Terpenes and Cannabis: How They Are Related and How They Interact

Cannabis buds / nugs and leaves with sliced lemon
Shutterstock / Gleti

Terpenes are a naturally-occurring product in several various plants and flowers. They are mainly responsible for the multiple scents and tastes that plant has to either attract insects and other pollen-carriers or repel predators. They are found in many plants, but they are mostly associated with cannabis plants and strains, as the cannabis and hemp plants contain several hundred varieties of compounds. Some well-known cannabis terps include limonene and myrcene, but many others have a range of different aromas and flavors. But there are many other benefits to these aromatic chemicals. Some are believed to promote stress-relief and other calming effects.

Table of Contents

  1. What’s the Difference Between CBD and Terpenes?
  2. What Are They Used For?
  3. Different Categories
  4. Choosing the Best Ones
  5. FAQ about Terpenes
  6. Closing Thoughts

Table of Contents

  1. What’s the Difference Between CBD and Terpenes?
  2. What Are They Used For?
  3. Different Categories
  4. Choosing the Best Ones
  5. FAQ about Terpenes
  6. Closing Thoughts

How Are Terpenes Different from CBD?

Terpenes are fragrance-inducing, essential oils that are found in many plants and flowers. Even though they are widespread throughout the plant world (there are over 100 different varieties), they are most notable in cannabis plants for their distinctive aroma, tastes, and properties. Terpenes are not cannabinoids like CBD, which is a different class of chemical.

CBD and all cannabinoids are native to cannabis and hemp plants. When they are extracted, distilled, and processed into oils and other forms, they have no flavor or noticeable aroma. Some say that CBD oil has an earthy, musky taste, but that is usually because the compound has been mixed with a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil or some other fatty oil aka MCT (medium-chain triglycerides)

Terpenes are mostly known for the smells and flavors they produce, but evidence has emerged recently that they have other health-promoting properties, such as:

  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antidepressant
  • Antiviral

The terpenes are among the most widely-known chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. They have been used for thousands of years as therapeutic agents to treat several different conditions. However, unlike with CBD and other cannabinoids, they are only believed to have healing properties, and that fact has not been proven.

Terpenes are fragrance-inducing, essential oils that are found in many plants and flowers. Even though they are widespread throughout the plant world (there are over 100 different varieties), they are most notable in cannabis plants for their distinctive aroma, tastes, and properties. Terpenes are not cannabinoids like CBD, which is a different class of chemical.

CBD and all cannabinoids are native to cannabis and hemp plants. When they are extracted, distilled, and processed into oils and other forms, they have no flavor or noticeable aroma. Some say that CBD oil has an earthy, musky taste, but that is usually because the compound has been mixed with a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil or some other fatty oil aka MCT (medium-chain triglycerides)

Terpenes are mostly known for the smells and flavors they produce, but evidence has emerged recently that they have other health-promoting properties, such as:

  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antidepressant
  • Antiviral

The terpenes are among the most widely-known chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. They have been used for thousands of years as therapeutic agents to treat several different conditions. However, unlike with CBD and other cannabinoids, they are only believed to have healing properties, and that fact has not been proven.

What Do Terpenes Do?

In the form of essential oils, cannabis terpenes have been used as therapeutic remedies by natural healers for centuries. Linalool, a terpene found in lavender, has been studied to see whether it has calm-inducing properties given its pleasant, odorous smell. But, smell and whether it is pleasant or not is subjective, so it is difficult to say whether that is conclusive.

Cannabis terpenes and other essential oils are mostly used in aromatherapy, where people are exposed to pleasant smells and odors to promote specific effects. Aromatherapy is a natural therapy that many people believe has restorative properties. However, it is not proven science. Aromatherapy has no tangible impact on mental or physical health.

Another theory is that when they are combined with cannabinoids like CBD or THC, they produce something called the “entourage effect.” The entourage effect means that each of these substances brings something beneficial to the user. They are even more helpful when combined, as in a CBD or THC product, which amplifies their individual effects.

In the form of essential oils, cannabis terpenes have been used as therapeutic remedies by natural healers for centuries. Linalool, a terpene found in lavender, has been studied to see whether it has calm-inducing properties given its pleasant, odorous smell. But, smell and whether it is pleasant or not is subjective, so it is difficult to say whether that is conclusive.

Cannabis terpenes and other essential oils are mostly used in aromatherapy, where people are exposed to pleasant smells and odors to promote specific effects. Aromatherapy is a natural therapy that many people believe has restorative properties. However, it is not proven science. Aromatherapy has no tangible impact on mental or physical health.

