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What are terpenes?

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Terpenes are a large group of organic compounds that can be found in many plants, as well as some tropical flowers. They’re also responsible for the distinct aroma and flavor profiles of different cannabis varieties. They play a role in attracting pollinators, protecting against predators and even serving as an energy source for the plant itself.

What is a terpene?

So, what exactly is a terpene? Well, terpenes are organic compounds found in plants. They are the source of flavor and aroma—they're responsible for the smell of pine trees, lavender, and lemons for example.

You may have heard of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is one type of cannabinoid found in cannabis. Cannabinoids are another group of compounds that make up cannabis' psychoactive effects. Terpenes play an important role in those effects as well—in fact, they're often referred to as "the soul" because they give particular strains their unique characteristics!

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

Cannabis terpenes are aromatic oils secreted in the trichomes of cannabis plants. They are responsible for the distinctive aroma and flavor of cannabis, but they also have important therapeutic properties.

Terpenes are one of several classes of chemicals found in the flowers and leaves of plants like lavender, mint, ginger and citrus fruits. These molecules contain hydrocarbon rings that are combined with other compounds to create unique fragrances. Terpene molecules can be combined with other cannabinoids as well as flavonoids (also known as phytochemicals) which give them their distinct smell and taste.

Cannabis terpenes contribute to the unique aroma and flavor of different cannabis varieties.

Cannabis terpenes are the main components of essential oils and are produced by plants to protect them from insects and other threats. They can contribute to the unique aroma and flavor of different cannabis varieties, but they also serve important therapeutic purposes.

Terpenes in Cannabis

While there are many different types of cannabis strains available today, each one produces its own unique blend of terpene compounds that give it its distinctive smell and taste profile. Some strains have been bred to produce high levels of certain terpene profiles in order to enhance their effects on the user.

What are the different effects of terpenes?

Terpenes can be classified into two categories: volatiles and non-volatiles. Volatile terpenes are the most common and are responsible for the aroma of cannabis plants. Non-volatile terpenes are produced on a smaller scale, but they’re also responsible for some of the amazing effects you feel when you smoke or vape cannabis. As you probably know by now, one of the biggest benefits of using cannabis is that you get to experience its various effects on different parts of your body and mind. Terpenes have their own unique effects on our bodies; here's a breakdown.

Myrcene – Sedative

Caryophyllene – Anti-inflammatory

Limonene – Uplifting/Anti-inflammatory

Linalool – Stress reliever/Anti-anxiety

Pinene – Relaxing/Anti-inflammatory


There are a lot of different cannabis terpene profiles, but they all fall into two main categories: monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. Monoterpenes have one double bond in their chemical structure, while sesquiterpenes have three of them. These chemicals are responsible for the aroma and flavor, as well as, steering the effects produced from cannabis after consumption.

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