What are terpenes? They’re aromatic compounds that give cannabis its scent, and influence its effects. Learn how to make terpenes part of your experience.
Most of us have already heard about cannabinoids, like THC and CBD. When you want to improve your cannabis knowledge, it’s often where you start. But we now understand that there is another important player: terpenes. What are cannabis terpenes? How do you use terpenes? Do terpenes get you high? These are common questions that we’ll answer below.
In the article below, we outline 15 of the most common cannabis terpenes, including tasting notes, effects, common experiences, and popular strains.
Terpenes aren’t new. You’ve had quite a bit of exposure to them in your life. They’re aromatic compounds found in nature. Fragrant oils. Think energizing lemons, refreshing pine trees, and relaxing rosemary. Terpenes give them their distinct aromas.
There are over 20,000 terpenes in existence. The cannabis plant has more than 100 of these terpenes. Many cannabis terpenes are found elsewhere in nature.
If you’ve already talked about cannabinoids, you know they’re chemical compounds that influence the type of effects you experience after smoking or ingesting. THC is known for the cerebral high. CBD is known for its therapeutic properties. Well, terpenes play a role too.
Terpenes aren’t cannabinoids. They’re aromatic compounds. But as nature has taught us over and over, everything is related in one way or another.
Short answer: No. Not on their own. It’s kind of like asking if essential oils can get you high. They can do other things for you, but they’re not going to give you a buzz.
Terpenes can intensify or lessen cannabinoids’ effects. You could have two strains with similar cannabinoid percentages, but still have very different responses. That’s because of something called “The Entourage Effect”.
The “Entourage Effect” is when one chemical compound, used in combination with another, enhances or alters the effects of the second. There are over 140 different cannabinoids and 100 terpenes. Every cannabis strain has a unique combination of these elements.
This is what makes cannabis so complex – and so intriguing. No two strains are the same. After centuries of crossbreeding, every strain is some sort of hybrid, with unique strengths, traits, and characteristics. Kind of like people.
It’s not one part of the plant that creates its effects. Let’s look at CBD. Let’s imagine we have two CBD-dominant cannabis strains. For this example, we’ll say they’re both 15% CBD. If you were just looking at the CBD content, you might think they’d have similar effects. However, after trying them, you found one chilled you out and the other put you to sleep. Why?
Here’s how the Entourage Effect could’ve worked in this hypothetical example. Let’s say the first strain that chilled you out had a higher concentration of ocimene. And, we’ll say the second strain had a higher concentration of myrcene. Ocimene (herbs + earthy terpene) is known for its uplifting effects. Myrcene (earthy + musky terpene) is known for intensifying relaxation and couch lock.
Ocimene could’ve countered the relaxation properties of the CBD, whereas myrcene could’ve intensified the relaxation. With so many terpenes and cannabinoids, the potential combinations are endless. That’s just part of the beauty and intrigue of this plant.
Of course, this is an over-simplified example of what’s actually a very complex, nuanced, and individual process. But we hope it helps you get the picture.
Open your weed stash and take note. What do you smell? Earthiness? Citrus? Mint? The fresher the weed, the stronger the aromas, and the better the overall experience.
We’ve outlined 15 of the most popular cannabis terpenes below. We’ll touch on their aromas, commonly experienced effects, and list some strains for taste testing.
If you want to hone your cannabis palette, exploring terpenes is a good place to start. Just as wine sommeliers keep notes, you can track your weed notes in the Cannabis Taster by Gold Leaf.
If you’ll be exploring many different terpenes, we recommend starting with individual pre-rolls or smaller packages so you can try it, then move onto the next terpene on your list. Choose the strain based on the dominant terpene you’re exploring.
Unlike alcohol, weed isn’t something you should collect if you’re not planning on consuming it within a few months. Good bud deserves to be enjoyed fresh. We recommend buying smaller amounts more frequently than stockpiling.
How can I keep my weed fresher, longer?
Now let’s get into the terpenes:
Myrcene is a terpene also found in mango, lemongrass, thyme, and hops. It’s one of the most common and popular cannabis terpenes.
Myrcene Tasting Notes: Earthy, spicy, and musky
Myrcene Effects: It’s known for its sedative, calming, and relaxing effects. It can help reduce muscle tension, is anti-inflammatory, and soothing. It has been found to increase the effects of THC. It could be partly responsible for the couch lock associated with cannabis.
Popular Myrcene Strains: Grandaddy Purple, Blue Dream, OG Kush
Limonene is a terpene also found in citrus, peppermint, and juniper. It’s energizing.
Limonene Tasting Notes: Citrusy and spicy
Limonene Effects: It’s known to elevate your mood and help deal with stress. It has also been found to help reduce heartburn, reduce gallstones, and gastrointestinal complications. It has been used as an antifungal and antibacterial.
Popular Limonene Strains: Super Lemon Haze, Tangerine Dream Wedding Cake
Pinene is a terpene also found in pine, sage, rosemary and cedar. Pinene is the most common terpene found in nature. It’s bright, fresh, and outdoorsy.
