Cannabis Terpenes 101

When looking at strains online or even on the packaging on your favorite cannabis products, you may have seen the word “terpene” pop up once or twice (or, maybe ten times). As one essential component to the cannabis plant, as well as many other floral and fauna, terpenes and their benefits are quickly being learned about and researched daily. 

Every bud tastes and smells different from the next, but how? When they all come from the same plant, understanding how their smells and tastes differ so much can be a bit confusing. These unique aspects, however, can be attributed to cannabis’ terpenes and the many different ones that may be present within the flower. 

If you have no idea what we’re talking about, that’s okay. Below, we’re talking about terpenes 101 and answering every question you may have about this interesting yet complex plant component.

Everything you need to know about terpenes:

  • Terpenes are plant-based essential oils that directly affect the smell and taste of a substance. Each terpene has unique benefits, more than just smell and taste.
  • Terpenes’ synergistic properties allow for a full-bodied experience called the ‘entourage effect.’
  • Terpenes more broadly have been used in the prevention and therapy of several cancers, including mammary, skin, lung, stomach, colon, pancreatic, and prostate carcinomas
  • Predominant Terpenes in quality cannabis have been known to interact with THC and CBD to offer even more bang for your buck, boosting its therapeutic effects to treat pain, mental health, bacterial infections and cancers
  • While you can easily add terpenes to your CBD oil, we suggest avoiding trying to smoke them, though it is possible.
  • You can purchase terpenes practically anywhere you buy health and wellness products. Most good quality full spectrum CBD oils will include Terpenes (read the COA!)

What are Cannabis Terpenes, and What do They do?

Put your weed up your nose: what do you smell? When it’s inhaled, how does it taste? Both of these profiles, smell and taste, are directly influenced by cannabis terpenes.

Cannabis terpenes are aromatic oils that are secreted out of translucent glands on the plant’s flowers. Originally, these oils’ only use was as a defense against the plant’s predators; however, their vibrant skunky smells attracted us, instead. 

Now, growers can directly help influence the types of terpenes within a plant through factors like climate, weather, and fertilizers. Cannabis scientists are currently aware of at least different 100 terpenes within the plant variety, though there could easily be more. With each terpene being more unique than the next, it’s worthwhile to find out. 

The plant’s unique terpene profile is directly reflective of the scents that your nose picks up or the flavors your tastebuds experience. From classic scents like skunk and diesel to bright citrus notes and even aromas of floral and sweet, terpenes can boast scents from all ends of the spectrum. More than just plant-like, marijuana can smell as well-rounded as your favorite meal or perfume, all thanks to terps. 

The lower the terpene percentage your cannabis product has, the less flavorful it is going to be. So, when you come across terpene-rich cannabis, you’ll be sure to know. 

The Benefits of Terpenes

Though they do smell and taste delicious (or super dank, depending on your cup of tea), terpenes are great for more than just their attractive aromatic profiles. 

Individually, we’re learning that each terpene has novel effects, surpassing just scent and flavor. Some terpenes have been known to create sedative, calming effects, while others specialize in reducing inflammation or providing mental clarity. This is leading many to believe that, within cannabis, the terpenes play a huge role as to the individualistic effects you may experience, further than just the typical euphoria or relaxation. The science surrounding these specific effects is still sparse, but it is incredibly promising. 

Studies show they’re useful in the prevention and therapy of several cancers, including mammary, skin, lung, stomach, colon, pancreatic, and prostate carcinomas and much more. Let’s get into the specifics of how they help in cannabis!

Terpenes and the Entourage Effect

On top of their unique effects and even more unique smells and tastes, terpenes also play a role in a phenomenon the cannabis community knows as the “entourage effect.” The entourage effect regards the idea that when cannabis is enjoyed with its full range of properties–cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes–the experience that you feel is stronger and more comprehensive than if you had just isolated one cannabinoid, for example. Terpenes play a huge role in this phenomenon, as their properties are said to be just as synergistic as cannabinoids’.

The emerging research surrounding the entourage effect has been leading many to search for cannabis products that are either ‘whole-plant’ or utilize full-spectrum extracts. 

They display unique therapeutic effects that “may contribute meaningfully to the entourage effects. cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections” Scientific evidence is presented for non-cannabinoid plant components as putative antidotes to intoxicating effects of THC that could increase its therapeutic index.

Of the many available, several products formulated with quality CBD and terpenes worth looking into come from Fab CBD — perhaps one of the most reputable CBD companies out there.

Interactive Terpenes with Cannabinoids

Linalool 

When you think of linalool, you can think of lavender. This floral terpene is found in lavender as well as birch bark. Linalool is most known for its calming, soothing effects, which makes sense as to why you frequently find this terpene in most aromatherapy treatments. 

