Terpenes in cannabis

Terpenes in cannabis: a list of terpenes and their flavors!

We all know that moment when you smell a cannabis (or hemp) flower and get that sophisticated rush of unique smells.

It might be fruity and sweet or earthy and minty. At other times it can have a complex smell profile of cheese mixed with wild blueberries!

Whatever the smell is – we have to be thankful for the terpenes.

What are cannabis terpenes (terps)?

Terpenes (aka terps) are aromatic oils. They are secreted by the cannabis plant during flowering, by the same glands that produce CBD and THC, and other cannabinoids. Thanks to the terpenes, cannabis plants have a variety of unique and astonishing smells.

But they are found all over the different plants – conifers, citruses, herbs, and many others.

Terpenes are responsible for the scent characteristics of plants. In simpler words, they are what makes lemon smell like lemon (limonene terpene) or hops smell like hops (humulene).

But you might wonder why plants “want” to have a variety of different flavors?

That is because terpenes in plants evolved to repel various insects – to scare off insects and intruders, so the plants can thrive in peace.

Cannabis plants also use terpenes as a signaling mechanism – to attract pollinators.

Cannabis is abundant in terpenes and that might as well explain why these plants are so sturdy against parasites.

And that’s not terpenes only trait!

Terpenes in cannabis are thought to differentiate the effects of each cannabis strain. While some terpenes might promote stress-relief and relaxation, others can give you energy and help lift your mood. 

For example, Super Lemon Haze strain gets its name and citrus smell because of a terpene called Limonene (it is also found in lemons and other citruses). Limonene is thought to provide anxiety and stress-relieving effects.

Usually, multiple terpenes are present in cannabis plants. More scientific research is needed, but terpenes play a role in the so-called “Entourage effect”.

They interact with cannabinoids, flavonoids in the cannabis plant and create synergetic effects – all the compounds present together to create stronger and different effects than an isolated terpene itself.

Nevertheless, isolated terpenes still work on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by binding to the receptors in the ECS, the same place where THC and CBD are working.

On top of that, terpenes may also have a variety of benefits for health. Even though we need more research, the future is bright as more and more countries legalize the plant. Therefore, the scientific research of cannabis plants is becoming legal and also a popular subject among the scientific community.

In this article, we will overview the most common cannabis terpenes and their possible health benefits.

terpenes in cannabis infographic chart

A List of the most common cannabis terpenes and effects + their flavors:

Myrcene

Found in mangos, thyme, lemongrass. The most abundant terpene in cannabis. Myrcene is found in 20% of all cannabis strains.

Scent: earthy, herbal, cloves, musky, cardamon.

Effects: sedating, relaxing, “indica” effects.

Possible health benefits: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, might help with insomnia and pain.

Cannabis strains high in myrcene: OG kush, Critical Mass, ACDC.

myrcene terpenes in cannabis

Limonene

Found in lemon, orange, juniper.

Scent: Citrus

Effects: uplifted mood, stress and anxiety relief

Possible health benefits: Treatment of anxiety, depression, inflammation, pain, and cancer

Cannabis strains high in limonene: Lemon Haze, Super Lemon Haze, Amnesia Haze, Mango Haze, Wedding Cake.

limonene terpenes in cannabis

Linalool

Found in lavender, birch bark.

Scent: Floral

Effects: Mood enhancement, sedation

Possible health benefits:  anti-inflammatory, anxiety and depression relief, pain relief, improved sleep.

Cannabis strains high in linalool: Zkittlez, Fire OG, Amnesia Haze, LA Confidential.

linalool terpenes in cannabis

Caryophyllene

Found in black pepper, cloves, cinnamon.

Scent: Pepper, spicy, woody, cloves

Effects: Stress and anxiety relief

Possible health benefits: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, might help with insomnia and pain.

Cannabis strains high in caryophyllene: Gelato, Gorilla Glue, Chemdog, Girl Scout Cookies.

Cannabis strains high in myrcene

Pinene

Found in pine needles, rosemary, basil.

Scent: Piney

Effects: Alertness, memory retention, counteracts some THC effects

Possible health benefits: asthma, anti-inflammatory, anxiety, and stress relief, pain, cancer.

Cannabis strains high in pinene: Grape Ape, Blue Dream, Harlequin, Barry White.

pinene terpenes in cannabis

Terpinolene

Found in lilacs, nutmeg, cumin, tea tree, apples.

Scent: piney, floral, and herbal

Effects: Uplifting

Possible health benefits: anti-cancer, antioxidant, antibacterial.

Cannabis strains high in terpinolene: Jack Herer, Dutch Treat, Ghost Train Haze.

terpinolene terpenes in cannabis

Ocimene

Found in orchids, mint, parsley.

Scent: Sweet, herbal, and woody

Effects: Uplifting

Possible health benefits: antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal.

