What Are Terpenes?

Have you ever walked outside in the fall, closed your eyes and smelled the earth underneath your nose? Or maybe along your walk, stopped to smell a flower? Well if you have, you’ve experienced the world of terpenes. They are the naturally occurring, organic compounds that give berries their berry smell, and pine trees their… well, pine smell. On a microscopic level, terpenes are the unique combination of hydrogen and carbon found in the plant’s essential oils that are the reasons different plants have different aromas. You may hear the terms “terpenes” and “terpenoids” used interchangeably, but they do mean different things. As we now know, Terpenes are the naturally occurring hydrogen and carbon compositions within a plant, whereas terpenoids undergo chemical modification, altering oxygen within the compound. This is done through a drying and curing process, and when done right, is overall harmless.

So now that we know what they are, let’s get into what they do. Well, it seems to be more of the question, what can’t they do?! There are over 20,000 terpenes in existence, and over 200 of those are found in cannabis alone! It’s what gives cannabis plants their notoriously distinctive “stank.” Some examples of the terpenes found not only in cannabis, but many other plants, are:  Myrcene, Linalool, Limonene, Terpinolene, Humulene, and Delta 3 Carene. Let’s explore these specific terpenes and discuss what they do for us.

Myrcene – This is most occurring terpene found in cannabis. If you’re wondering why cannabis smells the way it does, you can thank Myrcene and Linolool. Myrcene is the terpene responsible for relaxation, and is usually the culprit for that “couch-lock” experience after smoking.

Linolool – Linolool can be found in lavender, coriander, mint and cinnamon. Need some relaxation? Look no further than this terpene. Aside from maximizing your chill-factor, Linalool also offers relief for seizures, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and nausea.

Limonene – As you can probably guess from the name, this terpene is most commonly found in citrus. It’s known to raise our energy, enhance our mood, and is a well-known anti-depressant.

Terpinolene – This terpene may be one of the least-common of terpenes, but is still important in many ways! It’s woody, smokey, citrusy, floral, herbaceous, piney… wait am I still going? Yes! All of those aromas can be found in terpinolene, thus making one of the more multidimensional terpenes. This aroma acts as a light sedative, is antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and even anti-cancer! Where can you find it? Apples, cumin, nutmeg, lilacs, and my personal favorite – tea tree!

Humulene – Humulene is not only an anti-inflammatory agent, but a hunger-suppressant as well. Break out those old jeans, because Humulene is here help! Ditch the slim-fast and get some humulene in clove, basil, hops, and cannabis sativa.

Delta 3 Carene – Found in cedar, pine, basil, and rosemary (to name a few, of course), this terpene is used for anyone who’s looking to heal a broken bone or that needs help with bone growth. This is especially useful in someone with an injury, fibromyalgia, and arthritis.


These are just a few, and we can already see how much they do for us. There’s an app for that? More like, there’s a terpene for that! They’re the little messengers and healers that keep our biological hard-drive running smoothly. Did you know that in most plants, terpenes occur in less than 2% of its genetic makeup? This gives us an idea of how potent terpenes are, and why they’re slowly becoming a household name.

In the upcoming articles, we’ll discuss terpenes that are specifically found in cannabis and why different strains have different smells and effects. Stay tuned!