Why Cannabis Terpenes Are A (Really) Big Deal

CannaSafe Testing Vials Being Filled for Cannabis Terpene Testing

What is a Terpene?

Terpenes or “terps” as they are affectionately called, are aromatic compounds found in plants, fruits, and herbs (even in some animals!) that determine scent and flavor.  

In nature, differing terpene profiles can both attract pollinators as well as provide a defense mechanism to repel predators, such as insects. Terpenes have also been found to help plants recover from damage and keep away infectious disease. 

In cannabis, terpenes are what give the Cannabis sativa plant its unique and tantalizing scents like citrus, pine, and berry. These aromatic compounds help to differentiate strains and their powerful influence over the effect and experience of the cannabis being consumed.  

Based on existing literature on terpenes and their impact on the overall experience and effects of cannabis, cultivators strongly believe that if the terpene ratio is manipulated through selective breeding, one can modify or maximize the desired effects of a flower or product. This can be tricky, however, as different terpene profiles can exist within genetically identical plants due to differences in growing temperature, medium, nutrients, and light.  

Terpenes as Medicine

Terpenes have shown great promise in therapeutics, and research shows they seem to work together in synergy within the endocannabinoid system in what’s known as the entourage effect, where certain terpene profiles cause varied or enhanced effects of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. Terpenes can also change the amount of cannabinoid that is absorbed into the body, meaning that specific terpenes can either increase or decrease the amount of psychoactive THC is absorbed, thus controlling the potency.  

Different terpenes offer unique benefits. Some may help induce sleep and relax muscles, while others help to alleviate stress and boost mood. Still others may reduce inflammation and increase energy. Most research has focused on the health effects of individual terpenes. For example, linalool, a terpene also found in lavender, provides antianxiety effects. α-Pinene, which is also produced in rosemary, can be invigorating and lead to mental alertness. 

Researchers are studying terpenes in great depth to understand their potential medicinal uses and how they might also be used in conjunction with cannabinoids for the treatment of disease and related symptoms.  

CannaSafe Cannabis Flower with Terpenes Being Held to Camera

Below are 21 of the most common terpenes found in cannabis:

Caryophyllene Oxide

A common terpene in cannabis. Believed to have antioxidant, anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties. Also found in black pepper and basil.


A terpene with a smoky, woody aroma. Believed to be anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-insomnia, among other therapeutic effects. Also found in cardamom and marjoram.


A terpene with a woody, floral aroma. Believed to fight infections and provide calming and anti-anxiety effects. Also found in jasmine and lemongrass.


A terpene with a citrusy and sweet scent. Believed to provide pain relief and have anti-inflammatory properties. Also found in thyme and cumin.


A floral-scented terpene. Believed to provide calming effects. Also found in lavender.


A terpene with pine-like aromas. Believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Also found in cypress pine.


A terpene with a sweet, earthy aroma. Believed to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Also found in cedar and rosemary.


A terpene with a musky earth scent. Believed to be a potent antioxidant, pain reliever, and anti-inflammatory. Also found in nutmeg and ginger.


A terpene with a citrusy aroma. Believed to provide anxiety and stress relief. Also found in lemon and orange rind.


A terpene with an earthy and spicy scent. May provide anti-inflammatory relief. Also found in hops and wood.


A terpene with a piney and fresh, minty aroma. Believed to aid in pain relief and inflammation. Also found in rosemary and pine trees.


A floral-scented terpene. Believed to be an antioxidant and anti-bacterial. Also found in chamomile.


A terpene with a woody, spicy aroma. The only terpene known to activate the endocannabinoid system to provide anti-inflammatory effects. Also found in cinnamon and black pepper. 


A terpene with a minty aroma. Believed to be anti-seizure and reduce inflammation. Also found in mint and eucalyptus.


A terpene with a fruity scent. Believed to produce calming effects. Also found in mango and lemongrass. 


A terpene with a smoky, woody aroma. Believed to have a myriad of therapeutic benefits from anti-insomnia to anti-fungal. 


A smoky, woody scented terpene. Believed to provide anti-insomnia and antioxidant effects. Also found in cumin and nutmeg. 


Most common terpene. Believed to be helpful for pain, inflammation, or anxiety. Also found in pine needles and rosemary. 


A terpene with a minty aroma. Believed to be useful for many things from pain relief to anti-cancer. Also found in tea tree and sweet basil. 


A sweet-smelling terpene. Believed to be a neuroprotectant. Also found in tobacco and lemons.  


A very sweet, herbal scented terpene. Believed to be an anti-viral, antiseptic, and a decongestant. Also found in parsley and mint. 

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a medical professional with any questions you may have regarding the use of cannabis or hemp to treat a medical condition.

One Comment

  1. Ben Larson

    First, thank you sincerely for making science-based information about cannabis products available to the public. I believe there is a large, unmet demand for such information among responsible cannabis users who are concerned about the safe manufacturing of such products.

    In particular, I was drawn to this article on terpene variants and their clinical value. I noted that, of the 21 terpenes listed above, 19 of those clinical effects were prefaced by “Believed to…”, while one was prefaced by “may provide…” and one was prefaced with “known to…” I would be interested in finding more information about research supporting these claims, especially as it related to believed vs. may vs known as used above.

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