Terpenes in Cannabis

So just what are terpenes and why do they matter? Terpenes are a diverse class of organic compounds produced by a variety of plants. Additionally, they are the primary constituents of essential oils and various medical plants such as cannabis. Further classification of terpenes can be broken down into different molecular units such as polyterpenes and sesterterpenes.

An industry-leading 2011 paper by neurologist and researcher Ethan Russo described how cannabinoids and terpenes work together to boost and modulate the effects of one another in the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). Russo and his team discovered certain cannabinoids, such as CBD interact with terpenes to increase or decrease the effects of THC.

For this conversation we’ll simplify it down to a handful of terpenes that give cannabis its aroma and effect. 


Caryophyllene is a heavy hitter when it comes to fixing your body. Some of the medical benefits this terpene offers is the relief of depression symptoms, slows bacterial growth and can reduce chronic inflammation.

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, Caryophyllene possesses cancer-fighting properties.

This terpene can be found in some of your favorite food and drink including rosemary, hops and red wines such as Syrah, Grüner Veltliner and Cabernet Sauvignon. 


Limonene is one of the most common cannabis terpenes. It can be found as an ingredient in food, drugs, cosmetics and detergents, and it also finds applications in the biotechnology industry. This citrusy aromatic terpene is abundantly produced in the trichomes of many cannabis strains, together with cannabinoids.

Like other terpenes, limonene has its own interaction modes within the body. Limonene’s  medicinal properties are currently being researched. Smoking or vaporizing a cannabis strain with high levels of limonene offers a unique taste experience and an energizing high.


Linalool is a common cannabis terpene with a floral aroma best described as Herbes de Provence.  The soothing characteristics of linalool have been used for centuries, as linalool is commonly found in lavender, in addition to several other flowers and spices.  Linalool is also a key component in the production of Vitamin E.

Relaxation and stress relief are common in linalool rich strains.  Also known to carry anti-anxiety, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, linalool can also aid with insomnia due to its sedative nature.  Linalool has a calming effect on the body and mind, acting as a potent muscle relaxer and possible antidepressant and antipsychotic. Cannabis based topicals will often contain linalool due to its soothing nature.


Like other terpenes in cannabis, Pinene isn’t limited to just strains. It’s one of the most common terpenes in the entire plant kingdom, and can be found in a wide range of foods, home goods, essential oils and of course pine trees.

Pinene has two versions: alpha and beta. The alpha version is straight up pine needles. The beta version is more akin to rosemary, parsley and basil. One of the reasons Pinene is such a strong ally is its ability to cross the blood/brain barrier. Once in the brain, pinene can alter neurotransmitters that can actually improve memory. You read that right.


Cannabis is packed with wonderful terpenes. The terpene believed to be the most abundant is Myrcene.

A Swiss Federal Research for Agroecology & Agriculture found Myrcene can make up 50% of a cannabis plants’ terpene profile. It’s not limited to cannabis. Myrcene can be found in lemongrass, mangoes, thyme, hops and verbena.

A study by GW Pharmaceuticals proved Myrcene as a powerful pain reliever. The study “found that myrcene works to relieve aches in the same manner as opium, but without the addiction.”

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