Cannabis’ distinct aroma isn’t coming from THC, CBD or other cannabinoids. Instead, it’s the terpenes that give cannabis its unique fragrance and flavor. Terpenes may also influence the cannabis experience and may convey some of its potential therapeutic benefits.
A lot of attention is paid to the amount of THC and CBD in a given strain, but newer research suggests that terpenes may be just as impactful. Terpenes are another naturally occurring compound in the cannabis plant. The terpenes present directly affect the plant’s smell and flavor. Studies show that they may also influence the effects produced by specific strains.
Myrcene – the most common terpene, this earthy, herbal molecule may help reduce anxiety and insomnia so you can sleep better.
This earthy, herbal molecule may help reduce anxiety and insomnia so you can sleep better. Myrcene (or β-myrcene) is a terpene that occurs often in highly fragrant plants and herbs such as mangoes, hops, bay laurel leaves, thyme, lemongrass, and basil. Myrcene is produced by numerous cannabis strains, and some studies have suggested that it might lend sedative effects.
Beyond cannabis, myrcene is found in hops and is responsible for the peppery, spicy, balsam fragrance in beer. It’s also expressed in lemongrass, which has been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries.
Limonene – is the second most common terpene in nature and a prominent terpene in cannabis. Bright, zippy citrus notes come from this terpene. It’s said to improve mood and reduce stress. The fragrance of citrus fruit peels is composed mostly of limonene, so you’d be correct to assume that this terpene takes its name from the lemon.
As with many terpenes, plants produce limonene to help protect them against harmful microbes, and its antibacterial and antioxidant effects have been well-documented. But beyond its abilities to protect the plant, it also has an impact on brain function that scientists are working to better understand for the treatment of a variety of ailments—namely anxiety and other mental health disorders.
Linalool – is said to help improve relaxation and boost mood with its floral notes. It may also help reduce insomnia.
Linalool is not specific to cannabis. Its characteristic lavender scent with a hint of spiciness is common to over 200 types of plants.
Linalool’s anti-microbial properties are protective for the plant and represent a potential therapeutic use in people. Whether it was used as an early antibiotic is unknown, but linalool (often in the form of lavender) has been used in traditional medicine practices for its sedative and anti-epileptic properties.
Pinene – As the name suggests, this terpene produces an intense pine aroma. It may help boost memory, reduce pain, and ease some of the not-so-pleasant symptoms of THC, such as nausea and coordination problems.
Pinene is one of the most common cannabis terpenes that carries a distinct pine scented bouquet. Alpha-pinene is also the most naturally occurring terpene around the world. It also has shown to act as an advanced anti-inflammatory.
Beyond cannabis, pinene can also be found in conifer trees, orange peels, turpentine, pine needles, rosemary, dill, basil, and parsley.
Caryophyllene – The peppery, spicy molecule may reduce anxiety, ease symptoms of depression, and improve ulcers.
Also called beta-caryophyllene, this terpene can be found in aromatic oils like rosemary and clove oil, and in nature it’s most commonly found in hops, cloves, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon, and basil. It’s responsible for the slight bite of pungency associated with smelling cracked pepper.
This stress-relieving terpene is present in many hybrid cannabis strains known to cause relaxation and reduce anxiety. Given its unique aromatic notes, it’s easy to detect. Caryophyllene has also been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Humulene – is deeply earthy and woody, like hops or cloves. Cannabis strains with this molecule may reduce inflammation.
In cannabis, humulene is a fairly common terpene and is present in modest quantities in a variety of cannabis strains. It’s partially responsible for giving the plant its distinct spicy, herbaceous, and subtly floral bouquet of aromas.
Similar to both myrcene and pinene, humulene is a fundamental element in the overall aromatic profile of cannabis.However, humulene usually appears in slightly smaller quantities than its terpene counterparts, often taking a back seat in a cultivar’s flavor profile with its subtle notes of earth and florals.
Bisabolol – with notes of chamomile and tea tree oil, the terpene bisabolol is thought to reduce inflammation and irritation. It may also have microbial and pain-reducing effects.
Bisabolol is known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, antioxidant, antimicrobial, antifungal, and analgesic properties. It also demonstrates enhancements to the skin’s absorption of other molecules.
While bisabolol has been widely used in the cosmetics industry for a long time, it has recently become the subject of research for the medical benefits it exhibits in cannabis.
Other, common terpenes include:
- Ocimene – this terpene produces notes of basil, mango, and parsley. Its primary effects may include easing congestion and warding off viruses and bacteria.
- Terpinolene – Cannabis with this compound may smell like apples, cumin, and conifers. It may have sedative, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
- Eucalyptol – With notes of eucalyptus and tea tree oil, this molecule is refreshing and invigorating. It may also reduce inflammation and fight bacteria.
The more research that’s done, the more we learn that individual plants produce varying effects, even among the same type of cannabis, it all depends on the plant’s chemical composition and the growing technique used. Terpenes and cannabinoids are two compounds found in cannabis that when used together help produce a synergistic effect. Selecting strains based upon these effects can help you to achieve the result you desire.
Learn about cannabinoids HERE.