Terpenes 101: Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever found a cannabis plant that you really liked the smell of? One that smelt fruity like mango or orange? Or perhaps a strain that was more herbal, like lavender? That's terpenes.

Many reading this will be familiar with Cannabidiol, or CBD which is one of the most popular compounds within the cannabis plant.

And while cannabidiol falls under the cannabinoid category, there are two lesser known categories that aren't as widely talked about: flavonoids and terpenoids (or terpenes.)

Cannabinoids are by far the most popular of the trio, but it's looking like they're about to get some company. Used widely in fragrances, perfumes and aromatherapy, terpenes are a scented oil which secretes from the glandular trichomes of the cannabis plant and can then be extracted by either distillation or vaporization.

Most recently, terpenes have found themselves on the V.I.P list for Kim Kardashian's baby shower, as the matriarchal mega-star chose a CBD theme for the occasion and gave guests terpene-infused teas.

Known as a hydrocarbon, terpenes are a combination of hydrogen and carbon, with each type of terpene hosting a unique scent and function attached to it. From OG Kush to Pineapple Express, most veteran consumers of cannabis have a strain close to their heart – and a lot of this favoritism is owed to terpenes.

Estimates suggest that there are over 100 terpenes to be found in the cannabis plant. Terpenes, much like cannabinoids, bind with certain receptors and neurotransmitters in our body and brain, giving rise to a wide array of effects. Some terpenes enhance your mood, others boost your energy.

Because of the increasing awareness around terpenes, more companies are trying to jump the gun and get in early on what they see as a burgeoning terpene market. True Terpenes is one of the leading terpene brands, and they're set to have a lot of eyes on them considering they were also Kim Kardashians terpene company of choice.

Terpene Isolate
True Terpene's 'Blueberry Down' isolate

True Terpenes sells a range of terpene isolates and diluted formulas which can then be added to foods, beverages, baths, or as a general incense to enhance the smell and feel of a room.

They also have each isolate in an 'up' or 'down' range, which is said to give users either stimulating or relaxing effects respectively.

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While much of the hype surrounding terpenes will be because of cannabis, that doesn't mean terpenes have to be part and parcel of the cannabis industry.

This is because terpenes can be extracted from many natural sources, for example the terpene linalool—known for its calming effects as well as being the primary terpene in strains such as sour diesel and bubble gum—can be derived from lavender plants.

Terpenes remain the same regardless of their source, which gives companies a way to get involved with the hype around cannabis and the therapeutic benefits of the plant, without dealing with the legal issues.

Instead of having to produce cannabis plants and extract terpenes from them, companies can synthetically recreate the fragrance of Sour Diesel using the same terpenes found in the strain, yielding the same effects without any need for cannabis cultivation or distribution.

Because of this, companies are popping up in countries where cannabis is still illegal, like Australia. For example, The Cannabis Co., an Australian company which sells a range of hemp products for both humans and pets, sells a myrcene-infused hemp gin.

Myrcene is the most commonly appearing terpene across all cannabis strains and comes with a host of benefits. The Cannabis Co's myrcene-infused gin is said to be "anti-bacterial, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-insomniatic, anti-proliferative, antipsychotic, and anti-spasmodic."


The Cannabis Co.'s Myrcene-infused hemp gin


The Cannabis Co.'s myrcene-infused gin is said to contain many of the same flavors and health benefits of cannabis.

Alongside myrcene are over a hundred different terpenes within the cannabis plant. Though when it comes to prevalence and significance, there are a handful of key terpenes which are most common.

Here's a list of those terpenes.



As we mentioned, myrcene is the most commonly found terpene within the cannabis family.

Found within hops, lemongrass and known for the fragrance of beer, myrcene has made the rounds in public life.

According to Leafly, Myrcene comprises 20% of all total terpenes in the cannabis plant.

When you think of cannabis strains, you typically think of choosing either indica or sativa, resulting in either an uplifting euphoric feeling, or a couch-lock, stoned feeling.

Now, some believe that a lot of the difference between sativa and indica that users experience comes down to myrcene levels in the cannabis plant. Simply put, the higher the levels of myrcene, the "heavier" your high will feel.

Myrcene is said to allow the effects of cannabinoids to come on more quickly, and in strains that contain this terpene there's believed to be a greater psychoactive effect. On top of this, myrcene is anti-inflammatory, an analgesic and can even help prevent ulcers.

You can find myrcene in popular cannabis strains such as OG Kush and AK-47.



Caryophyllene, also known as beta-caryophyllene or BCP is often found in fragrant oils and, like myrcene, can also be found in hops.

Caryophyllene binds to our CB2 receptors—one of the two receptors in our Endogenous Cannabinoid system (can you guess what the other receptor is called?)—and is most known for its ability to reduce inflammation.

Caryophyllene is said to be the only terpene which can directly activate a cannabinoid receptor.

You can find this terpene in strains such as Death Star and Lavender.



If your bud smells like lavender, chances are linalool is one of the terpenes within it. Linalool is said to induce anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects within the body and is also an anticonvulsant – benefiting those who suffer from seizures.

Studies in mice that were given linalool have shown that the terpene has sedative effects and reduced the severity of their seizures.

Strains such as Grand daddy Purple and Amnesia Haze contain linalool.



Named after the lemon, limonene is found in fruit rinds, rosemary and peppermint to name a few of it's main sources.

Used for weight loss, cancer prevention and treating bronchitis, limonene is jam-packed full of benefits.

You can find limonene as a flavoring in many foods and beverages, most notably in bubblegum.

This terpene is commonly linked to any citrus-related cannabis strains such as Pineapple Express or Lemon Haze.



Named due to it's prevalence in many conifers and pines, pinene is the most prevalent terpene found in nature.

Pinene is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and has been said to aid with memory loss.

Pinene can be found in the cannabis strains Bubba Kush and Trainwreck.



Humulene is quite prevalent across cannabis strains, despite only appearing in quite low amounts. Humulene appears in hops, basil, sage and clove.

Humulene oils have displayed anti fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, and the terpene itself plays a crucial role in the development of the cannabis plant.

The anti-fungal properties of humulene keeps the cannabis plant from growing fungi, and the scent of humulene prevents pests and other threats to the plant's cultivation.

Humulene can be found in the strains Death Star and Candyland.





Who Nose What The Future Holds?

While cannabis is gaining popularity at breakneck speeds, its legal status has continued to lag behind in much of the world. Terpenes, however, have the benefit of being prevalent in all of nature, thus not needing to be derived from or associated with the cannabis family.

This fact gives companies the freedom to create terpene-infused products without any legal hassles, even though most people will be buying their products due to their association with cannabis.

While the evidence isn't yet out, some people do believe that the commonly mentioned "entourage effect" of cannabis also applies to terpenes. This means that any given benefits to terpenes may be better experienced alongside cannabis as opposed to the extracted version.

Though again, the research is scant. And even if that were the case, the fact that terpenes are widely available and legal is still of tremendous importance to their success, which is why Forbes believes they are about to hit the big time.

Whether you add them to your bath, or as flavor in your vape, terpenes are an inoffensive way to get the benefits of cannabis wherever you are.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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