Cannabis Terpenes Guide: The Right High, Right on Time

Cannabis Terpenes Guide: The Right High, Right on Time

Terpenes. By now you’ve heard of them, but do you really know what they are, or more importantly, what they do? Terpenes are the naturally occurring aromas and scents found in all kinds of herbs, plants, and fruits. Why is it important to know what they do? From orange peels to fresh pine, these powerful scents of terpenes have a significant influence on our senses and can affect how we feel. Just learning which terpenes aid in helping you feel better can be extremely useful throughout life.

There are over 150 different cannabis terpenes, all of which help contribute to finding the right cannabis for you. Let’s explore the difference between cannabinoid and cannabis terpenes, and the role they each play in how weed affects us.  

What are Cannabis Terpenes?

Whether you want to relax, spark your creativity, energize in the morning or just get silly, there’s a lot more to picking the right cannabis strain than just indica vs. sativa. As it turns out, the effects of any given strain might actually be less about the type of plant, and more about what’s in it – the terpenes! 

You’ve probably heard of terpenes and know what they are – aromatics produced naturally by pretty much all plants in the world. Terpenes are found in plants, herbs, flowers, and spices, and are easily recognizable scents and flavors in the plant kingdom. But it’d be wrong to think of terpenes just as a flavoring. In fact, your favorite cannabis strain probably has hundreds of terpenes, a few of which dominate the rest to produce smells, flavors, and even effects that are highly specific to that strain. 

Cannabinoids vs. Terpenes

If cannabinoids produce effects, then terpenes create feelings. Cannabinoids offer these specific results based on their molecular structure and interaction with our endocannabinoid system, and terpenes are the artistic expression. For example, THC is known to help with pain relief. Myrcene, a popular terpene, is responsible for deep feelings of relaxation. Together, they simultaneously relieve pain and put you into a state of deep rest. They are different, yet complimentary.

The Role of Terpenes

Terpenes do not bind to the CB1 receptors found throughout the ECS (primarily in the brain). They don’t produce the same psychoactive effects as cannabinoids, but rather, shift our neurotransmitters to influence the way we feel. Together, cannabis terpenes and cannabinoids produce the entourage effect. Sometimes called the ensemble effect to help paint the picture of a symphonic orchestra. Each instrument has its own sound, but when played together, it’s nothing short of perfect harmony. That’s how terpenes and cannabinoids work together. 

This is why so many people love live resin. It is made with the freshest plants possible to preserve as much of the natural terpene and cannabinoid content as possible. This helps ensure a complete effect as intended by the natural strain itself. 

Primary Effects of Terpenes

Some cannabis terpenes are highly successful in relieving stress and aiding relaxation, while others help promote focus and productivity. The terpene Myrcene, for instance, has a sedating effect and is known to induce sleep, whereas Limonene elevates mood and boosts attitude. As you can see, the effects they produce vary from terp to terp, which explains why you might choose to smoke an indica before bed and sativa during the day. To sum it up, they’re the most important part of cannabis.

The dominant terpenes

There are over 150 known terpenes in cannabis. Some are present in such small quantities that we don’t see them turn up on a lab result. Here are the most common and prevalent terpenes you’ll find in the weed we see today. Each offers a distinct flavor and a myriad of enticing effects and feelings.

Myrcene

Myrcene is the most common terpene in weeds, and is also found in hops, thyme, mango, and lemongrass, among other fruits and herbs. Myrcene is thought to bring on calming effects and may relax the body. It has a long history of use in folk medicines like lemongrass tea, which can help regulate sleep, relieve pain, and reduce anxiety.

When to look for Myrcene

You’ll primarily find Myrcene-dominant strains recommended for relaxation and stress relief, but the effects to which Myrcene contributes aren’t limited to “couch lock” and heavy sleep. In fact, we find that Myrcene can bring on a peaceful attitude that’s great for small dinner parties or casual hikes.

For chilling

  • Tropical Alien 
  • Grandaddy Purple 
  • Skywalker
  • Sour Strawberry 
  • Sugar Tart 

For adventuring

  • Orange Sunset
  • Pluto 
  • Maui Wowie 
  • Blueberry Cheesecake

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is the spice in your life! This terpene is found in black pepper, basil, oregano, and other common herbs and spices. It’s a little different from other terpenes in that it can bind with cannabinoid receptors (CB2, specifically) in our bodies, which means it can deliver direct effects of its own, like reducing inflammation. 

