Cannabis Terpenes: A Complete Guide

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Cannabis Terpenes
December 15, 2021
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Cannabis terpenes are yet another cannabis compound worth your time and attention. Will our favorite green plant ever stop giving?

These chemicals define the distinctive aromatic bouquet of each weed strain. Once they go through your nose and palate and enter your system, they affect how you respond to the cannabinoids you just ingested.

Weed terpenes are the base of every cannabis flavor and effect profile you’ve ever experienced. You don’t need to understand them, but once you do, you’ll feel your appreciation for the wonderous marijuana crop skyrocket.

Join us as we explore the most common cannabis terpenes you’ll encounter. We’ll discuss how they occur, how they influence your bud and body, and what benefits you can reap with the right terp cocktail in your corner.

Smelling cannabis buds
Smelling cannabis buds

What are terpenes in weed?

Terpenes aren’t reserved for cannabis only. Many members of vegetative life on Earth contain them, from lemons to tomatoes and black pepper. There’s something about the chemical composition of cannabis that makes these compounds truly shine in weed, though. 

Let’s start exploring the world of cannabis terpenes with the very basics.

A healthy marijuana plant in flowering is a uniquely ‘sticky’ thing. When you look closely at its sugar leaves and colas, you’ll notice translucent resin glands on each bud site. We call these knobs trichomes and silently thank them every time we lay eyes on a shimmering cola.

A single crop contains various trichome types, each responsible for a different function within the vegetative structure. Capitate-stalked trichomes are where the magic happens, as they produce cannabinoids, oils, and marijuana terpenes.

The cannabis terpene is an organic compound that emits a strong and distinctive scent. While the plant develops, these chemicals attract pollinators and fend off predators. Researchers identified over 100 different terps so far, with many more awaiting discovery.

These compounds differentiate one weed strain from the next, as a fingerprint does for humans. The terpene profile of a marijuana crop determines its flavors and affects how its cannabinoids affect our systems.

What do terpenes do?

Okay, you say. I understand the basic terminology now, but what do terpenes do? Why should I care about exploring them?

Once you cure the buds, protective cannabis terpenes stick around, producing all those scents we commonly correlate with cannabis. At the same time, they define the effect profile we experience and deliver various health benefits to the body.

Let’s examine these functions in a bit more depth.

Aromatic properties

The first role of these molecules has to do with aroma. The blend of various types of terpenes in a cultivar defines its distinct aromatic bouquet, bringing scents of wood, pine, diesel, skunk, spice, coffee… you know the drill.

Here, we can differentiate between major and minor cannabis terpenes. Some commonly occurring ones, such as myrcene, produce more traditional weed scents. Others are present in smaller amounts and modulate these base flavors to create a unique explosion on your palate.

Entourage effects

The entourage effect of marijuana terpenes is yet another way these cannabis compounds make each strain unique. In simple terms, it’s a mechanism through which cannabinoids and terpenes act synergistically in the body.

These chemicals produce the sliding scale of effects between indica and sativa. Some promote relaxation, and others boost focus and creativity. For this reason, breeders are increasingly using the terpene profile (not indica/sativa percentages) to predict the high of a new strain.

Note: Terpenes in weed aren’t intoxicating on their own. It’s their interaction with THC, the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis, that produces the high.

Medical benefits

This entourage effect we discussed above plays into the medical benefits of cannabis terpenes. Combined with CBD and THC, terps produce the following benefits:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Antidepressant
  • Anxiolytic
  • Analgesic
  • Antibiotic

Whichever bud you smoke, some health benefits follow the physical and mental high you experience. What if we could manipulate these chemicals to harness the healing power of pot, though?

Nowadays, a mounting body of research is looking into how cannabis terpenes could heal numerous health conditions. The right terpene cocktail could be the way forward for various therapeutic strains of ganja.

Where are weed terpenes found in cannabis?

Do you remember those capitate-stalked trichomes we mentioned earlier? These cannabis glands are where you’ll find terpenes, cannabinoids, and other oils essential for the cannabis plant. 

Trichomes develop when your crop enters flowering. They primarily occur on flower heads and sugar leaves of unfertilized female plants, where buds form after many weeks of ripening.

Take a look at your flowering plant, and you’ll notice these spots of oil production pretty early into flowering. Capitate-stalked trichs consist of a waxy head and a stalk, shimmering translucent and growing whiter as the cola develops.

Cannabis trichomes
Cannabis trichomes

Terpene chart: Main marijuana terpenes and their effects

We couldn’t discuss the entire list of terpenes in one guide and keep it readable and understandable! Still, learning about the common ones takes you pretty far on your quest of understanding the terpene profiles found in weed strains.

