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Cannabis and Terpenes

Cannabis and Terpenes: What Are Terpenes?

Have you ever wondered what gives your favorite cannabis strain its flavor and aromatic profile? 

Terpenes.

These aromatic molecules can be described as organic hydrocarbon compounds that impart flavor and fragrance profiles to plants.

When combined with cannabis, their effects can be even greater and add another medicinal layer to the whole experience.

This is due to a well-researched concept known as the “Entourage Effect.” We will get into this later.

Terpenes possess unique aromas, energizing properties, as well as numerous health benefits. They can be relaxing or stimulating, and everything in between.

Learn everything there is to know about these potent and healing compounds, as well as the most common ones found in cannabis in this article.

Here you will learn how they are most effective therapeutically and medicinally, and how they benefit the body, mind, and soul.

Cannabis and Terpenes: What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

Terpenes can be found in plants, (and some animals) which give off strong odors. They are the fundamental constituents of essential oils. 

Also, they have a long history of being used in folk medicine for thousands of years for their therapeutic properties.

Terpenes serve many purposes in nature. Not only are they a part of a plant’s unique fragrance profile, but they also aid in helping the plant to attract pollinators.

They are far more than their ability to create an in-depth aromatic experience, terpenes provide a wide array of benefits. 

Terpenes benefit plants by:

  • Protecting the plant from pests 
  • Attracting pollinators
  • Inhibiting bacterial and fungal growth
  • Shielding the pant from the sun and harsh radiation

In plants, terpenes protect and shield the plant from predators.

The strong aroma acts as a repellent against pests and other potential threats to the plant.

Scientifically speaking, terpenes are hydrocarbons that have small isoprene units linked to one another, which form chains. Their differences depend on molecular size and structure.

There are different sizes of terpene molecules – these include:

(In size order)

  • Monoterpene
  • Diterpenes
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Triterpenes
  • Tetraterpenes 

Many different kinds of terpenes appear in plants and fruits all over the world. 

For the most part, there are a few that are the most common that one might experience on a day-to-day basis.

Some of these are found in cannabis!

cannabis and terpenes

Common Cannabis Terpenes

As the name suggests, cannabis terpenes are derived from cannabis plants. There’s no real difference between cannabis terpenes and other botanically-derived terpenes. However, you might hear the term ‘cannabis terpenes’ often. 

This is because when it comes to cannabis products, depending on the extraction method used, sometimes botanically-derived terpenes are added to a product after it has been stripped of its terpenes.

Other products are made more holistically so that the extraction process preserves the terpenes along with the cannabinoids. This creates a more synergistic or entourage-like effect.

There are about 150 terpenes in the cannabis plant. This goes for hemp or marijuana too.

Interestingly, they are produced by the same gland in the plant that creates THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids.

​​Through selective breeding, growers can create specialized cannabis strains.

They can identify and cultivate specific cannabis strains based on their desired scent or flavor. One of the ways that this is done is by first examining the terpene profile and the overall aroma and flavor of the flower produced from the plant. 

Cannabis cultivators and terpenes are to thank for your favorite blueberry or lemony zesty scent profile.

common terpenes

Cannabis and Terpenes: What Are Terpenes? Common Terpenes Found In Cannabis A-Z

As we briefly mentioned earlier, different combinations of terpenes give strains their distinct flavors, aromas, therapeutic benefits, and medicinal properties.

Most cannabis strains have around 15 primary cannabinoids. 

Below are four of the most common and abundant terpenes found in the cannabis plant:

  • Linalool
  • Myrcene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Alpha-Bisabolol

Check out this overview of the different kinds of terpenes found in cannabis.

Learn how they can heal the body and mind and what makes them special.

#1 Pinene (Alpha and Beta)

The main difference between terpenes is their fragrance profile and molecular structure. A-pinene is usually very earthy and fresh smelling in its aroma. B-pinene is typically more woody and even spicy. As the name would suggest, both are found in pine needles and pine trees.

Pinene offers memory support, creativity, inspiration, as well as relaxation. A-pinene has anti-stress properties that assist in its calming, relaxing, and soothing effects. While its effects are relaxing, it can also be energizing and uplifting. 

Imagine the feeling of walking through a brisk pine forest. The pine aroma is invigorating, yet it is also relaxing and grounding.

Aside from the healing benefits listed above, pinene can also offer an increase in mental clarity and improve cognitive function. 

Pinene leaves you feeling calm and clear, focused but not stressed, and grounded and inspired. 

Aroma: Pine

Energy: Energizing

#2 Myrcene

This terpene is a monoterpene. It is excellent for sleep support, specifically, it helps people who struggle to stay asleep. It is a major stress-reliever and has very calming effects. 