When to look for Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is excellent for relaxing the body and reducing stress. It often produces euphoric and uplifting effects that might make it easier to get the day going after a hard workout, or can be the perfect accompaniment to activities that require creativity and flow, like painting, surfing, skateboarding, or playing music. 

For creative pursuits

  • Guava 
  • Champagne Kush 
  • Jack Herer
  • Girl Scout Cookies

For sore muscles

  • King Louis XIII 
  • Skywalker
  • Lava Cake 

Terpinolene

The herbal and fresh floral scent of many cannabis strains comes from Terpinolene, which also pops up in apples, lilacs, tea tree and even in many soaps or fragrances. Terpinolene is often described as the least common terpene, but maybe that’s better said as the least-common dominant terpene. While rare, there are some strains that feature Terpinolene front-and-center. If you happen to love a strain that’s Terpinolene-dominant, be sure to look out for it the next time you hit the dispensary or buy weed online.

When to look for Terpinolene

Medicinal cannabis users may already know of Terpinolene – this terpene is well-known in the scientific community as an antioxidant, and several studies suggest Terpinolene may help inhibit growth in cancer cells. Recreational cannabis users will also enjoy uplifting, euphoric effects in Terpinolene-dominant strains, making it great for happy, silly highs or creative inspiration. Grab the Terpinolene-dominant cartridge when you’re playing board games with friends, to dive deeper into a good book, or to write one of your own.

For laughs with loved ones

  • Chem Berry Dream
  • Clementine
  • Maui Wowie 

For imaginative escapes

  • Alien Stomper 
  • Cherry Jack 
  • Pineapple Express 
  • Jack Herer

Limonene

You probably know this one. Limonene brings the citrusy smell and flavor of lemons and other citrus fruits to your favorite strains. Sure enough, you’ll find limonene in the rinds of citrus fruits and in bright-smelling herbs like juniper and peppermint. While the smell of citrus might be recognizable, it should be noted that it’s not a surefire sign that a strain is Limonene-dominant. If you’re specifically looking for Limonene, check the label or ask your budtender. 

When to look for Limonene

Primarily, Limonene is known to promote euphoric feelings, making it an excellent terpene to seek out when you’re stressed or anxious. The indica vs. sativa question may (finally) come into play with Limonene-dominant strains, depending on whether you want an energetic or relaxing high. Need help sleeping and love citrusy strains? Go for a Limonene-dominant indica. Want to float through a local park, maybe do some birdwatching? Grab the sativa with Limonene at the top of the terpene list.

Both sides of the Limonene coin are about relaxation; Limonene is also believed to promote the absorption of other terpenes, so pay attention to the mix of terps in the strain you go with depending on what relaxes you – whether that’s a nap or nature.

For a nature walk

  • Lemon Mojito 
  • Super Lemon Haze 
  • Champagne Kush
  • Girl Scout Cookies

For a brain nap

  • Tahoe Fire 
  • Fatso 
  • Ice Cream Cake 
  • King Louis XIII

Humulene

Humulene is the unmistakable scent of hops. If you’ve ever drank a fresh hops IPA, you know what we’re talking about. Humulene is also found in sage, coriander, black pepper, clove, basil, and balsam fir. It pairs delightfully with other terpenes and ranges from herbal and spicy to woody and earthy. 

When to Look For Humulene

If you love getting high, but hate getting the munchies, Humulene-rich strains are an excellent choice. With a natural ability to suppress the appetite, Humulene can help you say no to opening that box of cookies late at night. Humulene is also a potent antibacterial and may help fight off infections. 

For avoiding the munchies

  • Maui Wowie
  • Sour Diesel
  • Stardawg 
  • Ghost Rider OG

For fighting bacteria

  • Girl Scout Cookies
  • Death Star
  • Candyland
  • Headband

Linalool

Linalool is a pretty recognizable scent. It’s responsible for the smell of lavender and its found in soaps, detergents, lotions, candles, and other cosmetics and cleaning supplies. We love to spray it on our linens or diffuse it for a calming, relaxing effect. Linalool is highly medicinal and has a floral, spicy, and woody aroma. It’s one of the oldest sleep remedies in the world for its gentle sedating effects. It is in lavender, coriander, birch, rosewood, and laurel. 

When to Look For Linalool

Linalool is a great relaxer. It will lull you into a relaxed state of slumber where all of your worries melt away. It’s soothing, calming, and offers relief from anxiety and depression. Look for strains high in Linalool when you want to set aside thoughts of the day and let the stress decompress while your mind and body drift into a place of peace and quiet. 