Another theory is that when they are combined with cannabinoids like CBD or THC, they produce something called the “entourage effect.” The entourage effect means that each of these substances brings something beneficial to the user. They are even more helpful when combined, as in a CBD or THC product, which amplifies their individual effects.

Different Kinds of Terpenes

Cannabis nug
Shutterstock / Gleti

Over 100 known terpenes in plants are as distinct as sage, rosemary, and flowers like lavender or pine trees. Four terpene classes are most well-known and have unique properties. Some of them have various flavors and aromas, making them even more complex. Here are the most common groups and their primary flavors or aromas:

Myrcene

One of the Most Abundant

Myrcene is found in all cannabis strains, which makes it one of the most widespread. It is also found in several different herbs like sage and thyme and fruits like mangoes. It has a somewhat fruity essence with mellow earthy notes.

Some studies have found that natural myrcene could have anxiolytic properties (counters anxiety). Still, those studies looked at its effects on animals, not people, so it requires further studies in humans to be proven.

Linalool

A Flowery Smell with a Bit of Spice

Linalool is also an abundant terpene as it is found in flowers like lavender and roses to herbs and spices like mint, basil, and cinnamon. As it is common in many items, it has a very versatile smell and flavor profile. It is spicy and sweet, aromatic and mellow. It has many other applications, from everything to a food additive to an insect repellent.

Linalool has also been studied for potential therapeutic applications. Still, these studies have also been limited to animal subjects and have not been proven to have many positive effects on humans. Linalool is also, of course, present in cannabis plants but not as much as myrcene.

Limonene

A Common Terpene With a Citrus Bite

Limonene is a universal terpene, not only in cannabis but in almost every known citrus fruit, from oranges and lemons or limes to grapefruit and tangerines. It gives those fruits their unique aroma, but they are also included in several citrus-based products like cleaners, deodorants, and different foods and beverages.

Limonene has also been thoroughly researched to find if it contains beneficial properties. Those studies have also turned up only anecdotal evidence. But it is not a stretch to say that a citrus-smell/flavor has a pleasing effect for most people who enjoy it.

Pinene

The Sweet Smell of Pine

Pinene is a common terpene as it is a central feature of pine trees and other coniferous trees worldwide. The extracted terpene or synthesized is common in many products from cleaning products, beverages, and other processed foods. It has a supposed energizing effect in most studies, but these have been limited only to animal subjects, so it is hard to say whether they will have the same impact on humans.

Cannabis nug
Shutterstock / Gleti

Over 100 known terpenes in plants are as distinct as sage, rosemary, and flowers like lavender or pine trees. Four terpene classes are most well-known and have unique properties. Some of them have various flavors and aromas, making them even more complex. Here are the most common groups and their primary flavors or aromas:

Myrcene

One of the Most Abundant

Myrcene is found in all cannabis strains, which makes it one of the most widespread. It is also found in several different herbs like sage and thyme and fruits like mangoes. It has a somewhat fruity essence with mellow earthy notes.

Some studies have found that natural myrcene could have anxiolytic properties (counters anxiety). Still, those studies looked at its effects on animals, not people, so it requires further studies in humans to be proven.

Linalool

A Flowery Smell with a Bit of Spice

Linalool is also an abundant terpene as it is found in flowers like lavender and roses to herbs and spices like mint, basil, and cinnamon. As it is common in many items, it has a very versatile smell and flavor profile. It is spicy and sweet, aromatic and mellow. It has many other applications, from everything to a food additive to an insect repellent.

Linalool has also been studied for potential therapeutic applications. Still, these studies have also been limited to animal subjects and have not been proven to have many positive effects on humans. Linalool is also, of course, present in cannabis plants but not as much as myrcene.

Limonene

A Common Terpene With a Citrus Bite

Limonene is a universal terpene, not only in cannabis but in almost every known citrus fruit, from oranges and lemons or limes to grapefruit and tangerines. It gives those fruits their unique aroma, but they are also included in several citrus-based products like cleaners, deodorants, and different foods and beverages.

Limonene has also been thoroughly researched to find if it contains beneficial properties. Those studies have also turned up only anecdotal evidence. But it is not a stretch to say that a citrus-smell/flavor has a pleasing effect for most people who enjoy it.