Regarding linalool’s therapeutic values, some studies have found it to have antimicrobial properties, serving as a protective agent in both humans and plants. It’s also said to have anti-anxiety and sedative effects to allow for the calming of the mind and for your body to unwind. Many actually believe linalool to be the result of skin burn alleviation without scarring when utilizing aromatherapy, making it not only beneficial to the mind, but to the skin, too.

Other studies have noted linalool’s impressive anticonvulsant and anxiolytic properties, showing positive results in calming seizures in rodents. From calming nerves to calming seizures and everything in between, linalool’s calming properties are clear. 

To vaporize, the boiling point of linalool is a high 388.4°F.

Taste and Aromas: Lavender, floral

Effects: Calming, soothing, mood enhancement

Therapeutic Value: Antimicrobial, anti-anxiety, sleep aid, combatting depression

Vaporizing Point: 388.4°F

Commonly Found in: Birch bark, lavender

Pinene

Pinene, you guessed it, smells quite like a dense pine forest. As the most common terpene in the world, you’ve undoubtedly come across this earthy guy within either your cannabis or everyday experiences. Also found in pine needles, rosemary, and basil, this abundant terpene is said to create mental clarity, sharpness, and, thus, a whole lot of creativity.

On top of showing anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties, pinene is interesting in the fact that it helps open your body’s airways, showing therapeutic potential for those with allergies or even asthma. 

More than this, though, pinene shows interesting characteristics in relationship to memory. It appears to show properties similar to an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, medications typically prescribed to dementia or Alzheimer patients by doctors. With this, it appears as though pinene may be incredibly beneficial for short-term memory, especially with complications due to too much THC consumption. 

This well-rounded terpene has a boiling point of 311°F.

Taste and Aromas: Earthy, pine

Effects: Mental clarity, creativity, focus

Therapeutic Value: Anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, asthma and allergy treatment

Vaporizing Point: 311°F

Commonly Found in: Pine needles, rosemary, basil

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is a terpene full of spice, found in spice. With strong notes of black pepper mixed with a bit of terroir, Caryophyllene is a terpene you’ll notice almost immediately. Typically, you’ll find it in black pepper cloves, cinnamon, and hops. It is actually one of the most common terps you’ll find within your favorite concentrates, too.

Unlike any terpene that we know of thus far, caryophyllene’s molecular structure allows it to bind directly to your body’s CB2 receptors, which are found in most organs. So, while it doesn’t provide cerebral effects, working with these receptors shows serious potential in therapeutic values like inflammation reduction and pain relief as a whole. It has even shown assistance in helping those with stomach ulcers due to its gastric cytoprotective properties as well as being anti-malarial.

Because of the terpene’s unique bonding structure, caryophyllene demonstrates that while it cannot help with psychoactive effects, it may be incredibly influential within the medicinal or therapeutic sphere. While we don’t know the extent quite yet, we know that enjoying some caryophyllene will surely have you feeling comfortable. 

The boiling point of Caryophyllene is 266°F, requiring a much lower temperature to vaporize than other terpenes.

Taste and Aromas: Spicy, black pepper, earthy

Effects: Reduced stress, calming

Therapeutic Value: Anti-inflammatory, pain relief, anti-anxiety

Vaporizing Point: 266°F

Commonly Found in: Black pepper, cinnamon, hops

Myrcene

Myrcene is a terpene that you’ll often find within most of your flower, as it is one of cannabis’ most dominant terpenes. This terp boasts aromas of pepper, spice, and everything hops, adding a layer of savor to your cannabis experience. You’ll find myrcene in other floral and fauna like lemongrass, mango, and thyme. 

An analgesic with THC and CBD. In Germany, this terpene is actively utilized as a sleep aid, despite lack of sedative evidence within studies. However, myrcene is shown to have properties similar to that of a muscle relaxant, truly targeting the body’s muscles and joints (in rats, that is). Reduced inflammation and pain relief have also commonly been reported with this terpene, showing strong potential in therapeutic value towards full-body relaxation and comfort. 

With the combination of intense inflammatory relief and full-body relaxation even in deep-seated muscles, many believe that myrcene is a key player in the famous “couch-lock” phenomenon often reported within cannabis use. All of the terpene’s main characteristics create strong feelings of relaxation and calm, so who wouldn’t want to just stick to the couch?

Myrcene’s earthy self has a boiling point of 334°F. 

Taste and Aromas: Pepper, spice, hops

Effects: Relaxing, calming

Therapeutic Value: Anti-inflammatory, muscle and joint pain, sleep

Vaporizing Point: 334°F

Commonly Found in: Lemongrass, mango, thyme

Limonene

As you may have guessed from the name, limonene is one citrusy terpene. As one that’s naturally found in juniper, lemon, and orange rind, the sweet, fruity aromas come as no surprise. When found within your cannabis, these terpenes add a beautiful bright layer while simultaneously assisting in reducing your stress and promoting feelings of relaxation. Limonene is one of those terpenes that’ll have you smiling as soon as you’ve had a whiff. 

