What Are Terpenes, Anyway?
There’s just something about even the smell of the humble hemp plant that soothes the soul! From strains with earthy tones, to floral bouquets, or even a rush of pure lemony pine — those interesting scents hint at the fact that there’s something special going on at a chemical level inside this incredible plant.
It’s true: one of the most important components of any plant’s chemical makeup is the presence of terpenes, a main compound that determines what you can smell from any given plant — and understanding the difference between each one (including their potential health benefits) will truly deepen your appreciation for them.
The ABCs of Terpenes
Terpenes are secreted from the same glands in the cannabis plant that make THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids; but it’s not a cannabinoid itself. In fact, terpenes are found in other plants too, emitting flavors like mint, pine, citrus, and berry.
In the same vein as other powerfully-scented plants, the development of cannabis terpenes originally developed to lure pollinators closer and to repel predators. Climate, weather, soil type, fertilizers, age, maturation, and even time of day all play a part in how a plant develops its terpenes. In fact, cannabis alone has well over 100 different kinds of terpenes, with each strain more or less having its own unique composition. Consider, for example, the citrus aroma of the Super Silver Haze marijuana plant, whose parents Northern Lights and Haze both taste earthy and pungent. The way in which a particular terpene develops still puzzles scientists who continue to study this field.
The wide variety of different flavors you can find in the cannabis plant alone might impress you, but it’s perhaps the terpenes’ ability to interact with the plant’s cannabinoids that is the most truly remarkable. As more research is conducted, it’s starting to look possible that each terpene promotes certain types of bodily effects; that is, some are said to encourage focus and acuity while others may lull you to a gentle sleep. For example, the terpene limonene appears to promote a happy feeling, but linalool relaxes the muscles and keeps you from going too far.
Of course, a terpene’s profile can change depending on the other compounds that are in the plant; this is an interesting circumstance known as the “entourage effect.” Currently, more research is required to see how each terpene interacts with one another.
Here’s a list of the most Common Terpenes in Cannabis:
- Smells like: Pine
- Vape temperature: 311 degrees F (155 degrees C)
- Potential medical value: May offer relief from asthma, ulcers, anxiety, pain, inflammation, and even cancer
- Potential effects: May cause alertness and memory retention
- Can also be found in: Pine needles, dill, rosemary, parsley, basil
Alpha-pinene, also known simply as pinene, is an aromatic compound that produces the iconic pine scent found in several strains of cannabis. Pinene is worth more than its incredible flavor, however; this fragrant oil and similar kinds of terpenes are secreted in the trichomes of the cannabis plant. Though it originally developed to repel predators, pinene and similar compounds give us a wide variety of potential benefits, like treating asthma, inflammation, ulcers, anxiety, and possibly even cancer. You can even find pinene in other kinds of household plants, like basil, pine needles, rosemary, parsley, basil, dill, confider trees, and even on orange peels.
- Smells like: Earthy, musky, herbal cloves
- Vape temperature: 332 degrees F (167 degrees C)
- Potential medical value: May treat insomnia, inflammation, and pain; may serve as an antioxidant
- Potential effects: Relaxing, potentially slightly sedating depending on dose
- Can also be found in: Hops, lemongrass, and thyme
Beta-myrcene, more commonly known just as myrcene, is another terpene found in several strains of cannabis. Its profile suggests it offers a relaxing sense of ease and similar sedative effects in the consumer, especially in those that are comprised of over 0.5 percent of myrcene. Other places you’ll find myrcene include mangoes, bay laurel leaves, hops, lemongrass, basil, and thyme.
- Smells like: Citrus
- Vape temperature: 348 degrees F (176 degrees C)
- Potential medical value: May treat pain, depression, anxiety, inflammation, and even cancer
- Potential effects: Can relieve stress and elevate mood
- Can also be found in: Rosemary, peppermint, juniper, fruit rinds
Ever wondered why Citrus Kush, Super Lemon Haze, Pineapple, and Super Silver Haze smell like some of the sweetest lemons and oranges you’ve never had? That’s the remarkable smell of limonene, another aromatic cannabis terpene found in the glands of the flower’s resin. Not only does it produce the smell of citrus, but limonene may even modify the effects in the user; in particular, it’s a terpene that is thought to improve your mood, making it the so-called “feelgood” terpene.
- Smells like: Woody, peppery, spicy cloves
- Vape temperature: 266 degrees F (130 degrees C)
- Potential medical value: May treat anxiety, depression, pain, and ulcers
- Potential effects: Can relieve stress
- Can also be found in: Cinnamon, black pepper, cloves
Beta-Caryophllene, or just caryophyllene, is a peppery, spicy terpene that you can find in several kinds of edible plants. You can find this stress-relieving terpene in herbs like oregano, hops, basil, and rosemary, or in spices like cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper. Often, you’ll find caryophyllene in medicinal salves and topical marijuana.
- Smells like: Floral
- Vape temperature: 388 degrees F (198 degrees C)
- Potential medical value: May treat insomnia, pain, anxiety, depression, neurodegenerative disease, and inflammation
- Potential effects: May sedate the consumer, and may enhance mood
- Can also be found in: Lavender
Just like the other terpenes, linalool is not one that is specific to cannabis. The floral, lavender scent is one that you’ll find spicing up more than 200 kinds of plants. In fact, even people who don’t use the hemp plant at all will consume more than two grams of this terpene naturally each year. It doesn’t stay in the body for very long, but while it’s there, it relaxes the patient and can enhance their mood.
- Smells like: Woody, earthy hops
- Vape temperature: 222 degrees F (106 degrees C)
- Potential medical value: Anti-inflammatory
- Potential effects: Can suppress hunger
- Can also be found in: Coriander, cloves, hops, basil
Humulene can actually suppress hunger, contrary to the common association of “munchies” when consuming cannabis, making it a solid choice for stopping yourself from eating too much junk on a sensitive stomach or a new diet. You can find this earthy terpene in hops, basil, clove, and sativa cannabis.
- Smells like: Herbal, woody, sweet
- Vape temperature: 122 degrees F (50 degrees C)
- Potential medical value: Antiseptic, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, decongestant
- Can also be found in: Parsley, pepper, mint, orchids, basil, kumquats, and orchids
Found in several kinds of plants and fruit, ocimene is a hydrocarbon identifiable by its herbaceous, sweet, fragrant aroma, often extracted and used as a perfume. It’s also another terpene responsible for defending the plant by repelling predators in their natural environment.
- Smells like: Floral, herbal, and piney
- Vape temperature: 366 degrees F (186 degrees C)
- Potential medical value: Sedative, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-fungal
- Potential effects: Relaxing sedative
- Can also be found in: Apples, tea tree, lilacs, nutmeg, conifers, and cumin
Finally, we have terpinolene, which is another hydrocarbon but one that produces an herbal, piney, fresh scent instead of an herbaceous aroma. You’ll find this terpene in nutmeg, conifers, cumin, lilacs, and tea trees, and it is often used in lotions, perfumes, and soaps.
Picking the Best Strain
Information on terpenes is certainly itself a labyrinth, especially with thousands of known cannabis strains with all kinds of terpenes and different possible effects. It might even seem like a full-time job–and frankly, it is! An informative CBD website with a wide variety of CBD products can be the perfect ally to help you figure out the best way for you to add terpenes to your CBD or cannabis experience.