Concept of what are cannabis terpenes with Marijuana bud lemons grapefruit leafs and pine cones


Weed’s Hidden Gems: What are Cannabis Terpenes?

Keegan Williams

By Keegan Williams

February 28, 2023

Ahh, terpenes. Whether you are a seasoned consumer or a cannabis newbie, it’s likely you’ve at least heard the word thrown around. If you’ve ever smelled your stash, caught a random whiff of cannabis on the street or simply tasted cannabis flower or concentrates, you’ve already acquainted yourself with terpenes!

In a sea of other cannabis elements like sativa, indica and hybrid classification or

, sometimes it’s hard to keep up. However, cannabis terpenes are indeed one of the most important elements of the plant.

In fact, having a solid framework to understand cannabis terpenes could change your entire smoking experience.

, consumers and advocates have long paid attention to terpenes as an essential element of the cannabis plant, with many experts arguing that terpenes in cannabis strains are as important, or sometimes more important, than classification labels or cannabinoid content. They’ve increasingly become a crucial consideration for , but any cannabis consumer will benefit from a greater understanding of terpenes.

There’s a lot to dive into here, so we won’t waste any more time!

Cannabis bud and leaf with hoppy, pepper, lemons and fir needles Caryophyllene, humulene limonene and pinene terpenes concept on grey background.

What are Cannabis Terpenes?

Let’s start by answering the question at hand before we go deeper. 

To start, terpenes are not exclusive to the cannabis plant; they’re actually some of the most widespread compounds in the natural world. On a base level, terpenes are the aromatic compounds responsible for the way plants smell. Manufacturers often isolate terpenes of herbs and plants to create flavors and scents for everyday products, from perfume to self-care products and even foods.

So, cannabis terpenes — you guessed it — are simply the aromatic and flavor compounds of the cannabis plant. Cannabis

tend to have their own unique smell and flavor because they boast their own unique terpene profiles. 

Say you’re at a friend’s place or a dispensary and smell one jar of pungent, skunky weed, another that screams citrus into your nostrils and a third that feels much earthier than the other two; you’ve likely got three strains with distinct terpene profiles.

In cannabis, terpenes are found in the trichomes (sticky glands that cover the surface of cannabis buds) of female cannabis plants. A number of factors determine the terpene profile of a specific cannabis plant, namely

— indoor or outdoor, light exposure, temperature, nutrients and harvest time, to name a few factors.

Defining cannabis terpenes is truly just the start of the conversation, as they have a much greater role than simply determining the aroma and flavor of a specific strain.

How Do Terpenes Affect the Body?

Before we talk specifically about cannabis, let’s go back to terpenes in general. 

Another scenario, you’re walking in the park and hints of lavender gradually make their way to your nose. You look up and see a lavender tree, soaking up the pungent aromas, and find you’re a bit more at ease than you were before. Or maybe you’ve just had a long day, escape to your bathtub to soak along with a bath bomb of your choice as you light a candle, and you immediately find yourself more relaxed.

Cannabis or not, our bodies typically respond to the flavors and smells of terpenes in specific ways. There’s a reason why essential oils and aromatherapy are so popular! Terpenes in general definitely have an effect on our bodies.

It’s a bit more complicated when it comes to cannabis, though the principles are essentially the same. Aroma and flavor are subjective, and different terpenes will appeal more or less to different folks. 

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “the nose knows” in a dispensary or within the cannabis space, this in essence tells us the same story. If you smell a jar of weed and are immediately repulsed by the scent, odds are you might not like smoking that strain. Conversely, if your face comes out of the jar with a big grin of approval, you’re more likely to enjoy the strain. 

In cannabis, terpenes help to support other cannabis compounds, like cannabinoids, to produce desired effects. We’ve thrown around the term the

a number of times when it comes to cannabinoids, though the same applies here. 

Grapefruit slices and marijuana leaves on white

The entourage effect refers to all of the compounds of cannabis working together to offer specific effects on our bodies, meaning that the right combination is going to more effectively deliver better results, versus isolated compounds.

has also affirmed that terpenes play a major part in balancing the intoxicating effects of THC, creating synergy with other cannabinoids and all around increasing the therapeutic value of the plant. 

For example,

found that people with epilepsy who took a -rich extract had improved symptoms and fewer side effects than those who took purified CBD, suggesting that the many compounds of cannabis, including terpenes, can also impact the body.

This is why it’s so important to look beyond

percentage and sativa, indica or hybrid classification. Terpenes are no joke!

