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Ooooh, ooooh, That Smell: Terpenes Explained.


There is no mistaking the pungent aroma of cannabis. Some love the fragrance, some not as much. But love them or not, terpenes play an important role in the therapeutic profile of medical marijuana.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds produced by various plants, including cannabis. While often recognized for their role in aroma and flavor, these organic hydrocarbons play a crucial role in the medical benefits of cannabis. Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in cannabis, and their interactions with cannabinoids contribute to what is known as the “entourage effect.” This phenomenon emphasizes the synergistic relationship between various cannabis compounds, enhancing the overall therapeutic impact.

Let’s take a look, or should we say a sniff?

Major Terpenes in Cannabis

1. Myrcene:

  • Aroma: Myrcene is characterized by a musky, earthy scent with notes of cloves.
  • Effects: This terpene is believed to have relaxing and sedative effects, making strains high in myrcene popular choices for individuals seeking stress relief or improved sleep.
  • Strains: Mango Kush, White Widow, and Granddaddy Purple often exhibit high myrcene levels.

2. Limonene:

  • Aroma: Limonene imparts a citrusy, lemon-like fragrance.
  • Effects: Known for its mood-elevating and anti-anxiety properties, limonene is associated with a more uplifting and energetic experience.
  • Strains: Lemon Haze and Super Lemon Skunk are examples of limonene-rich varieties.

3. Pinene:

  • Aroma: Pinene has a distinct pine scent.
  • Effects: Recognized for its potential anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator effects, pinene may benefit individuals with respiratory conditions. It is also believed to enhance alertness.
  • Strains: Jack Herer and Blue Dream are known for their high pinene content.

4. Linalool:

  • Aroma: Linalool has a floral, lavender-like fragrance.
  • Effects: Often associated with calming and relaxing effects, linalool may be suitable for those seeking stress relief without sedation.
  • Strains: Lavender, Amnesia Haze, and LA Confidential are strains with notable linalool levels.

5. Caryophyllene:

  • Aroma: Caryophyllene has a spicy, peppery scent reminiscent of black pepper.
  • Effects: Unique among terpenes, caryophyllene also interacts with CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, offering potential anti-inflammatory benefits. It is known for its therapeutic effects without producing a “high.”
  • Strains: Sour Diesel and Girl Scout Cookies are examples of strains rich in caryophyllene.

Entourage Effect and Therapeutic Potential

The entourage effect suggests that the combined action of cannabinoids and terpenes results in a more profound therapeutic impact than isolated compounds. For example, a strain high in both myrcene and THC may offer enhanced sedative effects, potentially aiding individuals dealing with insomnia or anxiety.

Understanding the terpene profiles of different strains allows consumers to make more informed choices based on their desired effects. Dispensaries often provide detailed information about the terpene content of their products, empowering users to tailor their cannabis experience to their preferences and therapeutic needs.

Emerging Research and Future Perspectives

Research on cannabis terpenes is a rapidly evolving field. As legalization efforts progress and the stigma surrounding cannabis diminishes, scientists have more significant opportunities to explore the nuanced interactions between cannabinoids and terpenes.

While some effects of individual terpenes are well-established, the entourage effect adds complexity to the overall cannabis experience. Future research may uncover more about the synergistic relationships between specific terpenes and cannabinoids, potentially leading to targeted therapeutic applications.


In conclusion, terpenes are integral to the cannabis plant, contributing to its aroma, flavor, and therapeutic effects. The major terpenes, including myrcene, limonene, pinene, linalool, and caryophyllene, bring their unique characteristics to different strains. As our understanding of cannabis deepens, consumers can make more informed choices, seeking strains that align with their preferences and therapeutic goals.

The entourage effect underscores the importance of considering the holistic composition of cannabis, moving beyond a focus on individual cannabinoids. As research continues, we can anticipate a more comprehensive understanding of how terpenes and cannabinoids work together to provide diverse and personalized cannabis experiences.