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Cannabis is a rich blend of some of the best ingredients nature offers, and we’re familiar with cannabinoids and their role. However, the effects and feelings you get from cannabis don’t come from cannabinoids alone. Another essential ingredient that contributes to the richness of cannabis is terpenes. But, wait, what are terpenes? 

What Are Terpenes?

The medicinal properties of cannabis are well known. Even before medical marijuana went mainstream, ancient cultures have treasured the plant for its medicinal properties. But we haven’t always known about cannabinoids, terpenes, and all the various compounds in cannabis and how they work.

Terpenes are essential oils found in many plants; they are aromatic compounds responsible for the distinctive fragrance of flora. Think of pine trees, eucalyptus, lavender, and lemon. They smell the way they do because of terpenes.   

Apart from the aromatic effect, compounds such as terpinolene and linalool help some plants attract pollinators like bees, while geraniol helps plants repel predators.

Terpenes also play a role in helping plants recover from damage and act as the plant’s immune system by helping to ward off germs and diseases.

Some people use the terms terpenes and terpenoids interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Terpenes refer to the natural form of the compounds when they are still in the live plant. During cannabis production, the drying and curing processes oxidize the terpenes and produce terpenoids.  

The amount of terps a cannabis plant produces is affected by factors such as sunlight, nutrients, temperature, whether it is grown outdoors or indoors, and when it is harvested. 

How Do Terpenes Affect the Body?

Terpenes are bioactive. This means they affect the body — but how? While users note terpenes for their aromatic and flavorful qualities, terpenes also support other cannabis compounds in producing the desired effects.

When you consume cannabis, your body responds in various physiological ways, including through sleepiness, pleasure, euphoria, and more. The effect of cannabis is not only due to active compounds such as THC and other cannabinoids. Instead, what you feel after consuming cannabis is the result of different compounds combining to produce what is known as the entourage effect, and terpenes play a huge role in that. 

Research suggests that terpenes reduce the intoxicating effect of THC and increase the therapeutic value of other cannabinoids. 

The aromatic qualities of terpenes make them an indispensable ingredient in essential oils, and people use them in alternative therapies such as aromatherapy. The scents from plants and oils can produce a calming effect on a person’s mood and stress levels.  

There’s so much we don’t know about terps and their effects. Still, there’s growing clinical interest in this area, and studies may discover interesting facts and broaden our understanding of terpenes.   

Can Terpenes Get You High?

The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is THC, which makes you feel high after consuming cannabis. THC is a cannabinoid, not a terpene. However, these compounds affect how cannabinoids such as THC and CBD react in the body; the reaction depends on the type of terpene and concentration.  

LEARN MORE: The Nose Knows: Picking Up Cannabis Terpenes

Types of Terpenes

One notable quality of cannabis is variety. Just as there are different types of cannabis, there are also different types of terpenes. There may be up to 150 terpenes in the cannabis plant, but many are present in trace amounts, and only a few are present in sufficient quantities to warrant mention. 

Let’s look at the popular ones. 


Myrcene is one of the dominant terpenes found in cannabis. You can find this terpene in most cannabis plants on the market and it’s responsible for the distinctive earthy aroma of cannabis. Myrcene is also a dominant terpene in hops and lemongrass.  

This terpene has powerful antioxidant properties. According to one study on mice, myrcene can help protect the brain from oxidative damage. The study noted that in the future, myrcene might be an effective treatment for ischemic stroke in humans.  

Another study noted that myrcene has anti-inflammatory potential and could be helpful in treating arthritis.  


Along with myrcene, caryophyllene is one of the most dominant terpenes in cannabis. It is also found in cloves, rosemary, and hops and is responsible for their herbal aroma. 

In one study performed on mice, caryophyllene was found to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. According to the study, caryophyllene may be effective in treating long-lasting debilitating pain.

According to another study, this compound may have wound-healing capabilities.  


As the name suggests, pinene has the fragrance of pine trees; it is responsible for the piney aroma in certain cannabis strains. It is also found in rosemary, dill, parsley, and their essential oils.

One study determined that pinene may have anti-inflammatory properties and can alleviate the symptoms of arthritis. Additionally, according to a 2008 study published in Life Science, pinene prevents skin damage caused by ultraviolet rays. 


Limonene is easily recognizable by its scent; it’s what gives fruits such as oranges and lemons their characteristic citrusy aroma. Experts widely use the compound in various products such as fragrances and cleaning supplies. 

