What are Terpenes?

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are present in most plants and responsible for the distinct aromas attributed to members of the vegetable kingdom. Trichomes, the little hair-like appendages on cannabis plants, are loaded with various terpenes. Different strains have different terpene profiles, which explains why each strain gives a unique high.

Terpene profiles vs. THC content

If you shop based on THC content or whether a strain is a sativa, indica, or hybrid, you are ignoring an important, customizable aspect of the plant. Because each strain has a unique makeup, users can hone in on the kind of high they want with more precision by paying attention to terpenes present in a strain.

The fragrance of cannabis will vary greatly depending on the selected strain. The terpene makeup of the plant determines the smell and is responsible for aromas like pine, lemon, earth and more. While specific terpenes have their own qualities, the synergy between different compounds in a strain is what makes them so powerful. The therapeutic effects of cannabis are enhanced when terpenes work together to create a phenomenon called the entourage effect.

The entourage effect

The “entourage effect” was coined to describe the symbiosis that helps push cannabinoids into the bloodstream at a better rate. The whole plant working together increases the therapeutic effects and potency of the high. A study in 2011 showed that the symbiosis between cannabinoids and terpenes could potentially lead to better therapeutic products for conditions like inflammation, anxiety, chronic pain, and more.   

Recognizing terpenes and their therapeutic abilities are key to getting the right high. Depending on the terpenes present in a given strain, the process will vary, thus changing the effects on the body. A focus on terpene profiles has helped many cultivators create new strains for medical purposes, allowing them to cross-breed plants with specifically desired terpenes designed to alleviate specific conditions.

Common terpenes

There are over a hundred known terpenes in cannabis, though a much smaller number makes up the majority you will see in common strains. If you simply buy based on if the weed is labeled indica or sativa, you won’t have a super accurate idea of the effects. Smelling the weed can help determine effects you might experience, as distinct smells in cannabis are caused by terpenes.


Myrcene can smell earthy or fruity. The myrcene content of cannabis determines whether it is indica or sativa, with higher amounts of myrcene attributed to indica strains and producing more soothing effects. A popular myrcene-laden strain is Mango Kush.


This terpene was named after its strong scent of lemons. It’s common in perfumes and fragrances and known for its therapeutic effects on the body. Strains high in limonene tend to be sativas and can ease anxiety and stress. A common strain with high limonene content is Lemon G.


Also found in mint and lavender, and heavily used in perfumes and soaps, Linalool is a terpene that is known to be anti-inflammatory and great for chronic pain. It has sedative effects and is most commonly found in indica strains. A popular linalool-heavy strain is Purple Kush.

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