Terpenes 101

Author: Katie Finkle

When the average cannabis consumer goes to buy cannabis, the furthest they may look into their strain selections is sativa, indica, and hybrid. While there is certainly nothing wrong with knowing you’re an indica guy, there is a deeper level that patients can look at to explore which strain may have the most beneficial and relieving effect for them. Cannabis plants, like all plants, are covered in terpenes. These terpenes hold a great amount of medical potential, and there are a variety of terpenes found in cannabis that can meet a variety of ailments.

The Science Stuff (Made Not Confusing)

Terpenes are the organic compounds that are in the essential oils of plants. On the surface, they make plants and flowers smell and taste the way they do. Cannabis is a flowering plants, cannabis has terpenes. The cannabis plant has over 100 different known terpenes, so you know, a lot of different smells, a lot of different tastes, a lot of different effects, and our experience with cannabis gains a new level of depth. 

They Don’t Just Smell Good

As previously mentioned, all of the different sour, earthy, musky, citrusy, peppery smells that we find in cannabis are indicative of the different effects that terpenes have. That being said, no one expects you to be able to identify a strains terpene profile just by smelling it, and most who say they can is probably lying. Only a select few have undergone rigorous training to become cannabis sommeliers. The chemical effect that terpenes have on our brains is beyond just their relationship to cannabis. Terpenes have been considered for their medical effects completely apart from medical cannabis (think of your friend who’s obsessed with using essential oils, except this is legitimate medicine). However, when considered with cannabis, terpenes can be used to tailor certain strains of cannabis to cause specific effects. Consider it an advancement in being able to find the best possible strain options for your medical needs.

Get to Know Your Terpenes


Limonene, as you may have guessed from the name, has a citrusy-lemony smell. While limonene helps cannabis plants as its natural insecticide, it may aid us cannabis patients as a stress reliever and a mood elevator. Because of its natural calming qualities, it has to potential to help with anxiety and depression and can be greatly uplifting.


Linalool, which is frequently found in lavender flowers, smells, you guessed it, smells very floral, similar to lavender. Like limonene, linalool also has anti-anxiety properties well as sedative properties, and is generally a very calming terpene.  It may also have anticonvulsant properties, which play a great role in decreasing the severity and length of seizures


Myrcene is said to be the most common terpene present in cannabis (and if you ever look at our menu you’ll probably see that for yourself). Myrcene has an earthy, herbal, musky, citrusy scent that is frequently found in hops, thyme, and mango, and it is best known for both its sedative and anti-inflammatory/pain relieving properties. It has medical value in treating insomnia and inflammation, and it’s a good thing to look for all-night pain relief. 


The other woody-earthy smelling terpene is humulene, which is also found in hops, as well as basil. Like many of the other terpenes, humulene’s medical potential lies in its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. One of the most popular appeals of humulene though, is that it also can be an appetite suppressant (absolutely no promises that you won’t get the munchies just because a strain has humulene in it though, that’s just its medical potential).  


As the name suggests, pinene is most commonly found in pine and conifer trees, and yes, it smells like pine and evergreen. Unlike the aforementioned terpenes though, Pinene actually has the potential to create alertness and give an energy and focus boost. It also has the medical potential to improve airflow to the lungs, which can help counter symptoms of asthma. The one drawback of Pinene though is that for some prone to anxiety, that extra energy boost can possibly cause more of an anxious reaction (it’s not guaranteed, just something to be careful of). 


Caryophyllene is the big pain reliever with a unique spicy-peppery scent, and is commonly found in cotton, cloves, and black pepper. It’s anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties make it a go to terpene for those facing some form of chronic pain. Caryophyllene has a direct relationship to our endocannabinoid system, specifically being able to bind to our CB2 receptors. Simply put, it can act as a cannabinoid, similar to THC and CBD, making it very effective (I didn’t understand what binding to our CB2 receptors means either). 


The least common (but still readily available) terpene is terpinolene, the piney, floral, herbal smelling terpene found in nutmeg and cumin. While it’s medical potential lies in being a great anti-fungal, anti-tumor, and gastrointestinal aid, one of its most notable, wondrous effects is how it creates that great giggly, joyous feeling associated with cannabis.


Terpene Takes

Given this information about terpenes, it is apparent that cannabis consumption can become increasingly intricate. There are a number of different terpene profiles that can work for any one patient, and it is important to consider that cannabis, just like any other medicine, comes with trial and error. Don’t fret if the strain you try with your perfect terpene profile doesn’t feel like a good match; so many strains have similar if not the same terpene profiles, and given the number of options available there will be an option, if not options, that work for you, so don’t be discouraged! As the medical potential of terpenes are further explored, patient treatment can ideally have continued meaningful effects. Regardless though, the more that we are able to understand and identify in cannabis, the greater our experience with it can become. 


About the Author

I am Katie and I am a technician at Keystone and I am very short and very concerned about the bee population. I love marijuana and anime and when I am not being productive and writing, my favorite thing in the world to do is enjoy some marijuana while watching anime and eating dessert in my room. I also love reading, writing, non-anime cartoons, crafting, occasionally leaving my apartment, aaaaaaand other things but if I kept listing them you would get bored.I finished all the shows I’ve been binging and would appreciate suggestions. All feedback is appreciated but compliments are ESPECIALLY appreciated. Okay that’s it. 

Disclaimer: These statements have not been reviewed for accuracy by the FDA. As always, seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider when considering trying a new treatment. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your doctor first.

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