Terpenes are not unique to cannabis. They are produced by a variety of plants and insects. While terpenes are an end-product in cannabis, they are among the building blocks of nearly every single living organism. There are more than 20,000 terpenes in existence and at least 100 produced by the cannabis plant.
Plants developed terpenes to ward off herbivores that might eat them and to attract helpful predators and pollinators. Several factors influence a plant’s terpene development, including climate, weather, fertilizers and soil type, age and maturation of the plant and even the time of day.
Knowing the specific types of terpenes to which you are attracted, will deepen your appreciation for cannabis.
Terpenes in cannabis plants
Terpenes are the organic compounds responsible for creating the unique aroma of each individual cannabis plant. Terpenes do more than determine the scent finger print, they also provide effects like their cannabinoid partners, THC and CBD. Formed from the same shiny, resinous trichomes as cannabinoids, cannabis terpenes also bind to the same endocannabinoid receptors located throughout the brain and body. For example, depending upon which receptors they react with, different terpenes may have a variety of enjoyable effects.
When terpenes work together with cannabinoids, in a process known as the entourage effect, the potential effects increase dramatically. Terpenes can also modify how much of each cannabinoid is absorbed. This means the presence of certain terpenes can increase or decrease the amount of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC is absorbed, effectively controlling the potency. Consequently, a strain of cannabis with the perfect mix of terpenes and cannabinoids could be the equivalent of a hand tailored suit.
Myrcene is the most prevalent of the more than 200 identified terpenes which form the building blocks of cannabis, hogging as much as 50 percent of the terpene volume at one time. Responsible for the earthy, spicy balsamic, and clove aromas, myrcene also plays a precursory role in the formation of several other terpenes. Myrcene can also be found in hops, mango, lemongrass and basil.
Also playing a role in whether a particular strain displays sativa or indica characteristics, myrcene adds to the robust efficacy of cannabis.
- Pink Kush by San Rafael
- Zen Berry (Shishkaberry) by Sundial
- Purple Chitral
- Tangerine Dream
Formed within the shiny resinous glands that cover cannabis flowers, called trichomes, pinene is one of the hundreds of terpenes that serve as the foundation for the pungent aroma and efficacy of cannabis. The most commonly occurring terpene among all plants, pinene, comes in two different varieties — alpha and beta. Alpha-pinene secretes aromas of pine needles or rosemary, while beta-pinene produces scents of hops, dill, parsley, or basil. Pinene is also found in turpentine, conifer trees, and orange peels.
- Blue Dream by Aurora.
- No. 502 White Light by Haven St.
- Penelope by Tweed.
- Mango Haze by Color Cannabis.
- Gather by Solei.
Caryophyllene, more formally known as beta caryophyllene, is an extremely common terpene found in cannabis that is known for its herbal spiciness, tinted by hints of wood. It is most commonly found in black pepper, basil, oregano, cloves and cinnamon.
Where other terpenes deliver earthy, nature scents, caryophyllene stands out with a peppery, spicy, rich aroma. Many people describe its smell as pungent, delivering a spicy or funky warmth to the nose, similar to cinnamon and cloves.
Caryophyllene is a unique terpene because of its ability to bind to CB2 receptors, the parts of our bodies’ endocannabinoid systems responsible for regulating inflammation.
- Wappa – Redecan
- Moonbeam by LBS
- Haze (Amnesia Haze) by High Tide
Limonene is one of the more than 200 identified cannabis terpenes that works side by side with cannabinoids to provide the effects. Known for secreting the familiar smell of citrus, limonene can translate into the lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime, mint, rosemary or even juniper aroma. It is exactly the same chemical that provides fruits like oranges, lemons and limes with a citrus scent.
More than just a pungent aroma, limonene makes a powerful contribution to the impressive efficacy of cannabis.
- Wedding Cake
- Vision Qwest (Strawberry Cough) by Qwest.
- Galiano by Broken Coast.
- Headband by Grail.
- GSC (Girl Scout Cookies) by Canna Farms.
- BC Diesel by Flowr.
Terpinolene is recognized for its woodsy aroma in tandem with citrus and floral notes. The terpene occurs naturally in sage, lilac, rosemary, nutmeg, conifer trees, apple trees, and tea trees.
Terpinolene’s aroma is more multidimensional than some other cannabis terpenes. Terpinolene, though, carries an array of smells you might find in cannabis: It’s piney, floral, herbaceous, and even a little citrusy.
One word that comes up often when describing terpinolene’s taste and smell: fresh. It’s part of the reason terpinolene shows up as an additive in soaps and perfumes.
- Ultra Sour by Seven Oaks.
- Rio Bravo by Edison.
- Delahaze by San Rafael ’71.
- Daily Rind by Symbl.
- Cabaret by AltaVie.
Humulene, also known as alpha humulene or alpha caryophyllene, is a terpene classified as a monocyclic sesquiterpene. The humulene terpene is a woody, spicy, and earthy smelling terpene and a key component of the essential oil from the flowering cone of the hops plant. It can also be found in ginseng and black pepper.
Humulene plays an important role in the life cycle of a cannabis plant prior to harvest. Beginning with synthesis in the trichome head, humulene and other terpenes aid in a plant’s defense capabilities by helping to deter pests and prevent fungal infestations.
- La Strada by Edison
- Atlantis by Hexo
- CBD by Namaste
- Spark by Trailblazer
Linalool is one of the more than 200 fragrant chemical compounds, known as terpenes, that are the foundation for the pungent aroma of recreational cannabis. In cannabis plants, linalool is typically responsible for producing a floral, spicy or woody aroma.
With documented use dating back thousands of years, linalool is one of the oldest known sedatives, or sleep aids, in the world. Linalool, like cannabinoids THC or CBD, is formed within the shiny resinous glands covering cannabis flowers, called trichomes. Also found in some citrus, birch, rosewood, laurels and coriander, linalool is arguably most recognizable in lavender.
Because of its pleasant aroma, Linalool is most commonly used in the cosmetics industry to add a pleasant scent to perfumes, soaps, shampoos and lotion.
- Amnesia Haze
- LA Confidential
- Granddaddy Purple (or GDP)
Ocimene is a monoterpene found in various plants and fruits and bears a sweet, citrusy, and woodsy scent. Mint, parsley, tarragon, kumquats and mangos are a few of the natural sources of ocimene.
Like linalool, ocimene is commonly used in the cosmetics industry for its sweet, floral, and herbaceous aromatic profile.
Ocimene rarely plays a lead role in a strain’s terpene profile, but it’s sometimes the second or third most abundant terpene.
Many believe that this terpene was developed as part of a plant’s defense mechanism. Interestingly, pests like aphids, which can be highly detrimental to cannabis crops, seem to be averse to strains high in ocimene similar to how mosquitoes avoid geranium.
- Golden Goat
- Strawberry Cough
- Space Queen
- OG Kush
- Lemon Sour Diesel