BlogsCannabis contains more than 150 types of terpenes.

Cannabis Terpenes: Understanding Nature’s Miracle Compound and its Value in Cannabis


If you’ve ever smelled plants including basil, pine, or eucalyptus – then you’ve already experienced a pleasant introduction to terpenes. These natural compounds are found in many plants, fruits, and herbs – and they’re also one of the most important aspects of the cannabis plant. 


Cannabis contains more than 150 types of terpenes. They’re critically important for the growth and survival of marijuana plants because they enhance the plant’s attractiveness to some insects and animals while deterring others.


Modern science has also uncovered incredible holistic properties in cannabis terpenes, particularly in how they work together with cannabinoids like THC and CBD in what scientists call the entourage effect.  


This post explains what cannabis terpenes are, the entourage effect, and what modern science has uncovered about cannabis-derived terpenes. 


What are cannabis terpenes? 


Terpenes are organic compounds produced by cannabis and other plants. Terpenes are synthesized in the trichomes, which are tiny resin glands that cover the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. Trichomes produce not only terpenes but also cannabinoids like THC and CBD.


Cannabis terpenes help create the complex and full spectrum aroma profiles that differentiate one cannabis strain from another. From the citrusy scent of limonene to the earthy notes of myrcene, terpenes create a symphony of scents and flavors that can be uplifting, relaxing, or even sedating. 


The importance of terpenes


Terpenes are the largest and most diverse group of naturally occurring compounds. Outside of cannabis, terpenes have been used both historically as a medicine to cure and treat illnesses and ailments, as well as commercially as dietary supplements and even modern medications. 


As they’re studied more closely, terpenes are showing incredible biological and therapeutic properties that may have a significant impact on modern medicine. We still have much to learn about terpenes, especially those derived from cannabis, but the promising history behind these “miracle compounds” proves the work is going to pay off. 


The entourage effect 


The “entourage effect” refers to the synergistic interaction between various compounds found in the cannabis plant. It suggests that cannabis compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes work together and enhance each other’s effects. 


The combined effects of these cannabis compounds produce something much greater than the sum of each individual part. For example, pure THC creates specific effects on the human mind and body, but when paired with certain terpenes and cannabinoids, these effects can vary greatly. 


The countless variations and subtleties that come from combining different terpenes and cannabinoids create the entourage effect. The importance of the entourage effect is that different cannabis products are going to have vastly different effects on the human mind and body. Some differences will be very subtle while others will be more noticeable. 

Most importantly, the entourage effect directly conflicts with the traditional idea that cannabis effects can simply be categorized by Indica vs. Sativa. The reality is much more complex. Cannabis can more closely be categorized by its terpene and cannabinoid makeup. 


The medical benefits of cannabis terpenes


Because of the longstanding federal illegality of cannabis, science is still uncovering many of its mysteries. Luckily, terpenes have been the centerpiece of a few major cannabis studies. 


Whether you’re a curious consumer or a researching budtender, you’ll find that terpenes are incredibly valuable compounds. 


Here’s what has already been discovered: 


Cannabis terpenes: Medical benefits


Cannabis terpenes have been studied to provide a variety of medicinal benefits depending on their terpene profile. The following are just some of their potential therapeutic effects:


  1. Pain Relief: A study from the University of Arizona found that terpenes may possess analgesic (pain relieving) properties. For example, the terpene myrcene is believed to have sedative and muscle-relaxing effects, which can contribute to pain relief.
  2. Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is a common underlying factor in various health conditions. Several terpenes, such as caryophyllene and pinene, have shown anti-inflammatory properties, which can potentially help reduce inflammation in the body when consumed through products like tinctures.
  3. Antidepressant properties: Certain terpenes, such as limonene and linalool, have been studied for their potential antidepressant effects. These terpenes may help elevate mood, reduce stress, and promote relaxation.
  4. Anti-anxiety effects: Anxiety disorders affect millions of people worldwide, and some terpenes can offer relief from those symptoms. Terpenes like limonene and linalool have shown promising anti-anxiety properties and may help reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calm. They may even help cure things like “hangxiety.”