When it comes to limonene’s therapeutic values, the research is still limited; though, we’re seeing promising potential towards anti-tumor properties. Some studies have found that limonene can help shrink or kill cancerous tumors, leaving many to believe that there are serious medical benefits behind this terp. 

There’s also evidence that limonene may be integral in helping those with depression and anxiety. In one study, depressed hospital patients were exposed to limonene-rich scents throughout their stay and researchers found that 9 out of the 12 patients did not find need for their antidepressants after exposure. Both serotonin and dopamine levels increased, and patients felt overall more comfortable with the scent in the air. Research such as this helps demonstrate the potential this terpene has an anxiolytic agent.

At 348.8°F, limonene vaporizes.

Taste and Aromas: Citrus, sweet

Effects: Relaxing, reduced stress, uplifting

Therapeutic Value: Anti-tumor, anti-anxiety, combatting depression, pain relief 

Vaporizing Point: 348.8°F

Commonly Found in: Juniper, lemon, orange rind

Non-Interactive Terpenes with Cannabinoids 

Humulene

Humulene is one herbaceous terpene. Filled with notes of wood, pine, and all things herb, humulene is a terpene that’s been utilized in medicinal practices throughout history. Known for its pain-relieving properties, this soothing terpene has been helping people feel better for years.

Now, we’re truly understanding humulene’s therapeutic potential. Recent studies have shown antibacterial, anti-tumor, and further anti-inflammatory properties; but, what’s piqued interests is this terpene’s relationship with pharmacokinetics, and the ability to be so effortlessly distributed throughout the body. 

Humulene has a lower boiling point of 222.8°F.

Taste and Aromas: Herbal, earthy

Effects: Soothing, relaxing

Therapeutic Value: Anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, antibacterial 

Vaporizing Point: 222.8°F

Commonly Found in: Coriander, basil, hops

Terpinolene

Terpinolene is one of those terpenes that’s difficult to distinguish one flavor profile from. To the nose, you’ll experience layers of citrus, earth, flowers, and herbs, and when smoked, this wide array of flavors only becomes more prominent. You can find terpinolene in other floral and fauna like lilacs, nutmeg, and even apples, and it’s one of the most uplifting terps out there.

Despite having you feeling blissed-out, terpinolene has interesting therapeutic value, too. Some animal studies have found that terpinolene shows antibacterial and antimicrobial effects, as well as potentially reducing the risk of heart disease. Still, more information is necessary to make conclusions. 

At 366.8°F, terpinolene reaches its boiling point for vaporization. 

Taste and Aromas: Citrusy, earthy, floral, herbal

Effects: Blissful, mood enhancement  

Therapeutic Value: Anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, antioxidant

Vaporizing Point: 366.8°F

Commonly Found in: Lilac, nutmeg, apples

Ocimene 

Ocimene is a fairly unfamiliar terpene in the cannabis world currently, but you’ll know it when you smell it. This terp provides flavors and aromas that are among some of the sweetest, most citrusy and floral notes that you’ll come across in cannabis. Ocimene is frequently found in orchids and often used to make perfumes. 

Ocimene’s primary effect and therapeutic values are pain relief and reduced inflammation. This terpene has shown serious potential in helping promote relaxation and full-body relief. At only 150°F, ocimene has the lowest boiling point of most terpenes.

Taste and Aromas: Sweet, citrus, floral

Effects: Relaxation, calming

Therapeutic Value: Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial

Vaporizing Point: 150°F

Commonly Found in: Orchids, mangoes, mint, kumquat 

Bisabolol

If you’ve ever thought that your tea smelled a bit like weed, you’re totally right. The same terpenes that give your tea the bright, floral notes you love are the same ones who give it to your cannabis. Bisabolol is a terpene known for sweet, floral aromas deriving straight from the chamomile flower itself. Just as calming as your evening tea, bisabolol produces waves of relaxation and balance in every sniff. 

Bisabolol’s therapeutic values are just as you’d expect from such a soothing terpene: an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and analgesic. Able to calm your muscles and joints as well as your racing thoughts, this uber-relaxing terp is one that’s ideal not only in your chamomile tea, but in your weed, too. 

Taste and Aromas: Sweet, floral

Effects: Calming, soothing

Therapeutic Value: Anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, analgesic

Vaporizing Point: 307.4°F

Commonly Found in: Chamomile, tea

Lesser-Known Terpenes

Geraniol

Geraniol is a lesser-known, sweet terpene you can recognize almost immediately through its rose-like, floral profile. That being said, these aren’t notes you’ll experience as often as your typical citrus or skunky scents, making geraniol a terp that’s few and far between within your cannabis. But, when you do find it, you’ll relish in its delicacy. 

