The Nose Knows: Picking Up Cannabis Terpenes

Jun, 2021
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Have you ever wondered how you're able to tell the difference between a fresh egg and a rotten egg? It's because your nose knows and is familiar with what scents are pleasant to you and others that aren't.

Throughout history, smell has always been a guiding force in our evolution, helping us find and choose what appeals to us.  In line with this, the signature aromas and flavors you experience when you consume cannabis are all thanks to terpenes. It's why most people prefer certain strains of marijuana over others. Terpenes are found in and determine the smell of all living plants such as flowers, fruits, herbs, etc.

So, in this article, we take a deep dive into terpenes, the legality of terpenes, and why it's essential to train and trust your nose when selecting marijuana.

What are Cannabis Terpenes?

Interested in learning more about terpenes and how they relate to cannabis? Check out our YouTube video!

As mentioned earlier, cannabis terpenes are found in and extracted from a wide variety of plants. In essence, they are aromatic compounds present in plants, but people commonly associate them with marijuana. These compounds create the characteristic flavor and fragrance most plants are famous for, such as rose, lavender, pepper, citrus, etc.

Your tropical shampoos, for example, smell the way they do because of the terpenes used by manufacturers to produce them. Also, it's interesting to note that you can find terpenes like limonene in beer, and they give it its bright, citrusy taste.

Consequently, cannabis terpenes are terpenes that are directly sourced and extracted from the cannabis plant. The plant secretes them in the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD. However, while cannabinoids are odorless and tasteless, cannabis terpenes create a unique flavor and aroma for each strain of marijuana, like citrus, berry, mint, and pine flavors. Most times, the odor of cannabis acts as its trademark, letting people know that it is there.

Furthermore, terpenes play an essential role in repelling predators such as insects and foraging animals. In addition, they attract pollinators and work as a part of the plant's immune system to keep away infections and germs.

Cannabis terpenes fall under two categories: hemp-derived terpenes and marijuana-derived terpenes. All terpenes containing more than 0.3% THC are considered marijuana and are classified as a schedule 1 substance, making them illegal under federal law. This is because The Controlled Substances Act broadly defines marijuana to include every compound, manufacture, salt, derivate, mixture, or preparation of non-hemp cannabis. Since marijuana remains illegal on a federal note, marijuana-derived terpenes remain illegal for the time being.

However, marijuana terpenes are legal in states that have legalized cannabis for medicine or recreation.

On the other hand, cannabis terps containing 0.3% THC or less, otherwise known as hemp, are not regulated. This is because the consumption of hemp in the country is legal following the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018. Hemp-derived terpenes are also legal because they are deficient in THC and high in CBD, meaning they are non-psychoactive.

Cannabis Strain Terpene Profiles      

Cannabis terps are what give weed its characteristic aroma – something that attracts most users. More so, you can choose any strain depending on the fragrance you're looking for or the benefit you want from it.

Below, we’ve broken down some common cannabis terpenes for you to get familiar with.


This is the most abundant terpene in cannabis; it gives a sedating and relaxing effect when consumed.  You can describe a typical myrcene smell as earthy, musky, and clove-like. In addition, Myrcene has antioxidant properties and can be used as a pain reliever to alleviate insomnia and treat inflammation. You can also find this terpene in mango, lemongrass, thyme, and hops (the major component in beer).


As its name suggests, limonene strains have a citrusy scent which is unsurprising since citrus fruits contain substantial amounts of this compound. It is known to improve mood and reduce stress when used. Furthermore, it demonstrates beneficial properties for digestion.

You’ll find this terpene in strains like O.G. Kush, Sour Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, Jack the Ripper, Wedding Cake, and Berry White. Limonene is also used in cosmetics and also in cleaning products.


This compound derives from the resin in pine trees— if you couldn’t tell by the name. Cannabis strains with this terpene smell like pine trees and also have that wonderful outdoorsy, earthy aroma. Other plants rich in pinene include rosemary, orange peels, basil, and parsley.

In addition to their anti-inflammatory effects on humans, pinenes promote healthy breathing and help to improve airflow. You can find pinene in strains like Jack Herer, Strawberry Cough, Blue Dream, Island Sweet Skunk, Dutch Treat, and Romulan.


This funny-sounding terpene is present in many herbs and spices, including black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Cannabis strains with high levels of caryophyllene deliver a spicy, funky warmth to the nose, similar to cinnamon and cloves.

Caryophyllene's unique molecular structures make it easy to absorb into the body through CB2 receptors located around our peripheral endocannabinoid system. Therefore, it does not cause the euphoric feelings associated with cannabis. Besides its analgesic and anti-anxiety properties, it also helps with stress relief and ulcers.

You can benefit from caryophyllene by using strains like Super Silver Haze, Skywalker, and Rock Star.

Cannabis Terpenes: Trusting Your Nose

Ultimately, using your nose before buying or using cannabis can be a relatively accurate indicator of its potency and quality. Most times, you can tell if a particular batch is good by smelling it. Since weed smells differently in various forms, it helps to trust your nose to do the job.

Whether you smoke cannabis flower, dab concentrates, or vaporize, these molecules are always hard at work, delivering distinct flavors and aromas for you. Cannabis is famous for its varied aromas and flavors, all of which come from the presence of terpenes. Often, patients ask to smell the cannabis when selecting their medicine because different strains of medical marijuana boast of their own terpene profile.

Additionally, its odor can provide insight into the strain's effects.  When it comes to cannabis, smell certainly relates strongly to the impact. For example, zesty-smelling marijuana is likely to contain higher concentrations of limonene, which has been shown to boost mood and serotonin levels and reduce anxiety.

Furthermore, aromatic terpenes give marijuana its characteristic earthy scent, which growers can use to select a fresh and mature batch. Also, just like rotten eggs give off a bad smell, if your pot smells strange and moldy, your marijuana might be spoiled.

Elevate Holistics, Terpenes, Weed, and So Much More

That wraps up today's canna session. However, if you would like to learn more about cannabis terpenes and find out what strains and flavors are right for you, please make an appointment on our website. Getting started with us is incredibly straightforward, and we walk you through every step. In no time, you'll have your medical marijuana card in hand, ready to purchase your favorite flavor from any licensed dispensary.