Popular types of cannabis terpenes and their effects:


1. Myrcene


Myrcene (β-myrcene) is the most abundant terpene in cannabisAbout: Myrcene (β-myrcene) is the most abundant terpene in cannabis. It’s also commonly found in hops and is popularly used as an aroma agent in food. 


Myrcene has been found to offer relaxing, stress-reducing, and sleep-enhancing properties. In an article submitted to Nutrition and Metabolism, Myrcene even showed the potential to fight against cancer cells. 


Aroma: Myrcene has a distinct aroma with earthy and musky undertones, similar to the scent of cloves. Depending on the cannabis strain, myrcene may also contain fruity or citrusy notes.


Effects: Myrcene is often found in Indica strains. These strains are typically used for their sedative effects, which makes them popular with people who use cannabis for pain management or to improve sleep. 


Common strains: Mango Kush, Skunk XL, Amnesia Haze, OG Kush, and White Widow. 


2. Limonene


Limonene is a secondary terpene, meaning it’s usually found in smaller quantitiesAbout: Limonene is a secondary terpene, meaning it’s usually found in smaller quantities vs. other primary terpenes. This aromatic cannabis terpene is also found in fruit rinds and many popular cleaning solutions. 


Aroma: This terpene smells and tastes citrusy. Limonene is responsible for the characteristic citrusy smell and flavor profile found in many cannabis strains.


Effects: Limonene is known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Some studies suggest that limonene may have a role in cancer treatment. Limonene can also positively impact mental health by reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation. Its distinct aroma also makes it a popular ingredient in aromatherapy and other relaxation techniques.


Common strains: Sour Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, Durban Poison. 


3. Linalool


Linalool is a beloved terpene found in Indica cannabis strains as well as lavender, basil, and hundreds of other plantsAbout: Linalool is a beloved terpene found in Indica cannabis strains as well as lavender, basil, and hundreds of other plants. Outside of cannabis use, Linalool is often used in essential oils which studies have found helps people relax and counteract anxiety.  


When consumed through cannabis, the user can expect sedative effects along with reduced anxiety, and stress relief – a generally calming experience. 


Aroma: Lavender with just a hint of spiciness.


Effects: Linalool is most commonly associated with its calming effects. It has been used as a sedative as well as a reliever of stress and anxiety. 


Common strains: Mazar I Sharif, Do-Si-Dos, Wedding Mints #13.


4. Pinene


Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene are the most common micro terpenes within the pinene categoryAbout: Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene are the most common micro terpenes within the pinene category. also heavily concentrated in pine trees (hence the name), rosemary, basil and parsley.


Aroma: Pine-like aroma and flavor.


Effects: These terpenes show strong abilities to help kill viruses. Pinene has been found to contain antimicrobial, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antiallergic properties.


Common strains: Jack Herer, Blue Dream, Dutch Treat, and Sour Diesel.


5. Eucalyptol


Eucalyptol is the primary terpene of the eucalyptus treeAbout: Eucalyptol is the primary terpene of the eucalyptus tree. This minty-tasting terpene is often found in mouthwash, it’s also been found to potentially treat sinus infections. 


Aroma: A refreshing, minty smell. 


Effects: Eucalyptol has properties that can help relieve pain, as well as antimicrobial properties that slow the growth of bacteria and fungi. This terpene is primarily used for the treatment of sinus-specific pain. 


Common strains: Super Lemon Haze, Girl Scout Cookies, Headband.

More terpenes

  • Humulene
  • Terpinolene
  • alpha-Bisabolol
  • Geraniol
  • Terpineol
  • Farnesene
  • And hundreds more!


Want to learn more about cannabis terpenes? 

Sign up for THC University’s Terpenes course! The course is a short exploration of terpenes in both essential oils and cannabis. It explores possible healing links and uses between the two and also helps dispel some common myths with using cannabis as a healing modality.


The course is included in the 10-course bundle that THC University offers for an accessible price! Learn more!