What Are Terpenes? Why Should You Care?

Apr, 2020

What Are Terpenes? Why Should You Care?


Why Terpenes Matter

The therapeutic effects you get from cannabis don’t just come from cannabinoids. There are other essential cannabis oils involved, including terpenes and flavonoids. These essential oils are made in the trichomes, which are the beautiful hair-like white structures you often see glistening like diamonds all over the plant, located most abundantly on the flowers. While there are over 100 cannabinoids, around 150 cannabis terpenes have been identified in various cannabis plants. But, what are cannabis terpenes, and why should MMJ patients pay attention to them?

There’s a reason why terpene profiles are being sought after in certain strains and why people are purchasing them in concentrates and adding them to food and drinks. And why researchers are eager to discover (now that they can finally study cannabis more freely) the wide range of medicinal potential terpenes have to offer and how they contribute to the entourage effect of cannabis compounds.

And that reason is because terpenes are believed to have a horde of therapeutic properties, which have already been proven in preliminary studies and experienced by consumers of medical cannabis.

What Are These Beneficial Compounds?

Y’all know by now, humans have always had a medicinal relationship with cannabis. But we haven’t always known about cannabinoids, terpenes, and all the various contributing compounds cannabis has to offer. Here’s another revelation: terpenes, like flavonoids, are not even unique to cannabis. They’ve had a role to play in nature all along.

Terpenes are essential oils that live in a wide variety of plants and their fruit, like pine trees, lemons, eucalyptus, lavender, and so forth. These distinctive aromas let your nose know what kind of plant or fruit it’s whiffing — that’s the work of terpenes. And they did a helluva job with cannabis, don’t you think? There’s no other odor like it.

In all plants, terpenes are there to defend against predators and environmental factors. Which is also their main contribution to the cannabis plant. Aside from giving its unique aromatic character, that is.

How Does Cannabis Make Terpenes?

Like other compounds in cannabis, terpenes happen through what’s known as biosynthesis, “a multi-step, enzyme-catalyzed process where substrates are converted into more complex products in living organisms.” Sheesh! What you really need to know is that they end up in those glorious trichomes, where they secrete the odor and flavor that act as deterrents to bugs and animals that might otherwise view a cannabis field as a giant buffet. However, some of them attract insects for pollination. Cannabis is complex … go figure.

This tango of defense mechanism and allure, of course, is what also gives various types of cannabis strains their characteristics. What tells some insects to bug off and others to come closer, many humans find very inviting as well … and some don’t. It’s like anything that involves an acquired taste: Scotch, wine, coffee, craft beer, cigars … you get the point. In fact, terpenes do the same thing for hops in beer—give it that bitter taste that so many people love. Terpenes create taste experiences. But is that all they do?

Not by a long shot.

Are They Good for You?

Aside from making certain things taste and smell the way you like them to taste and smell? The answer according to preclinical evidence is “yes.”

There’s a good deal of preliminary evidence that terpenes—in all plants—have therapeutic properties. For instance, a scientific review from 2017 titled Terpenes from Forests and Human Health, provides several studies on animal models as evidence that terpenes have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-tumor effects.

While there are certain flavonoids that are unique to cannabis, called cannaflavins, you can find the terpenes in cannabis within many other plants in nature. However, the myriad cannabis compounds are thought to work in a synergistic manner known as the entourage effect, and researchers have their eye on cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions.

A study in 2018 looked at the distinct compositions of terpenoids in certain cannabis strains and concluded that terpenes also had acute anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive (blocks pain detection) properties in animal models.

Common Cannabis Terpenes and Their Benefits

Today, neurologist and cannabis expert Dr. Ethan Russo believes there are many cannabinoid-terpenoid relationships that contribute to the entourage effect. The following is a list of eight major terpenes from his research. Below, you'll find the effects of these common cannabis terpenes, where you can find them, and what cannabinoid(s) they may interact with to execute the entourage effect.


Limonene is a terpene derived from lemons. This terpene has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-acne properties. Studies also suggest that it can treat anxiety and depression. Popular strains with this lemony terp are Wedding Cake, Tahoe OG, and Do-Si-Dos.

Limonene's suspected entourage effect partners are CBD, CBG, and THC


As the name suggests, you can find pinene in pine trees. Its therapeutic effects include anti-inflammatory, bronchodilator, and memory aiding properties. A few pinene-rich strains are Blue Dream, Sour Diesel, and Jack Herer.

The terpenes' suspected entourage effect partners are CBD and THC.


Found in hops and lemongrass, myrcene is one unique terp. This terpene abundant in cannabis is about blocking inflammation, pain-relieving, sedating, muscle-relaxing, and antibiotic effects. If you're looking for a myrcene-filled strain, check out Blue Dream, Sour Diesel, and OG Kush.

The terpene's suspected entourage effect partners are CBD, CBG, and THC.


You will find linalool primarily within lavender. Common effects include anti-anxiety, sedation, anesthetic, pain-relieving, and anti-seizure properties. Looking to try this floral terpene for yourself? Try a strain like Zkittles, Blue Dream, or Do-Si-Dos.

Linalool's suspected entourage effect partners are CBD, CBG, THC, THCV, CBDV — check out those minor cannabinoids!


Caryophyllene is also a terpene in pepper. It’s believed to be the only terpene to act on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). In this way, scientists believe the terpene helps moderate pain sensation and inflammation and enhances cannabis’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. A few popular caryophyllene-rich strains are OG Kush, Sour Diesel, and Chemdawg.

This terpene's suspected entourage effect partners are CBD and THC.

Caryophyllene Oxide

You'll come across caryophyllene oxide in lemon balm. In addition, the terpene produces anti-fungal, insecticidal, and decreases platelet aggregation. If you're looking to try some caryophyllene oxide, check out strains like Durban Poison or ACDC.

This terp's suspected entourage effect partners are various minor cannabinoids: CBC, CBG, THC, THCA, CBGA.


Nerolidol derives from oranges and other citrus fruits. Preliminary studies show it’s a sedative, a skin penetrant, antimalarial, and anti-leishmanial. To try this out for yourself, purchase cannabis strains like Blue Dream, Jack Herer, and Island Sweet Skunk.

Nerolidol's suspected entourage effect partners are THC and CBN.


Phytol exists also in green tea and is the product of chlorophyll breakdown. This terpene demonstrates sedative and anti-anxiety effects by inhibiting the enzyme that degrades GABA. Some phytol-rich strains include OG Kush and Sour Diesel.

This terpene's suspected entourage effect partners is CBG.

Terpenes Add Benefits

Terpenes are another argument for medical cannabis. Certain strains have certain concentrations of terpenes, allowing you to further customize your medical cannabis to your needs and tastes. Dispensaries and budtenders are (or should be) as rich in knowledge about the terpenes in cannabis strains as the plant is in benefits. Of course, we want the benefits of medical marijuana to be as easy and accessible to our Elevate family.

Ready to start the evaluation process? We promise, it's easier than you could ever imagine. With Elevate's telehealth appointments, you don't even have to leave your home. Above all, whether you're great on the computer or struggle a bit, we're here to make the process hassle-free, helping you end up with your MMJ card. Click HERE to book an appointment with one of our cannabis experts.