You might have heard the word “terpene” thrown around the last time you were at a dispensary and wondered what it is. Terpenes /ˈtərpēn/ : are any large group of volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants, especially conifers and citrus trees. In layman’s terms, they provide the dank smell and flavor of most of the cannabis consumed. Think of the tart and tang of an orange or the smooth and relaxing scent of lavender.
Based on a cyclic molecule having the formula C10H16, cannabis contains a high concentration of terpenes. When you smell cannabis, there are often notes of musk, citrus, or pine, which are derived from specific terpenes in that plant. The wonderful world of terpenes can also affect the body and mind, like linalool in lavender known for its calming effect. Because of these properties, terpenes also play a large part in the “entourage effect” of the plant.
This entourage effect is the combined result of all the compounds in cannabis, including the terpenes to work together to provide a greater outcome than if they were to be used separately.
While there are an overwhelming amount (over 20,000) of naturally occurring terpenes we’ll focus on the ones most prominent in cannabis.
Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis. It is also found in hops, thyme, mango, and lemongrass, and has a musky, earthy scent. Myrcene has a distinct part in the “skunky” smell of cannabis. Myrcene is known to have calming and pain relieving effects. In fact, according to a 2015 study, it has anti-inflammatory effects and helps with osteoarthritis.
Popular Strains: OG Kush, Grape Ape
Limonene is a common terpene found in cannabis and gives off a citrus scent. Limonene is also found in lemon rinds and orange rinds, so when you smell that lemon-citrus cent in cannabis, it can often be attributed to limonene.There is evidence that limonene could boost the immune system.
Popular Strains: Do-Si-Dos, Wedding Cake
Pinene is the most common terpene found in nature and one of the most common terpenes in cannabis. Pinene, as the name implies, can be found in pine trees and other coniferous trees, and has a piney scent. Pinene can be anti-inflammatory and help with elevating mood.
Popular Strains: Bubba Kush
Terpinolene is found in many strains of cannabis, however only in small amounts. Terpinolene is found in cumin, lilacs, and apples, and smells floral, herbal, and piney all in one. Terpinolene has an uplifting effect in cannabis.
Popular strains: Jack Herrer
Caryophyllene is another prominent terpene found in cannabis, and it is also found in hops, cloves, and rosemary. This terpene is known to be anti-inflammatory and help with pain relief as well as ulcers. Caryophyllene has even been found to activate the endocannabinoid system, similar to CBD, in a 2016 study.
Popular Strains: GSC
Linalool is often found in rosewood, jasmine, lavender, and other flower plants, as well as some spices like coriander. It has a floral aroma and is used in perfumes. Linalool can help with reducing inflammation and pain caused by inflammation. It is also known to help with nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
Popular Strains: Do-Si-Dos, Zkittlez
Ocimene, also found in mint and orchids, has citrus and earthy scents. This terpene is thought to help protect the plant against pests that can be detrimental. Ocimene can have anti-inflammatory effects as well as being uplifting .
Popular Strains: Clementine, Strawberry Cough
Humulene is a terpene prevalent in hops as well as cannabis, and gives beer the hoppy taste and smell. Humulene is also found in tobacco, clove, and black pepper. Early research shows that humulene is anti-inflammatory and could potentially help with allergies.
Popular strains: Gelato, GSC
Once terpene is extracted, natural terpenes are also re-infused into cannabis goods, primarily for flavor. Oil cartridges often include re-infused terpenes only because the process of making distillate for vape cartridges removes all of the natural plant terpenes.