If you asked the average herb-lover about cannabis terpenes just a few short years ago, you might’ve been met with a blank stare. Now, it seems that the subject of terpenes is popping up everywhere—and for excellent reasons.
Terpenes are the building blocks of essential oils in plants. Perfumers have known about terpenes for a long time because terpenes endow flowers with their unique fragrances. Additionally, terpene content gives all the vegetables and fruit we eat their distinct flavors and aromas. Plants make terpenes to repel pests, attract pollinators, and promote the plant’s general well-being.
Cannabis plants produce terpenes along with cannabinoids in glands called trichomes, which look like crystals coating the flowers. Besides giving cannabis its taste and aroma, terpenoids have a host of beneficial therapeutic effects. Additionally, terpenes work together with cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds to create a holistic synergy called the entourage effect.
A Definitive List of Cannabis Terpene Profiles
Let’s take a closer look at the most prominent terpenes in cannabis plants.
Myrcene is the most abundant cannabis-derived terpene and has an earthy flavor. Hops, mangoes, and lemongrass all contain high levels of myrcene. Myrcene may contribute to the couch-lock effect of indica strains, making high-myrcene hybrids useful as sleep aids or muscle relaxants.
Indica strains like White Widow and Cannaflower’s low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Bubba Kush contain ample amounts of myrcene.
Beta-caryophyllene is another primary cannabis terpene that brings the characteristic spiciness to black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and oregano. Preliminary research has found that beta-caryophyllene acts as an anti-inflammatory, promotes healthy digestion, and may enhance wound healing. Beta-caryophyllene also has a unique ability to bind directly to CB-2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.
Girl Scout Cookies, Gorilla Glue #4, and Cannaflower’s high-cannabidiol (CBD) OG Kush are rich in beta-caryophyllene.
Limonene can be found in citrus plants and dill weed. As the name suggests, limonene has an aroma similar to lemon and orange rinds with subtle hints of spice.
Limonene imparts uplifting effects, making strains with high levels of this terpene excellent for daytime productivity. Research has shown that limonene affects several neurotransmitter pathways, which may make high-limonene strains helpful in treating depression and anxiety.
Strains like Wedding Cake, Do-Si-Do, and Cannaflower’s Lemon Drop all possess the tart citrus fruits flavor and aroma of limonene.
Linalool lends its fragrance to purple flowers, such as lavender and lilac. Cannaseurs sometimes refer to linalool as the “spa terpene” because of its relaxing and calming properties. MMJ physicians often recommend high linalool strains for their ability to combat stress and ease body aches. Scientists have been researching linalool’s potential ability to reduce muscle spasms, relieve pain, and treat anxiety.
If you’re interested in linalool, check out cannabis strains like Lavender, Master Kush, and Cannaflower’s Abacus.
Pinene is the most abundant terpene in nature. Conifers, rosemary, and parsley contain an abundance of pinene. The Japanese have a health practice called “forest bathing” which involves walking in nature while inhaling the refreshing scents. It’s not surprising that modern science has found pinene reduces inflammation, aids memory, acts as an antimicrobial agent, and opens the respiratory passageways.
Different strains like Kona Gold, Blue Dream, and Cannaflower’s Remedy include significant amounts of pinene.
Plants like ginseng, sage, and hops all contain large quantities of humulene. The medical cannabis community considers high-humulene strains useful for inflammation and weight control. You’ll find plenty of humulene in popular strains like Headband, Sour Diesel, and Cannaflower’s Legendary OG.
The fresh scent of terpinolene is evident in cumin, nutmeg, apples, and tea trees. Scientists have found that terpinolene may help inhibit tumor growth and can have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease. Terpinolene is present in elevated levels in the legendary Jack Herer strain.
Alpha-bisabolol has a subtle floral scent reminiscent of camomile, a plant known to have a calming effect. Alpha-Bisabolol has shown potent antibacterial and antioxidant properties and may help reduce skin inflammation. You can sample alpha-Bisabolol in strains such as ACDC, Pink Kush, and Cannaflower’s Sour Tsunami.
As the name suggests, eucalyptol gives eucalyptus trees their characteristic scent. Eucalyptol has potent antibacterial, antifungal, and insect-repelling properties. Scientists also suspect that eucalyptol may help to lower blood pressure.
If you’re familiar with the fragrance of geraniums, you’ll easily recognize the aroma of geraniol. Plants like citronella and roses also contain high concentrations of this terpene. Geraniol may have antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiviral, and neuroprotective properties. Gerinol’s potent aroma also makes an excellent mosquito repellent.