Pinene

The Sweet Smell of Pine

Pinene is a common terpene as it is a central feature of pine trees and other coniferous trees worldwide. The extracted terpene or synthesized is common in many products from cleaning products, beverages, and other processed foods. It has a supposed energizing effect in most studies, but these have been limited only to animal subjects, so it is hard to say whether they will have the same impact on humans.

Which Is the Best Terpene for Me?

Cannabis terpenes have many different effects. They are all subjective, the same way some tastes and smells appeal to some, but not to others. Deciding on which are the best for you depends on finding something suitable to your palette or senses. If you enjoy the intense but subtle citrus flavor of limonene, look for THC or CBD products with a high percentage of it.

If you prefer something like the evocative musk of pinene, those strains with the highest percentage are the best option for you. It would be best if you did not decide on a terpene for its potential or speculated medical or therapeutic effects. It may not have those effects when consumed via vaping or smoking a cannabis product.

Cannabis terpenes have many different effects. They are all subjective, the same way some tastes and smells appeal to some, but not to others. Deciding on which are the best for you depends on finding something suitable to your palette or senses. If you enjoy the intense but subtle citrus flavor of limonene, look for THC or CBD products with a high percentage of it.

If you prefer something like the evocative musk of pinene, those strains with the highest percentage are the best option for you. It would be best if you did not decide on a terpene for its potential or speculated medical or therapeutic effects. It may not have those effects when consumed via vaping or smoking a cannabis product.

Everything You Need to Know About Terpenes

Are terpenes legal?

Yes, terpenes are legal. They are essential oils that are often found in a variety of different, ordinary, everyday products, not just cannabis.

Can terpenes make you high?

No, cannabis terpenes do not make you high. There are no psychoactive properties inherent in them, apart from the calming or relaxing effects that are caused by inhaling their aromas. Still, those effects do not occur in all people.

How are terpenes different from alkaloids?

Terpenes are essential oils found in several different plants. Still, alkaloids are other organic compounds that are more nitrogen-based and have a different chemical structure than terpenes, although they are both widespread.

Can terpenes be vaped?

Terpenes can be vaped when they are present in different CBD or THC products. Many people decide on their specific cannabis product based on the terpene level inside. When isolated and used as an essential oil, they can also be inhaled by their scent.

How are terpenes isolated from the plant?

Terpenes are usually extracted from plant material by distillation through either water or steam. As they are so abundant in many different materials, they do not need such powerful extraction methods as cannabinoids.

Are terpenes legal?

Yes, terpenes are legal. They are essential oils that are often found in a variety of different, ordinary, everyday products, not just cannabis.

Can terpenes make you high?

No, cannabis terpenes do not make you high. There are no psychoactive properties inherent in them, apart from the calming or relaxing effects that are caused by inhaling their aromas. Still, those effects do not occur in all people.

How are terpenes different from alkaloids?

Terpenes are essential oils found in several different plants. Still, alkaloids are other organic compounds that are more nitrogen-based and have a different chemical structure than terpenes, although they are both widespread.

Can terpenes be vaped?

Terpenes can be vaped when they are present in different CBD or THC products. Many people decide on their specific cannabis product based on the terpene level inside. When isolated and used as an essential oil, they can also be inhaled by their scent.

How are terpenes isolated from the plant?

Terpenes are usually extracted from plant material by distillation through either water or steam. As they are so abundant in many different materials, they do not need such powerful extraction methods as cannabinoids.

Conclusion: Terpenes: The Taste and Flavor Inside Cannabis

Do you know a lot about terpenes? Do you consider them when buying a cannabis product? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments section below.

Terpenes are what make nature smell and taste sweeter. They are an essential part of all fragrances found in nature, including cannabis. While their potential therapeutic or medicinal properties are still being studied, people already take much comfort from their soothing aromas for non-medical reasons.

There are many more terpenes than the ones listed above. So make sure you find out as much as you can about them before basing your decision on which ones to get. Remember that many of them have several different flavor and smell profiles, so be ready to get surprised by their complexity and depth.

Do you know a lot about terpenes? Do you consider them when buying a cannabis product? Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments section below.

Terpenes are what make nature smell and taste sweeter. They are an essential part of all fragrances found in nature, including cannabis. While their potential therapeutic or medicinal properties are still being studied, people already take much comfort from their soothing aromas for non-medical reasons.

There are many more terpenes than the ones listed above. So make sure you find out as much as you can about them before basing your decision on which ones to get. Remember that many of them have several different flavor and smell profiles, so be ready to get surprised by their complexity and depth.

Published: May 16, 2021 Updated: May 3, 2021


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