Before diving into the deets, let’s provide the basics. Use this terpene chart as a reference while exploring a new cultivar on your to-smoke list.

Cannabis terpeneAromaEffects
MyrceneEarthy, musky, herbalRelaxing, sedating
LimoneneFresh, lemonElevating, stress-busting
CaryophylleneWoody, spice, pepperStress-relieving
TerpinolenePine, floral, herbalUplifting, pain-relieving
PinenePineAlertness, focus
HumuleneWoody, earthy, herbalAnti-inflammatory
LinaloolFloralEuphoric, calming
OcimeneMint, mango, parsleyAnti-viral, antibacterial

If you’d like to learn more about these chemicals, we’ve got you covered. Let’s discuss terpenes and their effects in more depth.

Myrcene

Myrcene is the most common cannabis terpene and the one responsible for the calming effects of weed. It’s present in great amounts in Kush strains and adjacent indica families, as well as other therapeutic and aromatic herbs such as black pepper and thyme.

The recognizable herbal and musky scent of myrcene is what most people imagine when they think about weed.

Myrcene
Myrcene

Myrcene effects

When discussing terpenes and their effects, many people equate myrcene with indica cannabis due to its calming, sedating qualities. It erases worries from the mind and induces that dreamy, carefree state of a couch-locking high.

Looking at medical benefits, myrcene shows great potential for soothing insomnia and anxiety. It also alleviates physical pain and inflammation and presents antioxidant properties to protect the organs and slow down aging.

Limonene

The Limonene is the marijuana terpene most often found in sativa cannabis and hybrids with strong energizing properties. As its name suggests, it’s also present in lemon and other citrus fruits, as well as rosemary and peppermint. 

Stoners sometimes report hints of menthol in limonene’s refreshing citrus aroma. This pot perfume invigorates, making it a favorite among daytime tokers.

Limonene
Limonene

Limonene effects

It is the terpene from weed for combating stress and anxiety. Its uplifting qualities bring general happiness to your headspace, standing as a great way to fight the blues and episodes of chronic depression.

The benefits don’t end with mental health. Limonene soothes pain and inflammation in the body. Lab research shows it might also inhibit cancer cell growth and kill existing tumor cells.

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is a unique cannabis terpene with a double purpose. Apart from affecting the aroma and effect profiles, it acts as a cannabinoid capable of binding to our endocannabinoid receptors.

Its other role is much more straightforward. This terpene emanates those spicy scents usually found in strong indica cannabis. Much like cinnamon and black peppers, its presence leaves a pepper aftertaste on the tongue.

Caryophyllene
Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene effects

It is a terpene and cannabinoid from weed, and the latter produces its health benefits. This compound is stress-relieving, bringing careless relaxation to your mind space.

This cannabis terpene binds directly to the receptors in your endocannabinoid system. Doing so, it provides antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

Terpinolene

This musky cannabis compound brings that familiar wood-and-flowers terpene profile to aromatic strains across the weed spectrum. We don’t associate terpinolene with a particular cannabis family, but we mostly find it in potent buds.

Around one in ten weed strains is terpinolene-dominant. Those pot cultivars deliver uplifting effects that leave a smile plastered on your face.

Terpinolene effects

Uplifting mental properties make terpinolene one of the best terpenes for treating depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Combined with a sedating physical influence, this compound induces laziness, promoting mental health and bouts of ‘me time.’

Much like limonene, this compound shows some possibility for killing cancer cells and inhibiting their development. It also shows a great propensity towards eliminating viruses, bacterial cells, and free radicals that cause oxidative damage.

Pinene

Pinene isn’t the most common cannabis terpene, but it’s the most frequent aromatic compound in the natural world. 

Also found in herbs such as rosemary and basil, its pine fragrance stimulates the senses and promotes alertness. It could also counteract some effects of THC, making the high more balanced with potent strains.

Pinene
Pinene

Pinene effects

Smoke a blunt rich in the pinene terpene from weed, and you’ll find yourself awake, alert, and present. This compound could also aid memory retention, making it your ally for daytime use.

This chemical banishes anxiety and promotes a happy state of mind. It soothes pain and inflammation in the body. Some studies suggest that it could be useful against asthma.

Humulene

Also found in basil, sage, and cloves, humulene is a minor cannabis terpene without a great influence on your high. It adds an earthy, woody charm and a bitter tang to fruity strains.

Humulene effects

Although it doesn’t strongly influence the brain, you’ll want to see humulene in the terpene profile of the weed you’re smoking. Its main benefit stems from its anti-inflammatory properties, relieving symptoms of various health conditions.

Linalool

Mostly found in lavender, linalool is a gentle, floral cannabis terpene. Its soothing perfume cooperates with stronger flavors of weed, adding a sweet and mellow aftertaste to the smoking experience.

