What Are Terpenes?

May 30, 2022 | Cannabis Blog

Most people are familiar with the two main cannabinoids: CBD and THC—which makes perfect sense, as they are the most abundant compounds of cannabis.

Cannabis, however, is much more than just THC and CBD, comprising of hundreds of other botanical compounds. It contains over a hundred additional cannabinoids like CBC, CBDA, CBG, and CBN. Cannabis also has flavonoids, which are antioxidant substances, and packed with minerals, vitamins, and more. Finally, cannabis contains terpenes—the aromatic compounds that give plants their characteristic aromas.

A lot of research has been focused lately on the role of terpenes. Aside from their enticing aromas, terpenes display significant anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial qualities. Together, terpenes and cannabinoids improve each other’s potency and provide a superior overall result.

Depending on the terpenoid profile of your marijuana strain, you will experience various aromas and effects on your body and mind. Terpenes are one of the reasons why cannabis strains can have such diverse properties.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are chemical compounds that are found in all plants, trees, and flowers and play a large part in how those plants smell to us. Put simply, terpenes explain why basil smells like basil and lemon smells like lemon.

Terpenes have developed over millions of years to protect plants from predators and help them propagate their seeds. Terpenes that smell unpleasantly were meant to deter bugs and insects as well as fight bacteria. Attractive smells were created to attract bees and pollinators that would then take the pollen and propagate the plant.

We can tell which plant is which by smelling it. Very often, plants have similar aromatic undertones. That’s because they share the same terpenes. Most plants and flowers contain more than one terpene and that’s why you can detect comparable aromas in seemingly unrelated plants. For example, both basil and lavender contain myrcene, pinene, and linalool.

Terpenes were neglected for a long time. It is now clear that, besides smelling great, they may possess significant beneficial qualities that could make them important to our health. This is true of all terpenes, including those found in cannabis.

Which Terpenes Does Cannabis Contain?

Cannabis, like all plants, contains terpenes. Research suggests there are hundreds of terpenes in cannabis but only around 40 have been identified and analyzed so far. Anecdotal evidence as well preliminary research suggests that terpenes may possess significant antiviral, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Because cannabis is brimming with terpenes, cannabis may be helpful in alleviating chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and even combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria [1].

Each of the terpenes found in cannabis has its own botanical and therapeutic potential. Here are the most common ones.


Beta-caryophyllene is an abundant terpene in cannabis. Aside from cannabis, it is found in basil, rosemary, cinnamon, and cloves. Research suggests it may possess anticancer, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties [2].

Caryophyllene is the only terpene that can bind to the same receptors as THC, which is probably why it may help suppress THC’s psychoactive action. Therefore, a cannabis strain that is rich in caryophyllene is likely to create a more calming, therapeutic effect.


Myrcene is another bountiful terpene found in cannabis. Its earthy and musky aromas are also found in lemongrass, mangoes, and hops. It is known for its sedating, soothing effects. A cannabis strain rich in myrcene will probably have a pronounced relaxed effect. Indeed, the sedative effect commonly associated with Indicas may be linked to its myrcene content.

Research links β-Myrcene to biological activities that include analgesic, sedative, antidiabetic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anticancer effects [3].

Myrcene also holds anti-inflammatory qualities which were tested on osteoarthritic cells [4]. This suggests that myrcene may someday be a useful tool against arthritis, osteoarthritis, and joint inflammation.


The name says it all: limonene is the scent of lemons. Limonene is encountered in all citrus fruit and cannabis, but also in ginger. It is believed to boost your mood and relieve stress.

Historically, people have used limonene to fight infections. In vitro trials showed that limonene with pinene could successfully reduce viral infectivity [5].

Research also suggests that limonene possesses antibacterial, antiplasmodial, anticancer, and antifungal properties [6]. Indeed, several studies [7] suggest that it can act as an excellent chemopreventive drug for cancer as it can be deposited in the body.


