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Cannabis Terpenes 101: What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are a class of hydrocarbons, derived from isoprene, that define the aromatic chemicals present in a vast array of plants and some animals. These compounds are responsible for the distinct scents and flavors in many botanical species, playing a crucial role in the essence of everything from fragrant flowers to the resins of trees. Beyond their sensory contributions, terpenes have been studied for various therapeutic and biological interactions in both plants and humans.


Today we will give you a quick rundown on the top 5 terpenes present in cannabis and a brief overview of terpenes. So far, over 30,000 different terpenes have been identified. Some are widely researched and applied, like rubber resin. Some are around us every day in our foods, personal care products, and drinks as flavours, scents, and active ingredients. Many are already widely used in natural medicines that contain ginger, lemon, lavender, chamomile, mint, ginseng, turmeric, rose, and hops, just to name a few.


The majority of products you consume daily will have various terpenes included or were present in the original source material used to make that product or ingredient. You may not know it, but you could be consuming, smelling and cooking with hundreds of these tiny molecules each day! 


Ready to expand your mind? Let's go! 


What are Terpenes and their Benefits?


Terpenes are aromatic organic hydrocarbons found in many plants, including cannabis. They are the primary constituents of essential oils—providing plants with natural protection against bacteria, fungi, pests, and other environmental stresses.

The interesting aspect of terpenes, besides giving a plant its unique aromatic signature, is their synergy with other plant compounds. In cannabis, terpenes work in harmony with cannabinoids in a relationship known as the 'entourage effect', enhancing the potential health benefits.


Here are some of the primary benefits associated with terpenes:


  • Therapeutic Properties: Terpenes have been used in aromatherapy for centuries due to their therapeutic properties. For instance, linalool, a common terpene found in lavender, is known for its calming and relaxing effects.

  • Medical Applications: Certain terpenes such as pinene (found in pine trees) and limonene (found in citrus fruits) have shown promising results in early-stage studies for a range of medical applications, from anti-inflammatory to potential anticancer effects.

  • Flavor and Aroma: Terpenes are responsible for the unique flavor and aroma profiles of different cannabis strains. For example, a strain with high levels of myrcene will have a more earthy, musky scent, while one with high levels of limonene will have a citrusy aroma.

  • Potential Health Benefits: There is increasing interest in the potential health benefits of terpenes, from their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to possible neuroprotective effects.

It's important to note that research into the benefits of terpenes, particularly within the context of the endocannabinoid system, is still in its early stages. However, the potential for these small but mighty molecules to contribute to overall health and wellness is truly exciting. As with any wellness product, it's important to discuss any new treatment with a healthcare provider, especially if you have any existing medical conditions.


Why Are Terpenes So Important?


Scientifically speaking, terpenes are scented molecules that affect how we feel when applied to the skin, inhaled and consumed. Animals, plants, fungi and microbes produce terpenes to carry out necessary biological functions that produce vitamins, hormones and pheromones.


Terpenes are essential building blocks that come together to make complex biological interactions between our bodies' receptor activity and functions, such as immune system response to infections, inflammation and pain management, or brain activity and mood. In the field of cannabis research, terpenes are at the cutting edge of new applications for medicinal marijuana.


Recent research suggests these terpene molecules could be very beneficial for human health. Most of us have never heard of the word terpene before, but it's important to point out that humans have been studying these fantastic plant-based molecules for decades with magnificent results.


Terpenes are super important, and if you can include them in your daily routine or alternative treatment for your ailments, we promise you will see results.  


Medical & Therapeutic Use of Terpenes


Terpenes bind to receptors in your brain, working in harmony with your endocannabinoid system to help bring homeostasis to the body. Historically, terpenes have been used for thousands of years to help with illness and cure specific ailments. Various terpenes (including the most prominent ones in cannabis) continue to be researched extensively. We are learning more about these beautiful molecules and how they can improve our daily lives. 

Terpenes have been demonstrated to have various effects on our bodies and can increase the therapeutic properties of cannabis in a process known as the "Entourage Effect." 

If you are interested in trying out a terpene product that has been researched and designed for specific indications, check our Terpene Essentials range here.


The Top 5 Terpenes Found In Cannabis 




1. Myrcene


The most common terpene found in cannabis is also present in tropical fruits such as mango, citrus, hops, parsley, basil, lemongrass and thyme. It has a fruity, woody and citrus-like scent, which is partly why we used it in our first gin – we even included Myrcene in its name! If a cannabis strain has more than 0.5% myrcene, it's an Indica. Anything less, it's a Sativa. 


Flavour Profile: 

Fruit, Geranium, Balsamic


Medical Research:


Myrcene is regarded as one of the most fascinating and highly-sought after terpenes due to its potent anti-inflammatory, sedativeanalgesic (pain-relieving) and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties. It also has strong antioxidant properties.    


