of the cannabis plant, or the crystals on the leaves and buds. More than 100 terpenes have been identified in cannabis. The compound is also commonly found in citrus fruits and aromatic herbs.

How do terpenes affect the body?

The truth is, there are still a lot of unknowns about how terpenes work within the human body. It is thought that the dominant terpenes, or terpene profile, of a cannabis strain interact with cannabinoids like THC and CBD to create various effects.

You know how each cannabis strain makes you feel a little bit different—for instance, one might be relaxing, and another, a bit more energizing? While we tend to attribute these effects to a strain’s cannabinoid content (in other words, the percentages of CBD, THC, etc.), some cannabis experts say we should be focusing on the terpene profile instead. 

It is believed that terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), working synergistically with cannabinoids to produce what is called “the entourage effect”: a theory that the effects of different compounds are enhanced when they are all consumed together (for instance, as in full spectrum cannabis products).

5 common terpenes and their effects

There are over 100 terpenes that we know of in the cannabis plant. The following is a guide to the five most common, their properties and potential benefits.

1. Myrcene

Scent: earthy

Also found in: hops

Potential benefits: may help with sleep; reducing inflammation and chronic pain; supplement during cancer treatment

2. Limonene

Scent: citrusy, like lemons

Also found in: cosmetics; cleaning products

Potential benefits: mood lifting; may help reduce stress; antifungal and antibacterial properties

3. Linalool

Scent: spicy, floral

Also found in: lavender, mint, cinnamon, coriander

Potential benefits: sleep and relaxation, arthritis, seizures, insomnia, depression, cancer treatment

4. Caryophyllene

Scent: spicy, peppery

Also found in: black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, basil and rosemary

Potential benefits: anti-inflammatory properties; pain and anxiety relief; reducing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

5. Pinene

Scent: wood, pine

Also found in: pine trees and needles, rosemary, basil and parsley

Potential benefits: treating ulcers, anxiety, asthma, chronic pain; may counteract the effects of THC in certain pinene-dominant strains

Want to talk more about terpenes? Book an appointment with one of our cannabis doctors

Schedule a medical cannabis evaluation with one of our certified physicians to learn more about how terpenes can affect your body.

You can also book an appointment to apply for a medical marijuana card. We’ll answer any questions you have and make the process as easy as possible!


  • Share the joy