Home / Cannabis 101  / What are cannabis terpenes and what do they do?

Out from the soil sprouts the cannabis plant; strong, powerful and very green. Inspect it very closely and you’ll see icy hairs speckled all over the leaves, called trichomes. This isn’t just a frosty jacket, but rather, a potent powerhouse of smells and flavors that are secreted from the very same glands that terpenes, or terpenoids,  THC and CBD are produced. 

Whilst these cannabinoids might be responsible for cannabis’ main psychoactive and medicinal effects, terpenes are responsible for giving the cannabis plant its unique smells and flavors. The types of terpenes contained in cannabis will depend on genetic factors, as well as the environment in which it was cultivated. 

Scientists have identified more than 100 different cannabis terpenes thus far, many of which may trigger therapeutic biological activity. 

What is terpene bioactivity? 

Everyone has got a secret weapon inside their body that reacts with cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids. It is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Scientific research has exposed the source of cannabis’ biological activity as the ECS. Amazingly, terpenes can communicate with the ECS to produce widespread health benefits. 

One study investigated the magnitude of biological terpene activity in the treatment of various conditions. [1] The outcome displayed how a wide variation of cannabis terpenes, like Caryophyllene and humulene, possessed therapeutic potential as a treatment for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and cancer. 

By understanding terpene bioactivity, you can make an informed decision when buying cannabis for your medical and/or recreational needs. 

What terpenes are found in the cannabis plant?  

Cannabis is a pretty incredible plant and something that it shares in common with other species of the plant world is its terpenoid-producing powers. The following terpenes are not unique to the cannabis plant, but they are commonly discovered in this five-leafed miracle of Mother Nature:

  • Pinene – Expect to feel awake and alert when you try this naturally abundant terpene, which smells like pine trees and is a promising anti-allergic agent. [2]
  • Myrcene – This is the most-studied cannabis terpene. It is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-depressant, anti-carcinogen and antiseptic with sedative effects. 
  • Limonene – Lemon and orange peels are known to contain this citrus-smelling terpene, which may aid with weight management and inflammation.
  • Linalool – A sweet-smelling terpene with a citrus-like scent, linalool has an earthy undertone. It is a natural anti-inflammatory. [3]
  • Beta-Caryophyllene – Studies have shown how this cannabis terpene may relieve feelings of depression and anxiety in mice. [4]
  • Humulene – Scientists regard humulene as a cancer-killing terpene, due to its anticancer activity. [5] The American Journal of Medicine associates this hoppy-flavored cannabis terpene with improved metabolic health.
  • Ocimene – Tropical, floral and sometimes citrusy, this monoterpene is anti-viral, as well as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Terpinolene – An integral component of rosemary and sage, terpinolene is an antibacterial terpene with a woody flavor and scent.

Which terpenes relieve stress and enhance mood? 

A lot of cannabis terpenes are used to create essential oils, perfumes and health/wellness products. Why? Because they possess therapeutic mood-enhancing abilities that could relieve you of stress. You won’t be limited to putting a few drops of terpene-rich solution onto your pillow at nights, however. 

Cannabis terpenes can also be ingested or inhaled. According to one study, the therapeutic effects of these aromatic molecules could contribute immensely “to the entourage effects of cannabis-based medicinal extracts.” [6]

Examples of some cannabis terpenes that may relieve depression include 

beta caryophyllene (β-caryophyllene) and limonene. Anxiety can be equally as debilitating as depression. Ease those symptoms with linalool and myrcene (β-myrcene). Since mangoes are high in myrcene content, you might want to sink your teeth into its tropical-tasting flesh before you vape terpenoid-rich cannabis extracts. (Psssst… this will also amplify your high, because myrcene reacts with THC receptors inside the ECS!)

Identifying Terpenes in Famous Cannabis Strains 

A lip-smacking smoking or vaping session awaits you, so head on over to the FLI website to peruse FLI cartridges filled with the most pungent oils. You’ll get a healthy dose of limonene with Strawberry Lemonade. Alternatively, try Pineapple Express or Gorilla Glue, both of which contain a unique blend of myrcene, limonene, pinene and caryophyllene. Other odor-filled vape carts you can choose from include Orange Creamsicle, Blue Dream, and Granddaddy Purple.