What Are Terpenes & Terpenoids ? The Ultimate Guide

What Are Terpenes?

Prior to the mainstream acceptance of cannabis, the concept of Terpenes was known only to a few. Nowadays, cannabis users talk about the “terpenoid profile” or “terpene extracts” that often leave a few of you newcomers confused.

If you ask a horticulturist about terpenes, they would tell you that it is the essential oils of a plant. Well, they are not only that.

Terpenes and also terpenoids are compounds in the marijuana plant that give it the distinct smell and the flavor it has. True, they are essential oils that are secreted by the sticky glands of the flower.

They are also responsible for the odor of a few insects.

What are terpenes and terpenoids?


As mentioned, terps are the reason your cannabis smells the way it does. Terpenoids are essentially terpenes that have denatured through the process of oxidation.

Terpenes can come in different “structures” such as monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and so forth. Terpenes also interact with cannabinoids in a very unique manner. Some of them hinder cannabinoid activities while others promote them.

The sticky glands are the same area where all the other cannabinoids also come from.

Terpenes are not exclusive to cannabis though, the smell and taste of most fruits, vegetables, and flowers are there because of the presence of terpenes. In Cannabis, terpenes play a potent role and have many attributes. Cannabis and other plants also share many of the same terpenes. Even some insects have terpenes too.

Composition of Terpenes

Carbon and Hydrogen make up a terpene. Terpenes and Terpenoids are actually the same. The difference is while Terpenes are hydrocarbons; Terpenoids have additional atoms that were changed during oxidation. This happens after the plant is dried. So Terpenes could be seen as “wet” and Terpenoids as “dried out”.

Terpenes play many important roles in the plant and animal kingdom. They are the chemical building blocks for the more complex compounds like cannabinoids and certain hormones.

What Role do Terpenes and Terpenoids Play in Cannabis?

Just like cannabinoids, terpenes bind to the receptors in the brain to stimulate the effects it promotes. It also affects the chemical output of the neurotransmitters like serotine and dopamine.

Certain terpenes modulate the psychoactive and physiological effects of marijuana.

On the quest to discover what terpenes can do for us, it was found that it:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Relieves pain
  • Helps with insomnia

It was also discovered that Terpenes work with cannabinoids like THC and CBD to accentuate their natural balancing properties. It is referred to as the entourage effect.

The Complexity of Cannabis Terpenes


Over a 100 Terpenes have been identified so far. What makes it interesting is that every strain has its own unique terpene composition. This is why different strains have different smells, tastes, and effects. Regular users of marijuana often notice that the weed they just smoked was an upper.

Other times they recognize it as a downer. This is where terpenes come in. Some strains are sedating and other would be uplifting. Some strains are good to be used as painkillers and others might be inspirational.

Before the value of Terpenes was understood, the focus was mainly on the benefits of THC and CBD. Then they found that there are other compounds that also play an intricate role. With further research, Terpenes, terpenoids, and flavonoids came into perspective.

By mapping out the terpene profiles, they can be predicted and manipulated. With the non-psychoactive properties they offer, they are great for medicinal purposes. There are many different terpenes in cannabis, but we will look at the most prominent.

Most Common Terpenes found in Cannabis


Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in Cannabis. It sometimes composes up to 50 % of the plant’s Terpene count. It has a musk and earthy robust smell and is the terpene that produces the typical smell of cannabis.  It is a very effective anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxer. When the Myrcene levels in marijuana are high, they induce the typical “heavy and euphoric” sense of sedation.

  • Medical Value: Anti-carcinogenic, anti-oxidant, muscle relaxer, painkiller, depression, insomnia
  • Found also in: mangos, thyme, hops, eucalyptus and lemongrass
  • Cannabis Strains: Skunk XL, White Widow, Special Kush


Cannabis strains high in Limonene have a citrusy smell like oranges or lemons. It is the second most abundant strain in cannabis, but all strains don’t have it. For therapeutic purposes, it is used to improve mood and reduce stress. It can also be used to lose weight. It is used in topical creams too as it promotes faster absorption. It is also found to combat cancer.

  • Medical Value: Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, depression, and heartburn
  • Found also in Rosemary, peels of citrus fruits, Juniper and Peppermint
  • Cannabis Strains: OG Kush, Sour Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, Durban Poison, Jack Herer and Jack the Ripper


Linalool is found in more than 200 plant species. It has a floral aroma and brings forth calming and relaxing effects. It is a very good sleep aid and a precursor in the formation of Vitamin E.  Studies have found Linalool to significantly reduce lung inflammation.

