What Are Terpenes and What Are They Good For?

Benefits and uses for terpenes

Image Credit: By Gleti on shutterstock.

Terpenes are chemical compounds in plants that produce aroma and flavor characteristics. Credit goes to evolution as these characteristics have changed the smell and taste of plants over thousands of years to adapt and provide protection from predators and/or to encourage cross-pollination.

The cannabis industry is also evolving thanks to the exploration of naturally occurring terpenes in cannabis. Medicinal marijuana terpenes bring new understanding to how the cannabis flowers are increasingly dynamic in terms of the synergistic qualities between cannabinoids and terpenes. This welcomes the expansion of creativity and connoisseurship as well as a demand for the accompanied comprehension of the new vocabulary associated with the growth of the industry. Pinpointing the effects of terpenes delivers more accuracy in choosing the right strains for your desired effects. This draws unique values to the cannabis industry from simply changing the aroma of cannabis strains to better strain recommendations for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Plants secrete terpenes in the trichomes. In the marijuana plant, trichomes also produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Terpenes induce effects relative to the strain in which it is naturally found. Terpene extracts can also be added to various cannabis products. There are over one hundred terpene profiles. Cannabis is a unique plant in that the terpenes significantly contribute to the synergy of hundreds of chemical compounds. This is known as the entourage effects. Entourage effects coordinate and monitor the chemical output of cannabis. https://youtu.be/bN3QRSjCnS8


2017 was the year of the terpene. Previously TCH and then CBD shared the spotlight. The dialogue and vocabulary commonly used by the cannabis community are rooted in culture and spread by word of mouth through common expressions pertaining to experiences involving cannabis. Keeping current with the vocabulary encourages accuracy in selecting cannabis medicines based on the desired outcome and facilitates well-informed decisions. https://www.themaven.net/theweedblog/culture/what-are-terpenes-in-marijuana-FcJGbJnetU20rrZo8HK_WA

When someone refers to the marijuana bud as dank is to subjectively express the product has all the qualities they want. This term generalizes quality marijuana through visual and physical inspection. Now, terpenes are being scientifically categorized and measured. This facilitates greater precision in strain recognition, breeding, and listing potential effects. Previously, descriptions of cannabis strains were determined based on smell, taste, and visual inspection. https://www.citypaper.com/eat/bcp-041917-terpenes-20170418-story.html

During my last visit to a dispensary located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, I spoke to the budtenders about the latest products. They told me of new extracts that you can add to other cannabis products to make it more terpy. The product was a pure terpene extract that was sold with the intention to modify the flavor and aroma of cannabis. Using terpenes allows you to modify the odor or taste of the medicinal strains of your choice. This comes in handy if you don’t particularly care for the flavor of a strain that has the medicinal effects that you need. And even allows you to enhance desired results based on the type of terpene in the extract.


  • Myrcene
  • Limonene
  • Humulene
  • Pinene
  • Linalool
  • Caryophyllene


  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-Bacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Pain management
  • Insomnia
  • Anti-stress
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Anti-convulsant
  • Respiratory resiliency
  • Anti-gastric reflux

Expanding our understanding of terpenes leads to discrediting the categorization of strains into sativa and indica. Recognizing terpenes is the scientifically based method for accurately allocating effects to strains. Scientifically it is not possible to correctly decipher the biochemical content of a cannabis plant based on inspecting height and branching of a plant. Indica is the category which claims the strong effects of relaxation called couch lock. However, the compound responsible for this strong influence is the terpene called myrcene. Myrcene is a terpene which has significant sedative effects. Categorization of the effects of strains is more accurate through the recognition of the type of terpenes it contains. Sativa and indica are categories that indicate the geographical origins of two visually distinct cannabis plants. The sativa/indica distinction assumes that the dominating characteristic is that sativa strains create a head high and indica strains create a body high. Myrcene is a terpene with sedative effects but it also enhances the psychoactive potential of the THC. Myrcene is the terpene produced by the strains Green Crack (sativa), Granddaddy Purple (indica), and Blue Dream (hybrid). These strains, regardless of origin nor cross-breeding, induce both a head and body high. The sativa/indica vernacular is obsolete. In 2015 Dr. Ethan Russo declared using these terms in this way to be “…an exercise in futility…” https://www.freedomleaf.com/marijuana-terpenes-key/


Have you ever wondered why cleaning agents have a lemon fresh scent? The terpene named limonene has uplifting effects. The dynamic addition of terpenes to a cleaning solution exponentially increases the joy of cleanliness. This is because terpenes enhance experiences through the sense of smell. We see the appeal of leveraging terpenes creatively in industries like alcohol, cooking, cleaning, and perfume. Beers are being infused with terpenes for a new flavor experience. https://uproxx.com/life/cannabis-terpenes-beer/2/ The entire concept of the perfume industry is to recreate the feeling of experiences associated with different smells. Also, the culinary arts have integrated terpenes to enhance the dining experience. https://www.laweekly.com/news/what-are-terpenes-the-secret-ingredient-of-marijuana-8734128

The dynamic effects of terpenes are referred to as the entourage effect. The entourage effect is illustrated well by study results that show synthetic versions of cannabis compounds are not as effective as whole plant extractions which are exposed to synergistic interactions with hundreds of other compounds. In the past, the pharmaceutical industry has synthesized THC, but it didn’t have the same effects as the naturally occurring chemical from the plant. In a podcast by CannaInsider, Dr. Ethan Russo explains that one reason is that there are no terpenes added to the synthetic THC and therefore the synthetic THC risks a unique set of potential adverse side effects unknown to natural THC. The synergy of the natural plant is best. The cannabis plant has been evolving for thousands and thousands of years longer than humans. This must bring into consideration the greater health value compared to synthetic development. We are learning how vast the medicinal benefits can be. For example, if someone with Alzheimer’s was using a natural cannabis product it would offer more significant benefits to improve their quality of life due to the evolutionary synergy of the plant. CannaInsider Podcast Ep. 197 “How Terpenes radically change your experience of cannabis.” (Dr. Russo interviewed)

Cannabis products have highly synergistic qualities in plant form and terpenes have a track record of medical benefits. The evolutionary characteristics of terpenes serve plants as a survival mechanism. A byproduct of this evolution is the synergistic quality that terpenes add to the hundreds of other compounds in the cannabis plant. Terpenes are not psychoactive, but some will increase the possible psychoactive effects of specific strains. Some terpenes will have no physical effects. All terpenes channel a unique set of aromas and flavors. Terpenes are playing increasingly important roles in a variety of industries as a creative tool to enhance an experience as well as facilitate a unique ability to amplify specific medicinal needs of cannabis. https://thehempoilbenefits.com/what-are-terpenes-terpenoids

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
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