Do Terpenes Have Medicinal Benefits?

We’re tired of hearing it and relaying it, but there is still more research to be done on an array of cannabis topics; terpenes are no exception. However, existing evidence suggests that terpenes in fact carry their own array of therapeutic benefits. 

So far, research has shown that terpenes have

, can , (25 percent of antidepressant prescription drugs are obtained from herbal extracts containing terpenes), the ability to and of cannabinoids.

The make matters more complex, specific terpenes are generally associated with distinct medicinal benefits.

What are the Prominent Cannabis Terpenes?

When it comes to cannabis, more than 200 terpenes have been discovered, but that’s not to say you have to know every single one to reap their benefits. The good news is that of these plentiful cannabinoids, only a few appear in cannabis most prominently. 

Just a bit of knowledge about these few terpenes truly goes a long way! Other common terpenes found in cannabis include terpinolene, ocimene, nerolidol, bisabolol, guaiol, humulene and more, but this is a great place to start.



Myrcene is the most common terpene you’ll find in commercial cannabis products, representing around 20 percent of cannabis terpene profiles on average. The aroma itself is a bit earthy and musky, often with an herbal and spicy kick. Myrcene can also give cannabis a hint of sweetness — for perspective, this terpene is also found in mangoes, lemongrass and thyme.

has found that, similar to other cannabis compounds, myrcene may be effective to combat inflammation, pain and works as an antioxidant.

Cannabis buds and leaf with red color pepper. Caryophyllene terpene concept on grey background. Top view.


Caryophyllene is another very prominent cannabis terpene. To give you an idea of its aroma, caryophyllene is also found in hops, cloves, oregano, black pepper and rosemary. If your cannabis is heavy in caryophyllene, you can generally expect some of these same flavor profiles. 

that caryophyllene has a number of therapeutic actions, including symptom relief for conditions like colitis, diabetes, cerebral ischemia, anxiety and depression, liver fibrosis and Alzheimer-adjacent diseases. Like myrcene, a found that caryophyllene may also help with inflammation.

Cannabis buds / nugs and leaves with sliced lemon. Limonene terpene concept on gray background with copy space.


This one is probably a bit more obvious. Limonene, as the name suggests, is most commonly found in citrus fruits, making it an easily recognizable terpene by aroma. If you lust after strains like Lemon Haze or Tangerine, you’re likely already a limonene fan!


found that limonene has a number of potential therapeutic qualities, namely anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antidiabetic and anticancer effects. found that limonene helped to increase the production of antibody-producing cells in the spleen and bone marrow, which the immune system uses to identify and neutralize pathogens and viruses. 

Cannabis leaves with pine cone and fir needles. Pinene terpene concept on gray background.


Another common terpene with an aroma easily explained by name alone, pinene is responsible for a piney aroma, similar to Christmas trees, sometimes boasting earthy accents. Pinene is common in Evergreen trees, basil, orange peels and parsley, to name a few. 

Pinene also has a wide range of potential medicinal benefits. The terpene has displayed

, may assist in , may help to and and may work to associated with THC use.

Cannabis leaves with levander. Linalool terpene concept on gray background.


Linalool screams floral. This terpene is typically associated with lavender, though it’s also found in rosewood, bergamot, coriander, rose and jasmine. It’s no surprise that this terpene is often used in soaps, perfumes and other body products. 

While this cannabinoid is less prevalent than the others in the list so far, it carries an array of potential benefits. Like many others, research has found linalool contains

. Perhaps unsurprising given the use of lavender in other wellness products, the terpene has also displayed and properties; found that lavender aromatherapy can reduce opioid use among postoperative patients.

Final Thoughts

The takeaway here is that terpenes, although often overlooked or considered an afterthought, are just as important as any other element of the cannabis plant! The more you begin to pay attention to the terpenes in your strains, the more you’ll likely discover patterns surrounding what you and your body tend to enjoy. 

When first exploring cannabis terpenes more intimately, it might be useful to keep a cannabis journal, tracking the strains, their associated terpenes and how you typically feel after smoking. Of course, cannabinoid content and classification also provide a wealth of knowledge surrounding any given strain, so it’s important to take all of these elements into account.

With cannabis, it’s crucial to look at the big picture. The industry is beginning to shift, paying more attention to these crucial cannabis compounds, but just a bit of knowledge can go a long way in finding the best strains and products for you! 

Keegan Williams

About The Author

Keegan Williams