What Are Terpenes and Why Should I Care?

Terpenes are the essential oils that are responsible for the unique aromas produced by plants. Sweet smelling terpenes attract insects for cross pollination, while terpenes with pungent smells scare away predators and prevent them from feeding on plants. The latter is the primary function of terpenes in cannabis plants.

That being said, research is now revealing that terpenes are of great use and have health benefits for the human body. Cannabis plants contain over 200 different terpenes, about a dozen of which have been investigated for therapeutic benefits. When combined with cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the healing benefit is even greater.

What Is the Entourage Effect?

Initially, scientists believed that taking cannabinoid isolates as pure THC or CBD was the most effective cannabis treatment option. Now, though, scientists know that this healing effect plateaued at a certain level beyond which no further therapeutic benefit was added, even when dosage was increased.

A study that was led by Dr Mechoulam later showed that full-spectrum extract helped to overcome this plateau. The researchers concluded that full spectrum cannabis extract, which contains extra cannabinoids and terpenes, produced a healing effect that was more powerful and lasted longer than that of pure CBD isolates.

This discovery has forced scientists to look more closely at terpenes, the most significant of which are listed below.


You can find the word lime in limonene, which makes sense considering they share some characteristics.

Limonene is a terpene found in abundance in the rinds of lemons, oranges, and limes. It smells like limes, and its scent is relaxing and uplifting. Additionally, it is commonly added to cosmetics and cleaning agents as a fragrant additive.

Limonene has a number of therapeutic benefits in that it’s antibacterial, antifungal, stress relieving, and mood enhancing. Lastly, it is also used as a natural insecticide.


You will notice that the names of many terpenes hint at both their characteristics and where they tend to be found. Pinene is commonly found in pine trees and smells of pine needles, and it’s in herbs such as basil, parsley, rosemary, and dill. It’s also found in conifer trees and turpentine.

Pinene is an antiseptic and a strong bronchodilator, as such it may help to relieve symptoms of asthma. It also crosses the blood brain barrier and helps to improve memory, thus countering THC’s effect on short term memory.


Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in most cannabis strains. It gives cannabis its distinct skunk-like aroma. It is also found in mangoes, thyme, lemongrass, and hops, and has sedative and anti-inflammatory effects.


Linalool is a terpene with a floral aroma. It’s commonly used in aromatherapy as a mood elevator, sedative, and antidepressant.


Caryophyllene is a peppery terpene that is commonly found in black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and spices such as oregano and basil. It also happens to be the only terpene that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Additionally, Caryophyllene is commonly used in anti-inflammatory creams.

Lastly, recent research has shown that this terpene can be used in alcohol rehabilitation, as it helps treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms.


Alpha-bisabolol is another terpene with a pleasant floral aroma that is found in chamomile flowers and candeia trees. It is mostly used in the cosmetics industry for its pleasant scent, but can also be used to treat wounds due to its antibacterial properties.


This terpene is commonly found in the eucalyptus tree. It has a minty aroma along with analgesic, antibacterial, and antifungal effects. Lastly, recent research has shown that this terpene may help relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.


Humulene is commonly found in hops and it is commonly used in beer fermentation. Its aroma is woody, or earthy, and research into the anti-cancer benefits of Humulene is ongoing. It is also helpful in reducing inflammation and fighting bacterial infections.


Camphene is another terpene that smells like damp woodlands, and as such is frequently mistaken for Myrcena. When combined with vitamin E, it functions as a powerful antioxidant.There are about a dozen more terpenes whose therapeutic characteristics are being researched. As more studies are done, the use of terpenes in medicine will gradually become more and more streamlined.

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