What are cannabis terpenes, and what do they do?

Terpenes are responsible for giving cannabis its unmistakable aroma and taste. The commonest terpenes are myrcene, caryophyllene, humulene, limonene, and pinene. These are found in varying quantities depending on the strain.

Terpenes occur naturally in cannabis, but they can also be added during processing with oils, sprayed into the grind and refined to mix them.

You can see the effects of terpenes on cannabis plants; the sheen and stickiness are caused by trichomes, which are responsible for terpenes production.

What are cannabis terpenes?

Chemically speaking, terpenes are aromatic molecules built from isoprene, a hydrocarbon, with ten carbon atoms and one double bond.

In layman’s terms, terpenes give cannabis its smell and taste. The quantity and quality of terpenes determine the pungency and aroma of the cannabis; the more intense it is, the more desirable it is, but it shouldn’t be harsh.

What are the main terpenes?

Cannabis contains over 150 different terpenes, with some hybrid strains containing over 300. The main terpenes in cannabis are myrcene, caryophyllene, humulene, limonene, linalool, and pinene. Depending on the number of terpenes, cannabis can smell like grass, pine, diesel, fire and smoke, and sometimes sweet or faintly foul.


Myrcene is the most prominent terpene in all cannabis strains, carrying an earthy aroma to give cannabis its distinctive scent.


Caryophyllene is the second most prominent, with a spicy aroma akin to pepper, and it gives cannabis its warmth and depth.


Humulene is a hoppy scent that smells like grass cuttings or weed cuttings, resembling the aromas of beer and warm yeast.


Limonene is found in oranges, with a piny, turpentine-like odour. It’s citrusy with an earthy edge, giving cannabis a clean taste.


Pinene cuts through the earthiness of caryophyllene with a fresh pine scent, refreshing the pallet and giving cannabis a smooth smoke.


Linalool has a floral scent and taste, resembling lavender and bergamot oil. It gives cannabis a fruit-like odour that is sweet and tropical.

How do terpenes affect the body?

Terpenes affect how you perceive cannabis, but they also extend beyond this with feel-good benefits, stress relief and therapeutic properties.

However, terpenes' therapeutic and medicinal uses for humans are under clinical study. While the effects are evident on the mind and body when smoking, it is too early to say whether or not terpenes have medicinal uses with cannabis.

We can confidently say that some terpenes, like myrcene, have shown promising health benefits in many animal studies.

How are terpenes infused in cannabis?

Terpenes can be infused into cannabis in two ways:

  • Produce hybrid strains that have unique quantities of terpenes
  • Add essential oils to the dried cannabis during processing (grinding)

Both methods are effective at changing the smell and taste of cannabis. However, inconsistencies when adding oils mean no two batches are ever the same. Hybrid strains are more consistent and produce a unique product. What

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