Coming from the geranium plant itself, geraniol produces light flavors and aromas that are ideal for putting a little pep in your step. Therapeutically, geraniol is said to work as an antifungal and antibacterial, even helping to prevent the growth of tumorous growths. Though we don’t know too much about this special terpene, we know enough to want to experience its floral notes within our flower.

Taste and Aromas: Floral

Effects: Uplifting, blissful

Therapeutic Value: Antifungal, antibacterial, anti-tumor

Vaporizing Point: 446°F

Commonly Found in: Geranium, rose oil, peaches, blueberries

Phellandrene

Another lesser-known terpene, phellandrene, is one that puzzles cannabis scientists to this day. They know it produces a unique blend of earthy, minty aromas, and that it’s historically been utilized within Eastern holistic medicine. Beyond that, though, this terpene, majority of this terpene’s effects remain quite a mystery. 

Currently, researchers are looking into phellandrene’s value as having anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and potentially even anti-hyperalgesic properties. Though they don’t know too much about this earthy, minty terp, it appears to be quite promising. 

Taste and Aromas: Earthy, minty

Effects: N/A

Therapeutic Value: Anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-hyperalgesic

Vaporizing Point: 339.8°F

Commonly Found in: Mint, dill, parsley, pine

Camphene

One terpene we can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of is camphene. Yet another earthy, slightly musky terpene, this one is slightly reminiscent of myrcene, frequently getting mistaken for the more-common terp. Again, not too much is known about camphene, but research seems to point towards it being quite a relaxing, pain-relieving terpene. 

When it comes to its potential therapeutic value, some animal studies have shown antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as support with heart health. Though research is limited now, such potential poses huge importance for further studies.

Taste and Aromas: Earthy, musky

Effects: Relaxing

Therapeutic Value: Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, supportive for heart health

Vaporizing Point: 318°F

Commonly Found in: Citronella, sage oil, ginger oil

Terpenes FAQs

Can You Smoke/Vape Terpenes?

Terpenes, as was established, do have a boiling or ‘vaporizing’ point. This means that if you heat these terpenes each to a high enough degree, they’ll reach a consistency that you’re able to smoke if desired. However, there is very little scientific evidence surrounding the actual act of vaping just terpenes, creating a bit of hesitancy.

Can You Add Terpenes to CBD Oil?

Adding terpenes to CBD oil is a perfectly acceptable practice, especially when you’re left with a less-than-appealing unflavored tincture. With terpenes, you can essentially make your product taste however you want it to–citrusy, fruity, you name it. You just have to find the terpenes that you like best and in a form that works best for your CBD oil. Typically, all you’ll have to do is place a few drops of your chosen terpenes into your oil and the flavor will transform almost instantly. 

How are Terpenes Extracted?

Similar to the many methods we have in getting concentrates, there are various ways you can choose to extract terpenes. Traditionally, manufacturers swayed towards steam and hydrodistillation to receive their terpenes. With this process, you’re quite literally using steam to penetrate and then break down plant material, leaving behind only the necessary aromatic oils. Unfortunately, methods like this often result in the destruction of phytochemicals like terpenes due to the high temperatures used. 

To combat this, scientists have begun much more rigorous (yet careful) distillation extraction processes to keep everything intact. CO2 extraction is also becoming increasingly more popular for its ease and purity. Here, CO2 is used as a solvent for the plant material to help excrete the oils that producers are looking for. 

What’s a Good Terpene Level to Look for?

The terpene percentage that you want in your cannabis or cannabis products is entirely up to you; though, the higher the smellier. Most cannabis flower only contains about 2% terpenes, however, this small number is still enough to have those flavors and scents hit you hard. Certain cannabis companies are working specifically to higher their flower’s terpene levels, reaching percentages as high as 9%. 

While it may be difficult for you to find numbers that high, as long as your flower contains at least 2-3% terpenes, you’ll undoubtedly experience these flavorful notes.  

Where You Can Buy Terpenes

Essentially, you can buy terpenes wherever you typically find your favorite health and wellness products. For most, this is online. Buying terpenes online is safe as long as you take the time to do your research about the company, find their lab-test results, and read what others have had to say about their products. When you do this, you get a much better understanding as to what to expect from a company (and it’ll easily let you know whether or not to trust them). 

Just like your cannabis products, you only want the best when it comes to terps. Doing research may take a bit of time, but it’s more than worth it to understand the quality and purity of your future terpenes. 

Terpenes: Final Thoughts

Though everybody loves the feelings that cannabis can bring, there’s nothing better than a dank smell and rich, distinct flavors. We have terpenes to thank for those wonderful profiles, and they’re something to appreciate just as much as your favorite cannabinoids. Without terpenes, you simply do not get the full plant experience that you deserve, and when it comes to weed, you should never settle for anything less than the best.