In addition to being a wonderful sleep aid, myrcene helps a lot with pain management as well as with other ailments, aches, and muscle tension.

Aroma: Soothing

Energy: Peppery and Earthy

#3 Nerolidol

This terpene is a sesquiterpene. It can be found in numerous different essential oils and many flowers, like jasmine and orange blossom. It has anti-anxiety properties, as well as sedative and relaxing effects. Nerolidol calms the nervous system and is sleep-supportive.

It has antioxidant, antifungal, analgesic, antimicrobial, as well as anti-parasitic properties. In addition, nerolidol is powerful in assisting with pain-relief. It is also sometimes used to help renew scar tissue and treat skin conditions.

Aroma: Citrusy and floral

Energy: Soothing, pain-relieving, relaxing

#4 Linalool

A flowery terpene, most commonly present in lavender flowers, and great for the skin. Because of this, it is commonly found in many skin products. It is astringent, so it helps to support the overall health of the skin as well as calm the mind and body. Linalool may also induce sleep.

This terpene and its aroma in particular is considered to be one of the stronger contributors to the scent of cannabis.

Aroma: Spicy, fruity, floral

Energy: Soothing

#5 Limonene

This terpene is commonly used as an energy and mood booster as it has enlivening and boosting effects. While it is energizing and uplifting, it is also known to reduce stress and improve overall outlook while renewing the spirit.

Limonene is found in various foods, drinks, and fruits. It is also used as a flavoring agent in commercial products like chewing gum and other products.

When you cut open a lemon and get that fresh citrusy scent, these are the terpenes overwhelming your senses. The aromatic profile of terpenes directly impacts our mood and well-being. 

Aroma: Citrus

Energy: Energizing

#6 Humulene

A sesquiterpene, humulene has appetite suppressant properties as well as the ability to reduce swelling and inflammation. This terpene is a powerful pain reliever and even has some anticancer properties. 

Outside of the cannabis plant, humulene can be found in sage, ginseng, and other spices with similarly strong and peppery, essences. 

Aroma: Peppery, woody

Energy: Euphoric

#7 Eucalyptol

This terpene is a monoterpene that is hyper-present in the eucalyptus plant. Eucalyptol is commonly used in cough medicines and aids in respiratory function.

While it opens the lungs and assists with deeper breathing, it also helps to relax us.

In addition to helping with respiration, when applied topically it has been shown to help relieve pain due to its warming and cooling properties. If you have ever used tiger balm, or any salve similar to it, you most likely experienced the benefits of eucalyptol unknowingly.

Aroma: Minty, similar to camphor

Energy: Refreshing and cooling

#8 Geraniol

Often used as an ingredient in skincare products and sweets, this monoterpene has a beautiful flowery and fruity scent profile. 

Geraniol, like most terpenes, has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and even anti-cancer properties. It has a strong ability to fight free radicals within the body. This terpene also has calming and therapeutic effects.

It can also aid in reducing an inflammatory response in the body. 

Aroma: Fruity and floral

Energy: Calming and healing

black pepper caryophyllene terpene

#9 Caryophyllene

This terpene is unique because it actually acts in the same manner as cannabinoids. It binds to the CB2 receptor, like CBD and many other cannabinoids. Because of this, it has many promising properties and potential health benefits. 

Caryophyllene can help boost the immune system, and reduce swelling and inflammation in the body. In addition, if you ever get too high from delta 8 or delta 9 consumption, this terpene can help to bring you back down and bring about a sense of balance and relaxation.

You can find this terpene in many common spices, like cinnamon, oregano, and black pepper. It is very abundant in black pepper. 

Aroma: Peppery, spicy

Energy: Relaxing

#10 Alpha-Bisabolol (A-Bisabolol)

A-bisabolol has a floral aroma. It is hydrating, very good for the skin, and has anti-irritant properties. Additionally, it can help with pain relief and has muscle relaxing properties. When it is present in cannabis, it combines with cannabinoids to deliver strong pain-relieving effects.

#11 Borneol

This terpene has sleep-inducing properties, helps to ease pain, and also helps to boost heart health. However, in high doses, it may cause nausea and headaches.

Aroma: Woody

Energy: Refreshing

#12 Camphene 

This monoterpene can be found in many vegetables, fruits, herbs, and essential oils like cypress and bergamot. 

In addition, it has many antioxidant properties and is commonly found in Cannabis Indica strains. 

Aroma: Earthy

Energy: Grounding

#13 Carene

Carene is a monoterpene that encourages bone health and promotes concentration and focus. 

The flavor profile is reminiscent of other balmy spices like allspice, rosemary, and basil.

Aroma: Citrus pine

Energy: Centering

#14 Terpineol

This terpene is particularly intriguing because there are four unique isomer structures associated with it. 