Entourage Effects (when combined with cannabinoids):

Analgesic - CBD, THC

Sedative - THC, CBN

Anti-oxidant - CBD, CBG


Common Strains containing Myrcene: 

Jack Herer, Superbud, Strawberry Haze


Read our dedicated blog to the Myrcene terpene here




2. Limonene


Limonene is the second most common terpene found in cannabis and has an intense citrus scent that comes from the rinds of the lemon and orange it's usually found in. Also found in juniper and peppermint, Limonene is commonplace in perfume and other products due to its pleasant smell and low toxicity. We like it so much that we used it as the primary terpene in our Jilungin Dreaming Hemp Gin


Flavour Profile: 



Medical Research: 

A number of research studies have been completed on Limonene which demonstrates anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory properties. It's considered a possible treatment for cancer, including prostate, breast and pancreatic cancer. 


Entourage Effects (when combined with cannabinoids):

Anti-cancer - CBG, CBN

Anti-depressant - CBG, CBD


Common Strains with Limonene: 

Lemon Haze, Bubba Kush, Sour Diesel




3. Linalool 


Linalool has a floral, sweet, woody and blueberry scent, technically classed as terpene alcohol. A unique terpene that has been used for thousands of years to treat anxiety and has proven sedative properties, linalool is found in birch, lavender and rosewood. It can be used as a relaxant and is currently being researched for its influence on reducing certain types of cancer. 


Flavour Profile: 

Rose, Floral, Lavender


Medical Research:

A very unique terpene that shows promise in treating pain signals, reducing tumours and promoting sleep. Used for centuries to treat anxiety, linalool continues to be researched extensively for various ailments. A wide variety of studies have shown benefits around cancerpain relief, as an anticonvulsant and as a sedative.


Entourage Effects (when combined with cannabinoids):

Anti-anxiety - CBG, CBD

Sedative - CBN, THC

Anti-convulsant - CBD, THCV


Common Strains with Linalool: 

Skywalker OG, Pink Kush, Lavender 




4. Pinene 


Pinene is found in many plants, including cannabis, pine trees and rosemary. It's shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties and is known to affect our memory positively. Have you ever walked through a pine forest and felt deep contentment or a sense of peacefulness? You're probably experiencing pinene.


Flavour Profile: 

Piney, Sharp, Sweet


Medical Research:

Pinene can assist patients suffering from Crohn's Disease, arthritis, other inflammation-related conditions and cancer. It can improve airflow and respiratory functions while helping reduce memory loss.


Entourage Effects (when combined with cannabinoids):

Anti-inflammatory - CBD, CBG

Anti-cancer - CBD, THC

Memory enhancer - CBD, CBN


Common Strains with Pinene: 

Jack Herer, Blue Dream, OG Kush




5. Beta-Caryophyllene

Beta-caryophyllene can activate receptors inside our body, including the CB2 receptors, which makes this a particularly unique terpene. Found in basil, black pepper and cloves, it's also prevalent in many cannabis strains and has a spicy, peppery and woody scent. 


Flavour Profile:

Peppery, Spicy, Woody


Medical Research:

Pre-clinical research has indicated that this terpene can be therapeutic in many diseases ranging from alcoholism to reducing pain and helping with inflammation. Beta-caryophyllene has antioxidant properties and also binds to the same receptors as other cannabinoids.


Entourage Effects (when combined with cannabinoids):

Analgesic - CBD, CBG

Anti-inflammatory - CBD


Common Strains with Beta-Caryophyllene: 

Girl Scout Cookies, White Widow, Chemdog




Are terpenes good or bad?

Terpenes are naturally occurring compounds found in many plants and are generally considered beneficial. They provide aroma and flavor to various plants, and some have therapeutic properties. Like any compound, the effect of a specific terpene can vary depending on its concentration and individual reactions, but generally speaking, they are seen as beneficial and non-toxic in typical amounts.

What is another word for terpene?

While "terpene" is the specific term used to describe this class of hydrocarbons, they are sometimes colloquially referred to as "essential oils" when found in certain plants or when extracted for use in aromatherapy. However, it's important to note that while all terpenes can be found in essential oils, not all essential oils are made up solely of terpenes.

What are terpenes and what do they help with?

Terpenes are aromatic chemicals present in many plants and are responsible for their distinctive scents. In addition to providing aroma, they have various potential therapeutic benefits. Some terpenes are believed to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-relieving), and anti-anxiety properties, among others. They can play a role in enhancing the therapeutic properties of other compounds in plants, such as cannabinoids in cannabis, through the 'entourage effect'.

What are the characteristics of terpenes?

Terpenes are a class of volatile hydrocarbons that are characterized by their strong aromatic properties. They can vary in structure and function, but all are derived from a basic molecule called isoprene. Their specific aroma and potential therapeutic benefits are determined by their molecular structure.

What is the difference between terpenes and essential oils?

Terpenes are specific compounds that give plants their aroma and flavor. Essential oils, on the other hand, are concentrated liquids extracted from plants that capture the plant's scent and essence. While terpenes are components of essential oils, essential oils also contain other compounds. Essentially, terpenes are individual components, whereas essential oils are complex mixtures that can contain multiple terpenes and other compounds.