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What Are Terpenes and What Do They Do?

What Are Terpenes and What Do They Do?

When it comes to the cannabis industry, you may have heard terms like ‘terpenes’ and ‘terpenoids’ thrown around a lot but have little real understanding as to what these are and what they actually do.

Terpenes vs. Terpenoids

Firstly, it’s worth noting that while many people use the terms ‘terpenes’ and ‘terpenoids’ interchangeably, the two are different. Terpenes are hydrocarbons (only containing carbon and hydrogen), while terpenoids are denatured by oxidation (drying or curing the flower) or have even been chemically modified.

What Are Terpenes Then?

Terpenes are natural compounds secreted by the same glands as cannabinoids like THC and CBD and are found within many plants but are more commonly associated with the flowers or buds of the cannabis plant due to the high concentration of terpenes found within. It’s these terpenes that are responsible for giving a plant its distinctive smell and flavour, from cannabis to lavender different combinations of terpenes produce different aromas. Naturally, these terpenes are present to help protect the plant from animal grazing or infectious germs and are influenced by a number of factors, including; climate, weather, age and even soil type and time of day.

Does That Mean Terpenes Get You High?

Even though terpenes are secreted by the same glands as cannabinoids, they’re not responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis, instead, this is the cannabinoid THC. Terpenes, however, do have different effects on how cannabis functions within the body, and work alongside cannabinoids such as THC & CBD, with the main difference being that the body absorbs and uses these terpenes in different ways. This is known as “The Entourage Effect”.

Do Terpenes Affect Your Body?

Terpenes are bioactive, which means they can have an effect on the body, however, this will vary depending on the concentration of terpenes as well as the way they’re used. Some people believe that terpenes will enhance the “high” associated with cannabis and alter the effects of THC and CBD on the body. There is limited research to support these claims, for example, a review in Frontiers in Neurology found that people with epilepsy who took CBD-rich extract had improved symptoms and fewer side effects than those who took purified CBD. This suggests the other compounds within cannabis, such as terpenes, may affect how the body uses CBD.

How Many Terpenes are There?

Currently, there are more than 20,000 different terpenes in existence and around 100-120 found within cannabis. Many of the terpenes found within cannabis are also found elsewhere within nature, with certain terpenes being found in higher concentrations than others within the cannabis plant.

Common Type of Terpenes Found in Cannabis

Although only a few of the terpenes found within nature are prominent in most cannabis strains. The main types of terpenes found in cannabis include:

Myrcene - Chemical Formula: C10H16

About: Myrcene is one of the most abundant terpenes found within cannabis, which is actually one of the main places its found within nature. In one study, it was found that myrcene made up as much as 65% of total terpene profiles found in some strains of cannabis. Plants with more than 0.5% myrcene are considered to be Indica as opposed to Sativa.


Scent: Myrcene will produce aromas of earthy, musky smells mixed with fruity, grape-like smells.


Where It Can Be Found: Myrcene can be found within several plants, including bay, cannabis, hops and even mangoes.


Strains: High levels of myrcene can be found in the following cannabis strains; Skunk XL, White Widow & Special Kush, among others.


Potential Effects: Myrcene is said to produce a sedating, relaxing feeling upon consumption.

Humulene - Chemical Formula: C15H24

About: Humulene is another one of the most abundant terpenes found in cannabis and is often used by people to help manage weight. While other terpenes support appetite increase, humulene may actually help to decrease appetite. Humulene can be present in plants including cannabis in concentrations as high as 40%.


Scent: Humulene can actually give off a beer-like scent with noticeable hoppy undertones depending on the terpenes it’s combined with.


Where It Can Be Found: Humulene can be found within several plants including basil, clove and hops.


Strains: High levels of Humulene can be found in the following cannabis strains; Jack Herer, Girl Scout Cookies & Sour Diesel, among others.


Potential Effects: Humelene is said to help people with weight loss as it acts as an appetite suppressant, and has also been claimed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Linalool - Chemical Formula: C10H18O

About: Linalool is yet another one of the more abundant terpenes found within cannabis, and is frequently used as a scent and flavouring agent as well as being used as an element in pesticides. Linalool is found in more than 200 species of plants and is used as a scent in around 60-80% of perfumed hygiene products and cleaning agents.


Scent: Linalool can produce a sweet, floral aroma, with other forms of linalool having a more woody and lavender-like scent to them.


Where It Can Be Found: Linalool can be found within over 200 different plant species, including cinnamon, mint, clove and lavender, as well as certain citrus fruits like lemon and mandarin orange.


Strains: High levels of Linalool can be found within the following cannabis strains; OG Shark, LA Confidential & Master Kush, among others.


Potential Effects: Linalool is said to be useful for helping to deal with anxiety and depression with animals studies showing lower levels of anxiety in mice when exposed to linalool. As well as this people believe linalool to be good for reducing pain.

Limonene - Chemical Formula: C10H16

About: Limonene, along with my scene, is one of the most abundant terpenes to be found within cannabis. Limonene has a diverse range of uses and is used in a range of industrial purposes such as organic herbicide, solvent to remove oil and even paint a stripper. Within medicine, this terpene is usually used as a component of remedies for bronchitis, heartburn and gallstones.


Scent: Limonene produces a sweet, citrusy aroma with a piny, turpentine-like odour to it.


Where It Can Be Found: Limonene is the main terpene found in lemons and is also present in other citrus fruits as well as as other sweet citrusy treats.


Strains: High levels of Limonene can be found in the following cannabis strains; Super Lemon Haze, Chernobyl & Tangie, among others.


Potential Effects: People believe that limonene has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, as well as helping with skin repair, gallstones and even pain relief. However, research into this is limited.

α-pinene ( and also β-pinene) - Chemical Formula: C10H16

About: α-pinene is another of the more commonly found terpenes found within cannabis and is a colourless, organic oil and is famous for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Alpha-Pinene is often used as a flavouring agent in oils and diffusers.


Scent: α-pinene is found in rosemary, eucalyptus and more, and will produce a fresh pine aroma.


Where It Can Be Found: α-pinene can be found in many different plant species, including orange peel, eucalyptus and most commonly conifer and pine trees.


Strains: High levels of α-pinene can be found in the following cannabis strains; Jack Herer, Blue Dream & Strawberry Cough, among others.


Potential Effects: It is believed that α-pinene has a number of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can supposedly be used in the treatment of anxiety and depression.