In 2021, a comprehensive review of existing studies was published in the Journal of Food Biochemistry. The review showed that limonene has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can be used to fight cancer. It also protects the liver, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal tissues in humans.  


This terpene is present in large quantities in the lavender plant and gives the flower its powerful fragrance. You’ll also find it in rosewood, bergamot, jasmine, rose, and coriander.

Linalool is a primary ingredient in aromatherapy and is noted for the calming effect people get when inhaling lavender or its essential oil. Because of its pleasant floral aroma, it is used in soaps and perfumes. Like several other terpenes, it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

In addition, linalool has antimicrobial, anticancer, and antioxidant properties. It also plays a crucial role in pollination to ensure the reproduction and survival of certain plants. 

The rich properties of linalool extend to supplements where experts use it in the synthesis of vitamin A and E. In agriculture, they use linalool as an eco-friendly pest management compound.  


Humulene is a cannabis terpene present in large quantities in hops. You’ll also find this terp in ginseng, basil, sage, black pepper, and clove. 

According to research, topical application of humulene is an effective anti-inflammatory treatment and pain reliever.  

Benefits and Uses of Terpenes

While you no longer have to wonder “What are terpenes?” You’re probably curious about the actual benefits and uses of these unique compounds.

Well, different terpenes come from different sources, and they all have their separate benefits to man and plants, some of which can be similar. It is important to note that researchers are still studying these properties, and they do not constitute medical advice. If you have any health-related questions, speak with a qualified physician.

Industrial applications of terpenes include:

  • Flavoring agent in food
  • Fragrant ingredient in soaps, perfumes, shampoos, and body lotions
  • The active ingredient in insecticides
  • Eco-Friendly pest control: Terpenes are an eco-friendly alternative to chemical pesticides that harm the environment. These terpenes are not modified but are used in their natural-occurring state, and the environment protection agency in America classifies them as “Generally Regards as Safe” (GRAS). 
  • Aromatherapy oils and balms


In general, scientific research has shown that terpenes have the following properties: 


Many terpenes have shown the ability to kill microorganisms and stop their progress. Terpenes showing antimicrobial qualities include alpha-bisabolol, geraniol, eucalyptol, and terpinolene. Sage, rosemary, cumin, clove, and thyme produce antimicrobial terpenes. You can use antimicrobial terpenes against food-borne microorganisms like E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Bacillus cereus.  


In the quest to find effective treatments against cancer, scientists have discovered that these compounds found in cannabis may inhibit the growth and development of cancer cells


People often turn to cannabis to alleviate symptoms of depression and mood disorders, so it’s no surprise that terpenes play a role in lifting one’s mood and inducing feelings of euphoria. Linalool and pinene are common ingredients in antidepressant medication.   

READ MORE: Terpenes for Anxiety, Depression, and Overall Zen


Viral infections continuously threaten health, and scientists are constantly looking for new ways to counter them. Many terpenes, including pinene and caryophyllene, have displayed promising antiviral properties.   

Pain Relief

The most popular therapeutic use of cannabis is pain relief. Cannabis is as effective as opioids in relieving pain without the side effects and risk of addiction present in opioids, and terpenes play a role in this analgesic effect.  

In a 2021 study, terpenes combined with cannabinoids were effective in relieving pain without increasing negative side effects.

LEARN MORE: Finding the Perfect Terpenes for Nausea and Inflammation | Our Favorite Terpenes for Focus and Energy

Stay Informed With Elevate Holistics

So, what are terpenes? Now you know they’re your new favorite smelly compound you’ll find in cannabis — and a whole lot of other things.

The world of cannabis is full of technical terms and legal requirements, which can all be very confusing. Cannabinoids, terpenes, THC, flavonoids, and others have different meanings and roles, but do they matter?  Yes, they do.

At Elevate Holistics, we’ve made it our business to help you understand these terms and make the best decisions on your cannabis journey. Our team of experts is always ready to answer your questions and inquiries. Don’t forget, we can also help you get your MMJ card, find a qualified physician or locate a licensed dispensary.

Contact us today, and let’s get started.

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About the author

Ally Hilbert is the Content and SEO Manager here at Elevate Holistics, working to publish and run Elevate’s blogs and landing pages, as well as conduct keyword research, competitor analysis, and more. After having brain surgery at the age of 17, Ally became fascinated with medical cannabis and its benefits, and, at 18, had her first CBD-related piece published. Today, she’s been writing about cannabis for the past six years, and simply can’t think of a better company to get to do it for. When she’s not writing or editing, Ally’s side-by-side with her pup Sadie in Seattle.
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