Cannabis strains high in ocimene: Sour Diesel, Amnezia, Dutch Treat.

ocimene terpenes in cannabis

Humulene

Found in hops, wood, coriander, basil, cloves.

Scent: Hops, woody, earthy

Effects: unknown

Possible health benefits: anti-inflammatory, Anti-cancer, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, weight loss.

Cannabis strains high in humulene: Super Lemon Haze, White Widow, Sour Diesel, Skywalker OG, Girl Scout Cookies.

humulene terpenes in cannabis

To make it easier for you, we picked a terpenes list with their effects:

What cannabis terpenes make you happy?

Limonene, Linalool, Terpinolene, Ocimene.

What cannabis terpenes make you sleepy?

Myrcene, Linalool.

What cannabis terpenes make you relaxed?

Myrcene, Linalool, Caryophyllene.

What cannabis terpenes are best for anxiety?

Myrcene, Limonene, Linalool, Pinene.

How to use terpenes?

Terpenes can be used in many ways. Keep in mind that different terpenes have different vaporization temperatures. You can use terpenes: orally, sublingually, and by vaporizing them. You can even pick your favorite cannabis strain by looking at its terpenes profiles if you know which terpene effects you like!

Keep in mind that full-spectrum CBD oils have terpenes in them, and is therefore thought to be superior to isolated CBD. As mentioned previously, cannabinoids (such as CBD, CBG, CBN, ..) interact with terpenes and create stronger medical effects of the cannabis plant.

Are terpenes safe to use?

Absolutely! Humans consume terpenes every day, as they are found in many foods – most fruits, herbs, and trees.

Terpenes are also found in most folk medicines throughout ages in different countries, such as lemongrass (Mexico) for sleep, Spanish sage (Spain) for pain relief, and thyme (Northern countries, such as Norway, Lithuania, Sweden) for anti-bacterial effects.

FDA considers terpenes as safe food additives and doesn’t control their use.

Why does cannabis have such a strong smell?

Cannabis (as well as other plants, such as thyme, sage, mangoes, and a bunch of others) evolved to have high concentrations of terpenes to repel parasites and other unwanted insects. 

These aromatic oils are also used as a signaling mechanism to attract pollinators, which then helps the plants to reproduce.

This is how it works: cannabis plants excrete a sticky resin – with abundant amounts of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids in it, which then deters parasites.

While terpenes in cannabis might also help the plants reproduce, cannabis plants are mostly wind-pollinated plants so more research is needed to know for sure.

In simpler words – when parasites attack cannabis plants, they release a strong smell (high concentrations of terpenes) to repel them and also to signal other insects to eat the parasites. A smart move, if you ask us!

Terpene extraction - can I do it?

Yes. It can be done at home, but it is not a very efficient way to do it. The common techniques to extract terpenes from plants are steam distillation and hydrodistillation.

Steam distillation: a basket, with plants (herbs) in it, is placed above the pot filled with boiling water. As hot steam passes through plant material, monoterpenes then dissolve in steam. It then condensates on the cooler lid and settles down on the water surface in the pot. Then the terpenes are easily collected.

Hydrodistillation: it is almost an identical technique, the only difference is that the plants or herbs are placed directly in the boiling water, which then penetrates the plant material and the terpenes are extracted from the surface of the water.

However, while it is easy to extract terpenes at home conditions, the downside of it is that high temperatures are used (100 degrees Celsius) during the extraction process. 

Therefore, most plant compounds are destroyed or altered at this temperature. That is why extracted terpenes might have quite a different smell than the original plant (cannabis, sage, thyme, or others) itself.

A solution to this is to use a commercial low-temperature vacuum extractor, but these are pricey and are used in commercial operations.

Do all CBD oils have terpenes?

No, only full-spectrum or some broad-spectrum oils contain terpenes. Isolated CBD does not have anything else in it except isolated CBD and carrier oil (hemp, MCT, olive, or other).

Do terpenes make you “high”?

No, isolated terpenes do not make you high, but they still have their flavors. 

However, terpenes play a role in the so-called “entourage effect” – it is known that cannabinoids interact together and with other molecules in the cannabis – terpenes, flavonoids. It then creates a more potent medical effect than isolated CBD or other cannabinoids alone.

That is why it is mostly recommended to use full-spectrum CBD oils, as they have all the naturally occurring cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids in the cannabis plant and create the “entourage effect”.

Summary

Terpenes give cannabis plants (and other) unique and sophisticated smell and flavor. 

Because of complex terpene profiles in cannabis, marijuana, or CBD flower buds have a variety of unique smell profiles.

Different terpenes in cannabis are also thought to differentiate cannabis strain’s effects.

While terps give cannabis unforgettable flavors and effects, they also have various potential health benefits. Some terpenes might give uplifting mood effects, while others can help to treat asthma, anxiety and depression, and other.

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