It can be found in marjoram, sage, and oregano. It is known for its floral and sweet scent which make it an excellent addition to soaps, cosmetics, and perfumes.

Terpineol has relaxing properties with potent therapeutic potential for calming the mind, body, and spirit after a long day. 

Aroma: Floral

Energy: Soothing

#15 Valencine

A sesquiterpene with a woodsy, sweet, and fruity aroma, that is famous for its presence in Valencia oranges. 

Valencine is known to be useful in helping respiratory health as well as being a skin protectant against strong UV sun rays.

It has a refreshing and citrusy-fruity smell that makes it an ideal candidate for cleaning products, soaps, and other household items.

Aroma: Citrus

Energy: Invigorating

Cannabis and Terpenes: Benefits

As we mentioned earlier, terpenes are the volatile and aromatic compounds that contribute to the aromatic profile of each cannabis strain. The presence and amount of the varying terpenes in strains are big differentiators in the overall profile of the strain.

In addition to the wonderful aromatic profile offered by terpenes, they also provide myriad health benefits.

There is a good amount of research that shows that the cannabinoids and terpenes work together to deliver a more healing effect than either of these compounds isolated or on their own. 

This is known as the entourage effect. Both terpenes and cannabinoids have their positive impacts alone, however, when they work in synergy together they offer significantly more benefits. 

You can experience the benefits of the entourage effect in a full spectrum product. A full-spectrum product offers whole plant medicine. It is a pure and raw extraction that has all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytonutrients naturally found in the plant. When these compounds are kept together and in their natural form without being isolated from one another, they deliver strong healing benefits known as the entourage effect.

The medicinal properties of terpenes can range from uplifting to sedating. Terpenes can also have multiple properties, and work in unison with other terpenes and compounds to provide even stronger effects.

terpenes and essential oils

How To Use Terpenes Safely

There is such thing as taking too many terpenes.

However, this is rare, because it is not common to find terpenes isolated and in their pure form

When they do happen to be in their pure form, they can be caustic and irritating to the body. They should always be diluted prior to using them.

For safety and efficacy, terpenes should only make up about 5% or less of the total volume of the final product. 

Essential oils have concentrated amounts of terpenes. For the most part, these should not be directly ingested. They should be diluted before use. 

To get the most therapeutic benefit out of terpenes, you should enjoy them as a whole plant medicine

This means that whatever botanical you are working with, be it cannabis or otherwise, utilize the entire plant. That way you are getting the entourage effect of the terpenes combining with the other compounds and phytonutrients which are proven to deliver the most healing effects.

Cannabis and Terpenes: Third-Party Lab Testing

As we have written about in many other articles, third-party lab testing is very important when purchasing any cannabis product.

This is the only way to ensure purity, and accuracy in the label and product you are buying. This applies to terpenes as well. The COA (certificate of analysis) will tell you which terpenes are the most prevalent in that particular strain that you are purchasing.

When buying cannabis products, third-party lab tests are essential. This gives you a better idea if the vendor is to be trusted or not.

If they are transparent about their lab tests then you know you are buying a safe and reputable product. If they fail to produce lab results, do not buy the product because it is possible there are toxic or unsafe chemicals or solvents in the final product. 

For more information, read: Third-Party Lab Testing and Cannabis – Why It’s Important

Now that you know more about terpenes, you will be able to have a greater understanding of how your cannabis product will affect you

Aside from the benefits of that particular strain and its cannabinoids, the terpenes have a large impact on the overall effect and medicinal benefit. 

Knowing your terpenes helps you determine which cannabis product is best for you. 

It is an added layer that makes you a cannabis connoisseur!

Key Takeaways: Cannabis and Terpenes

Although terpenes may be small in size, they are quite large in effect.

As we mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of different kinds of terpenes in various cannabis strains. Terpenes do not only appear in cannabis, they appear in thousands of botanicals, plants, herbs, and trees around the globe. Essentially, it is safe to say that any botanical that has a strong scent has a terpene profile.

Every terpene has a unique and organic scent profile, as well as distinct effects and benefits. These benefits are healing and therapeutic both physically, energetically, and mentally.

In this article, we covered some of the most common terpenes found in cannabis. We hope this helped you to make more of an informed decision when it comes to purchasing your cannabis products.

It should be clear now that you shouldn’t just lookout for a particular strain’s benefits, but also the terpenes common with that strain. The combination of certain cannabinoids and terpenes has been shown to offer miraculous therapeutic benefits.

There is research coming out every day about the benefits of terpenes and how they combine with cannabinoids. 

Terpenes are powerful molecules that can deliver great healing. 

Since there are over thousands of terpenes out in the world, we are sure you will find the ones that suit your specific needs and bring you the most healing.

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