The soothing aroma of lavender is also spotted in cannabis. Linalool is found in lavender, roses, thyme, and basil. It seems to have a potent effect on the serotonin receptor, thus helping with conditions such as anxiety and depression and helping combat insomnia [8].

Linalool also seems to be a powerful antioxidant, helping with mitochondrial dysfunction and inflammation. Several studies have shown its potential beneficial effects on brain function relevant to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, ischemia, and stroke [9].


As the name suggests, pinene gets its name from the scent of pine trees. Most conifers share the pinene terpene. Cannabis, parsley, basil, and rosemary also have significant quantities of pinene.

Pinene may act as an anti-inflammatory, promote pain relief and relaxation, aid in memory and respiratory function, and reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses. It may also possess anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, neuroprotective, and pro-cognitive properties [10].


The familiar and calming scent of hops is due to humulene. Ginseng and sage also have humulene. Humulene may possess antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects [11], with a 2007 study concluding that it may represent an important tool for the management and/or treatment of inflammatory diseases [12].

Humulene also seems to suppress hunger, so cannabis with high levels of humulene is less likely to produce an appetite boost.

How Does the Entourage Effect Work?

Besides studying each terpene on its own, researchers have started exploring how they act synergistically among themselves and other phytonutrients provided by cannabis. Researchers are finding that terpenes may work even better when they are combined in certain concentrations, thanks to the so-called entourage effect. The resulting sensation encompasses all of the compounds found in cannabis, including cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBG, and so forth.

The entourage effect means that when all the cannabis natural compounds work together, they enhance each other’s effectiveness and produce an overall effect that is greater than their sum. When all cannabis ingredients work together, it’s as if 2+2= 5. It’s the buffalo sauce to the cannabis, combining two things to make something that’s somehow better than what you’ve put in. Sure, hot sauce and butter alone can be good, but combined, they’ve been taken to new heights for the sake of your chicken wings.

Research from 2011 [13] analyzed the way cannabinoids and terpenes work together. A further study from 2014 concluded that “terpenes and cannabinoids can produce an additive effect when combined,” thus confirming the entourage effect [14].

How Do Terpenes Affect My Marijuana?

Marijuana strains have been grown selectively for their particular properties. A major component of this selection is the density and variety of terpenes.

Some strains contain more humulene than myrcene, while others are more abundant in beta-caryophyllene. That’s why every strain has its own aromas which are distinct and distinctive. For instance, Super Sour Lemon Haze contains more limonene than other strains, so it may carry the beneficial properties of limonene, and smells you might attribute to citrus fruit.

Depending on the terpenoid profile of each strain, you will get varying effects. For example, strains high in linalool may be more relaxing and soothing because linalool has such qualities.

Our Hillside Natural Wellness Budtenders Will Guide You

When you visit Hillside Natural Wellness, you might be surprised to find that we take extra care in knowing the terpene contents of certain products. The physician in charge himself acknowledges the unique benefits that can come from terpenes and how they interact with other cannabinoids. This may very well be the future of cannabis, certain mixtures of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids bringing a desired and measured effect. Hillside Natural Wellness budtenders are experts about all strains we sell and have a keen grasp of what terpenes each strain contains. Based on their intimate knowledge of cannabis and terpenes, they will guide you into making a choice that corresponds to your needs.

Marijuana is not just THC. We guide our customers to choose their cannabis strain not based solely on THC content but on the overall cannabinoid and terpenoid profile. Our customers take marijuana for a particular purpose. By matching this health target with the right marijuana strain, we can achieve the maximum effect thanks to all the cannabinoids and terpenoids found in cannabis.

Hillside Natural Wellness is your marijuana dispensary in Anchorage. Order your marijuana products via our online cannabis menu or visit our shop at 8639 Toloff St. Anchorage, AK 99507. Read our cannabis blog for more insightful information.


[1] https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/24/14/2631
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26132906/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8326332/
[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25622554/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393490/
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7120914/
[7] ibid.
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8426550/
[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31545255/
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8426550/
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2785529/
[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17559833/
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/
[14] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-87740-8