It’s easy to confuse terpineol with terpinolene, but they are two distinct terpenes. A common ingredient in soaps and perfumes, terpineol imparts a pleasant floral fragrance. Lilacs, sage, pine trees, limes, and eucalyptus all contain terpineol. Scientists are studying terpineol for its antioxidant, anti-anxiety, anti-malarial, and sedative effects.
Found in ginger and green apple peels, farnesene terpenes give plants a tart, fruit flavor. Research has concluded that farnesene has neuroprotective properties and may help prevent certain types of cancer.
Borneol is a common terpene in many traditional Chinese herbs, including valerian root, a common herb used for anxiety and insomnia. Borneol has an aroma similar to rosemary or mint and has been found to impart pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
In nature, ocimene appears in basil, orchids, and mint. Perfumers often use ocimene to give their products sweet herbal aromas. Research has concluded that ocimene has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and cancer-fighting properties.
Nerolidol has a woody aroma that’s popular for adding to cleaning products. The terpene has potent antifungal, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a useful ingredient in skin products.
Like pinene and terpinolene, guaiol has a fresh pine fragrance. Indica strains typically contain more guaiol than sativas. Preliminary research has found that guaiol may induce cell apoptosis in lung tumors.
Valencene received its name from Valencia oranges, which have an especially sweet citrus flavor. The terpene is also present in grapefruits and tangerines. Manufacturers often use valencene to give a citrus aroma to cleaning products. Valencene is renowned for its ability to repel insects, reduce inflammation, and fight skin cancer.
You can find valencene in cannabis varieties like Tangie, Agent Orange, and Cannaflower’s citrus-dominated hemp flowers.
Nature has endowed cypress trees with substantial amounts of delta-3 carene. Carene has a complex fragrance that combines pine, lemon, and musk scents. Carene may help with neuropathic conditions like fibromyalgia and Alzheimer’s disease and may help heal broken bones.
Industrial hemp plants often contain substantial amounts of phytol. You may recognize phytol in the sweet floral fragrance of jasmine flowers. Phytol degrades GABA, which may make the compound useful for pain-relief, reducing stress, and promoting healthy sleep patterns.
Sabinene is the terpene responsible for the earthy oak aromas that wine and whiskey makers love. The terpene also imparts spicy and peppery notes. Sabinene may help aid digestion, relieve arthritis, calm skin conditions, and prevent muscle atrophy.
Found in eucalyptus, phellandrene has a mint aroma with slightly citrus overtones. Plants high in phellandrene may be useful for digestive problems, depression, and neuropathic pain.
Fenchol can be found in fennel and is a common ingredient in perfumes. You can recognize fenchol by its woody, citrus aroma.
Besides being a common ingredient in pain creams, menthol may also help kill bacteria and reduce inflammation. You can find menthol in cannabis strains like ChemDog, Gelato 45, and Thor’s Hammer.
Just in case you weren’t confused enough, scientists named yet another terpene with a name similar to terpinolene and terpineol. Found in lesser amounts in cannabis plants, terpinene has an earthy aroma and may exhibit antitumor properties.
Isoborneol has a remarkably unique, sweet and musky scent that’s difficult to describe. Isoborneol may have antiviral properties, particularly against herpes type 1. Additionally, researchers have found that isoborneol has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial abilities.
If you’ve ever taken a whiff of a bunch of carrots, you’ll recognize the scent of cymene. Oranges, tangerines, and oregano also contain high levels of cymene. Laboratory research has concluded that cymene has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
Other Cannabis Flower Derived Terpenes
So far, we’ve covered all of the major cannabis terpenes you’ll need to know to optimize your experience with this amazing plant. Scientists have isolated over 200 terpenes in cannabis plants, but many are only present in trace amounts. Since over 20,000 terpenes have been identified in the natural world, researchers expect to discover many more cannabis-derived terpenes in the future.
For those of you who wish to deepen your investigation into cannabis terpenes, here’s a partial list:
- Geranyl Acetate
Getting the Most Out of Cannabis Terpenes
Cannabis-derived terpenes have different boiling points. When you smoke cannabis, you burn off many of the terpenes that boil at lower temperatures. If you’re ready to start your journey into identifying cannabis terpenes, try enjoying your buds with a dry-herb vaporizer. If you start on the lowest setting and taste the buds at several temperatures, you’ll be able to start distinguishing the different terpenes.
The cannabis plant continues to reveal more attributes that bring customers and researchers to continue exploration in its potential. In your own exploration, you may have some questions about terpenes that you would like to share. We are always happy to hear from you.
If you haven’t begun your own experience with low-thc cannabis, a fantastic place to start is with some of our strains, or collections. Of course, you could also reach out to our friendly staff by emailing [email protected].
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