For a great night’s sleep

  • Grandaddy Purple
  • Lavender
  • Do Si Dos 
  • Kosher Kush

For mental health

  • Rainbow Belts
  • Amnesia Haze
  • LA Confidential
  • Xena

Ocimene

Ocimene is ‘anti’ all the bad things – inflammation, viruses, and fungus. It’s not quite herbal and is described as more of a woody cannabis terpene. Sometimes it offers a hint of fruit or citrus. Ocimene is found in basil, parsley, mint, kumquats, mango, hops, bergamot, and orchids. It’s found in plenty of household items for its fresh and pleasing aroma. It also acts as a natural insecticide.

When to Look For Ocimene

Ocimene is the less common underdog of cannabis terpenes. It’s sweet and woody and offers tons of medicinal and therapeutic properties. For example, Ocimene is an expectorant and decongestant, meaning it can lead to coughing. However, this is beneficial in some scenarios when you need to loosen up and expel mucus in the lungs. Ocimene has also been studied for its ability to fight viruses, including SARS-CoV and herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). While perhaps not the sexiest terpene, Ocimene is worthy of more research.

For cleansing the lungs

  • White Fire OG
  • Super Lemon Haze
  • Strawberry Cough
  • Space Queen

For fighting viral infection

  • Jack Herer
  • Sour Diesel
  • Clementine
  • Green Crack

Pinene

Pinene is the most commonly found terpene among all plants. You know this scent as the fresh, astringent smell of walking through a pine forest or sniffing a handful of fresh rosemary. There are two types of pinene – alpha and beta. While alpha is responsible for the aforementioned plants, beta lends its scent to dill, parsley, basil, and hops. 

When to Look For Pinene

Pinene is a powerful anti-inflammatory that also offers pain relief. This makes it a perfect end-of-day terpene if you’ve been on a long, arduous hike or if you ran a marathon. Pinene is also unique in that it can actually counteract some of the adverse effects of THC, and in particular, the chances of experiencing episodes of paranoia. Not the least, Pinene is found to possibly counteract yet another of the possible negative effects associated with THC, namely short-term memory impairment.

For recovery

  • Blue Dream
  • Pineapple Express 
  • OG Kush
  • Grape Ape

For reducing anxiety

  • Cannatonic
  • Harlequin
  • Remedy
  • Kosher Tangie

Monoterpenes & Flavonoids

In addition to terpenes, the understudied monoterpenes and flavonoids work alongside terpenes to enhance the sensory experience of cannabis.

What Are Monoterpenes?

Monoterpenes are one of the three subtypes of terpenes. A terpene contains five isoprene units, and a monoterpene contains only two isoprene units. This doesn’t mean that monoterpenes are less effective, simply that they are different in molecular structure and are associated with a specific group of terpenes. When it comes to cannabis, monoterpenes play a big role in the overall terpene profile.

Common Monoterpenes

Let’s examine some common cannabis terpenes, their effects, and the strains where you might find them. 

  • Alpha-pinene & Beta-pinene: These cannabis terpenes smell astringent like pine trees. Aside from cannabis, plants with rich pinene content include basil, rosemary, conifer trees, eucalyptus, dill, parsley, and cedar pine. Known for their anti-inflammatory effects, pinene terpenes are excellent for people who enjoy smoking or vaping because they just so happen to act as a bronchodilator, improving respiratory function. Strains with the terpene pinene include Blue Dream, Jack Herer, Strawberry Cough, Dutch Treat, Trainwreck, God Bud, LA Confidential, Romulan, and Island Sweet Skunk.
  • Myrcene: This is the most abundant and commonly found cannabis terpene. Some strains contain up to 65% myrcene in their terpene profile. Its aroma is musky, earthy, and fruity. Mangoes are rich in myrcene and studies confirm that eating a mango 45 minutes before smoking, vaping, or ingesting cannabis will enhance the overall effects. Myrcene is helpful with reducing inflammation and mitigating chronic pain, as well as acting as a sedative. Strains with abundant levels of myrcene include Granddaddy Purple, Skywalker, Pineapple Express, Girl Scout Cookies, White Widow, Special Kush, Grape Ape, 9 Pound Hammer, and AK-47.
  • Delta 3 Carene: This terpene has a sweet, woody, cypress-y aroma and is found in plants like cedar, pine, bell peppers, rosemary, and basil. It is said to help with healing broken bones and is medicinally beneficial for patients with arthritis and osteoporosis. It also helps stimulate memory, improving cognitive function and memory retention. This is super promising for Alzheimer’s patients and continued research. Strains containing carene include Lemon Shining Silver Haze, Super Lemon Haze, Super Silver Haze, Skunk XL, Arjan’s Ultra Haze #2, Jack Herer, OG Kush, and Jack Herer
  • Limonene: This terpene is energizing, bright, and citrusy. It’s most richly found in lemon, lime, orange, mandarin, and grapefruit. Limonene is known to boost mood and decrease stress. It is also used for its antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties. Limonene is a known antioxidant and current research is exploring its proposed benefits for treating cancer patients. It is the second most abundant cannabis terpene and is richly found in Sour Diesel, OG Kush, Super Lemon Haze, Durban Poison, Liberty Haze, Dirty Girl, Berry White, Jack the Ripper, and Emerald Jack.
  • Ocimene: Herbaceous and sweet, ocimene is found in many fruits and plants. Hops, kumquat, lavender, bergamot, pepper, and tarragon all contain this woody terpene. Therapeutically, ocimene is used to treat viral and fungal infections such as candidiasis and athlete’s foot. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Strains known to contain ocimene include Golden Goat, Strawberry Cough, Harle-Tsu, OG Kush, Sour Diesel, and Space Queen