Linalool
Linalool

Linalool effects

The linalool terpene effects bring calm to the brain and body. It’s gently uplifting and physically sedating, quintessential for indica strains that leave you in a state of blissful drowsiness.

These calming properties make linalool effective for treating anxiety and insomnia. It’s also powerful against pain and inflammation, and it might bring neuroprotective properties to prevent brain cell degradation.

Ocimene

Ocimene is the final addition to our list of terpenes and effects. This one is sweet and fruity, adding that familiar punch to tropical sativa strains we all know and love. Its mint and mango flavors leave a saccharine aftertaste.

Ocimene
Ocimene

Ocimene effects

We often associate this cannabis terpene with the uplifting mental properties of sativa.

This one is antiseptic and decongestant, relieving mild symptoms of the common cold and flu. Its antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties strengthen your system against those issues in the first place.

How to increase terpene production in cannabis?

Cannabis terpenes are present in all weed plants, but the way you grow, harvest, and cure your crop all define the final product. Follow these rules to increase production:

  • Grow indoors to control all conditions
  • Cultivate in traditional soil
  • Try not to overfeed
  • Flush the soil before harvest
  • Harvest at the right time
  • Watch for moisture as you cure

These standard gardening practices strengthen marijuana terpene production and expression. Paying special attention to them makes each bud more aromatic. While terpenes don’t increase potency, boosting their levels makes the high much clearer and more distinct.

The final point—harvest at the right time—is especially valuable for this purpose. Collecting the buds too early cuts off trichomes, while late yields see a breakdown of chemical potency. Look for ripe trichomes that stand distinct on the bud surface to ensure a rich terpene profile.

How to extract terpenes from cannabis?

Now that you have your cannabis plant dripping in all the best terpenes, you can light it up and enjoy yourself. Manufacturers have a different idea, using these compounds for medical and aromatic purposes.

If you’d like to extract your own cannabis terpenes, steam distilling is an easy way to do it at home. You’d use vapor pressure on your buds to separate them from other parts of the plant.

Note: Water temperatures over 300°F could cause terpene degradation,

This distillation process leaves you with a soluble liquid of water and weed terpenes. Once the steam cools, the two compounds separate. Oily aromatic chemicals stand on top, making it easy to extract them for your intended purpose.

Weed trichomes
Weed trichomes

Cannabis terpenes: FAQs

Let’s finish by answering some common questions about terpenes and their effects we hear in the community.

How do you calculate terpene percentage?

Even if you know the approximates of cannabis terpenes in the strain you’re cultivating, the final figure depends on many external factors. If you’d like to know the exact percentage of these tasty compounds in your bud, go to a certified lab for a terpene content test.

What strain has the highest terpene levels?

Sicky strains have higher amounts of terpenes, cannabinoids, and all the other good stuff. If you’re looking for a powerful strain with plenty of terps to go around, try Bruce Banner, whose limonene contents are off the charts.

How many types of terpenes are there?

So far, scientists have identified around 20 thousand terpenes across various plant species. When it comes to terps from weed, we know a little over 100 at the moment

The scientific community still disagrees about the total number they expect to find with further research, with suggestions ranging from 140 to 200.

What terpenes cause euphoria?

If you’re looking for the best terpene to send your head to the clouds, you can’t go wrong with limonene. This compound relieves stress and improves your mood.

Terpinolene is another compound perfect for this purpose. It creates more of a blissful, dreamy state of euphoria to help you unwind.

How do terpenes affect the high?

When consumed in isolation, cannabis terpenes aren’t psychoactive. Otherwise, we’d get high from aromatic herbs and lemon! 

Instead, terps in weed act in combination with cannabinoids, influencing how you perceive the effects of these compounds.

Weed smell
Weed smell

Weed terpenes: Defining effects & aromas

For many of us, the coveted aromatic bouquet just happens, but sometimes, a little mindfulness goes a long way. Evolution and modern breeding combine to create the marvels of cannabis we know and love. It’s important to acknowledge that.

We hope that this rundown of terpenes and their effects did that for you.

There’s a lot that we’re yet to learn about these compounds. Endless sweet-smelling combinations and medical benefits are waiting down the line. Still, our knowledge keeps deepening with each passing day, and we’re excited to see what’s to come.

If all this talk about effects and perfumes got your mouth watering, hop to our shop and order weed seeds. Pick the most fragrant strain you can find and try to detect every little cannabis terpene in its chemical composition.

Stay tuned to our blog for more handy guides such as this overview of terpenes in weed. We provide educational guides on all things cannabis, ensuring our community stays happy and healthy while indulging.