  • Medical Value: anti-depressant, anti- convulsant, anti- anxiety and acne treatment.
  • Also found in: lavender, mint, coriander, and cinnamon.
  • Cannabis Strains: Amnesia Haze, Special Kush, Lavender, OG Shark and LA Confidential


It smells spicy and peppery and is known to interact with the endocannabinoid system. Beta-caryophyllene binds with the CB2 receptors and makes it perfect to be used as an ingredient in anti-topical creams.

  • Medical Value: Arthritis, auto-immune disorders, ulcers and general gastrointestinal problems.
  • Also found in: pepper, wood, cloves, and spices
  • Cannabis Strains: Super Silver Haze, Sky Walker, and Rock Star

Pinene- Alpha and Beta

These are two types of terpenes; Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene. The alpha terpenes are found in balsamic resin and pine woods and smell strongly like pine needles. Beta-terpenes are found in herbs and smell like rosemary, basil, parsley or dill. They are excellent for improving air-flow and respiratory functions.

  • Medical Value: Helps with memory loss related to THC, Asthma, arthritis, Crohn’s disease and cancer.
  • Also found in: orange peels, basil, rosemary
  • Cannabis Strains: Jack Herer, Blue Dream, Strawberry Cough, Island Sweet Skunk, Romulan and Dutch Treat.


This terpene is also known as levomenol or just bisabolol. It has a flowery smell and can be found in Chamomile flowers and candeia trees. It was first used in the cosmetic industry but now the attention has turned to it for medicinal purposes too.

  • Medical Value: Treats bacterial infections and wounds, anti-oxidant, anti-irritant and with analgesic properties
  • Also Found in chamomile and candeia trees
  • Cannabis Strains: Pink Kush, Headband, Harle –Tsu, ACDC and OG Shark


It is the first terpene to be found in Hops. It has an earthy, spicy and woody aroma

  • Medical Value: Prevents cancer cells from growing, suppresses appetite, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and pain reliever
  • Also Found in: coriander, hops, clover, and basil.
  • Cannabis Strains: Headband, White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, Pink Kush, Sour Diesel and Skywalker OG


This is a secondary terpene mostly found in flowers like jasmine. It smells like a mixture of rose, apples, and citrus and can be described as floral, citrusy and woody.

  • Medical Value: anti-oxidant, anti- fungal, anti-parasitic, anti-cancerous with anti-microbial properties.
  • Also Found in: lemongrass and tea tree oil.
  • Cannabis Strains: Skywalker OG, Sweet Skunk, and Jack Herer


Camphene often gets confused with Myrcene as its aroma is similar. Camphene has a musky earthy and damp woodlands smell. It gets widely used in the medical world for topical ointments for psoriasis and eczema

  • Medical Value: anti-oxidant, lower cholesterol, lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Also Found in:  can be found in various herbs
  • Cannabis Strains: Strawberry Banana, Ghost OG, and Mendocino Purps


This terpene has a very minty scent

  • Medical Value: very good insect repellent and therefore very good to prevent diseases carried by mosquitos and the like. Kill breast cancer cells and are used in acupuncture.
  • Also Found in: rosemary, camphor, and mint
  • Cannabis Strains: Golden Haze, Amnesia Haze, and K13 Haze


This terpene has a floral-like scent reminding of lilacs and apple blossoms with a hint of citrus. It is a very common ingredient in perfumes. It is very relaxing and induces the well-known couch lock state.

  • Medical Value: anti-oxidant and antibiotic properties.
  • Also Found in anise and mint
  • Cannabis Strains: Jack Herer, OG Kush, and Girl Scout Cookies.

Delta-3 Carene

The aroma of this terpene is sweet and smells like cypress trees.

  • Medical Value Helps healing of broken bones, osteoporosis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Could be a key factor in finding a cure for Alzheimer.
  • Also Found in: Cedar, bell peppers, rosemary, and basil.
  • Cannabis Strains: Super Silver Haze. Super Lemon Haze, Arjan’s Ultra Haze


Ocimene has a sweet herbal and woody scent

  • Medical Value: Anti-viral, anti-fungal, decongestant, anti-bacterial and antiseptic.
  • Also Found in: pepper, parsley, mint, mango’s, kumquats and orchids.
  • Cannabis Strains: Arjan’s Haze and Himalaya Gold

The value of Terpenes

Even though Terpenes in your cannabis plant won’t make you high, it could enhance the “high “by supporting various cannabinoids when they bind with the cannabinoid receptors. More important is that they make your weed smell good and they have several medicinal benefits.

In all, they work together with all the other cannabinoid compounds to produce the entourage effect. In the complexed bio-chemistry mechanism of the endocannabinoid system and the effect of cannabinoids together, terpenes complete the process to provide a whole effect.

The more we study the cannabis plant, the more valuable contributors are discovered. Terpenes are one of those and we are just scratching the surface in understanding how all support one-another to make thing better and to bring complete homeostasis.

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