What Are Flavonoids?

Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that – like terpenes – are found naturally in thousands of plants, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Flavonoids affect the coloring of cannabis, providing a variety in physical appearance. They also contribute to the flavor of cannabis, working with terpenes to enhance the sensory experience. 

Examples of flavonoids include quercetin, a known antioxidant found in many fruits and vegetables. Silymarin, orientin, and cannaflavins A, B, and C are also highly medicinal with anti-inflammatory properties. Studies are currently looking at the anti-cancer properties of certain flavonoids as well. In addition to therapeutic properties, flavonoids are phytonutrients that give cannabis its character, working alongside terpenes and cannabinoids to provide what is known as “the entourage effect.”

Flavonoids and The Entourage Effect

The entourage effect is the result of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids working synergistically together to create the most beneficial and well-rounded effect from the cannabis plant. By combining all of the natural elements of the plants, the body can assimilate and process them as they naturally occur, thereby giving you the most comprehensive physical and mental effects. All of the botanical properties of cannabis elevate each other, meaning they work better together. 

Terpene FAQ

Do Terpenes Get You High?

Terpenes are non-intoxicating and will not get you high. However, they do work synergistically alongside cannabinoids to amplify the overall effects of the cannabis. Essentially, terpenes add depth to cannabis.

What Are the Benefits of Terpenes?

Terpenes work to enhance the benefits of cannabinoids. In addition, they each have their own unique properties that affect our mental, physical, and emotional state. For example, limonene is known to relieve stress and is also a powerful antiviral agent. 

Can You Put Terpenes in a Vape?

Yes, terpenes can be put into a vape pen. However, they need to be mixed into a base cannabis oil, such as a THC or CBD oil. Terpenes are strong volatile substances, and only a very small percentage is needed to obtain effects and amplify the cannabinoids. Terpenes should never be vaped on their own.

Are Terpenes Safe to Ingest?

It is not safe to consume concentrated terpenes. Any product containing terpenes should be diluted to an appropriate level based on the product itself. For example, a tincture would require a different dilution than a bodycare product. 

How Do Terpenes Make You Feel?

Each terpene may provide different results. Myrcene is more prone to inducing drowsiness, while linalool relieves stress. Humulene is known to boost energy levels. The effects of the terpenes will vary depending on their unique properties, and will also be affected by the combination of cannabinoids. 

What Terpenes Make You Laugh?

Ocimene, myrcene, β-caryophyllene, limonene, and pinene leave many users feeling happy, uplifted, and giggly. 

What Strain Has the Highest Terpenes?

The percentage of terpenes will largely depend on several factors that affect the growing cycle. Multiple farms may cultivate the same strain and have very different test results on the final product. However, there are several strains that tend to be higher in overall terpene content including: Marionberry, Bruce Banner, Fire Alien Strawberry, Animal Cookies, OG Kush, and Blue Dream. 

What Terpene Smells Like Skunk?

Myrcene is the terpene that is most commonly associated with the skunky smell of weed. Strains high in myrcene include OG Kush, ACDC, Harle-Tsu, 9 Pound Hammer, Purple Urkle, Grape Ape, and Tangie.