Pinene Tasting Notes: Piney and herbal
Pinene Effects: It’s known to provide alertness and can also be useful for pain relief. Pinene is also believed to help with memory retention. It has been used as an antiseptic. Pinene can also counteract some of THC’s effects.
Popular Pinene Strains: Jack Herer, White Widow, Trainwreck
Linalool is a terpene also found in lavender, sweet birch, and citrus. It can be very relaxing.
Linalool Tasting Notes: Floral and sweet
Linalool Effects: It’s known to be mood enhancing, with calming, relaxing, and sedative effects. Think of lavender – it’s a great aroma before a relaxing bath or bed. It’s also used to help manage pain.
Popular Linalool Strains: Sour Diesel, Banana Split
Caryophyllene is a terpene also found in jalapenos, pepper, and fennel. It’s one of the most common and popular cannabis terpenes.
Caryophyllene Tasting Notes: Peppery and spicy
Caryophyllene Effects: It’s known to provide stress relief. This terpene is also known for helping balance the human body. It can help increase gastro-protectiveness, reduce inflammation, and even manage arthritis.
Popular Caryophyllene Strains: Girl Scout Cookies (GSC), Bubba Kush
Camphene is a terpene also found in holy basil, nutmeg, fir trees, and rosemary. Because of its piney scent, it’s often confused with myrcene.
Camphene Tasting Notes: Earthy and piney
Camphene Effects: Camphene is known for its anti inflammatory, antibiotic, antioxidant, pain relieving and antifungal effects. This makes it a potentially valuable addition to skincare products treating eczema and psoriasis. It’s also known to help reduce stress, and for its cardiovascular benefits.
Popular Camphene Strains: ACDC, OG Kush, Banana Kush
Eucalyptol, also known as cineole, is a terpene also found in eucalyptus, mint, sage, and tea tree. If you’ve ever been to a spa, you’ve probably enjoyed its refreshing, cooling scent. It’s not as common or concentrated in cannabis as other terpenes.
Eucalyptol Tasting Notes: Minty and cool
Eucalyptol Effects: Eucalyptol is known for its anti inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant benefits. It’s also known to help treat asthma. Researchers are also investigating the connection between eucalyptol and potential Alzheimer’s treatments.
Popular Eucalyptol Strains: Super Sundaze, Bubba Kush, Headband, Girl Scout Cookies (GSC)
Geraniol is a terpene that gets its name from geranium flowers. It’s also found in many other plants and fruits like roses, peaches, grapefruit, and lemongrass.
This floral scent is common in cosmetics, candies, and one of the main ingredients in citronella oil. Plan to light one up when you’re camping? Geraniol may even help ward off mosquitoes.
Geraniol Tasting Notes: Rosy, floral, and delicate
Geraniol Effects: Geraniol is a medical powerhouse. It’s anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and an antioxidant. It’s also being researched for certain types of cancer treatments, as well as its neuroprotective properties – meaning it may help protect nerve cells in conditions such as diabetic neuropathy.
Popular Geraniol Strains: Agent Orange, Black Cherry Soda, Amnesia Haze, Skunk
Bisabolol, or levomenol, is a terpene also found in chamomile flowers and the Brazilian candeia tree.
Bisabolol Tasting Notes: Warm, honey-like, and floral
Bisabolol Effects: Bisabolol is known for its therapeutic benefits. Like geraniol, it’s being studied for its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and pain relieving properties. Researchers are also studying it as potential treatment to various ulcers.
Bisabolol Strains: Harle-Tsu, ACDC, Pink Kush
Ocimene is a terpene also found in mint, parsley, bergamot, mangoes and orchids.
Ocimene Tasting Notes: Citrusy, fruity, woodsy, herbal
Ocimene Effects: Ocimene is known to be anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-viral. Ocimene was among oils studied for their inhibitory effect against SARS-CoV, a coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, and the herpes simplex virus. Ocimene is also believed to be what causes some people to cough when smoking weed. In a lot of cases, that coughing is likely caused by inhaling too fast and too deeply.
Ocimene Strains: Strawberry Cough, Sour Diesel, Clementine, Golden Pineapple
Phytol is a terpene produced by the degradation of chlorophyll. It’s naturally produced in green tea.
Phytol Tasting Notes: Grassy, balsamic
Phytol Strains: Cheese, Sour Diesel
Humulene is a terpene also found in hops, ginseng, tobacco, and laurel. It’s partially what gives IPA beers their hoppy appeal.
Humulene is one of the more fundamental terpenes in giving cannabis its distinctive aroma (same with pinene and myrcene), but it’s not usually the most dominant one.
Humulene Tasting Notes: Earthy, woody, tangy and spicy
Humulene Effects: Humulene is known to be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and help treat tumors and some cancers. It’s also anorectic, meaning it suppresses hunger (helpful for the munchies). For these reasons and more, humulene has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries.
Humulene Strains: Gorilla Glue, Green Crack, Girl Scout Cookies, Gelato
Terpineol is a terpene also found in lilacs, pine trees, lime blossoms, and lapsang souchong tea. It’s often found in strains with high levels of dominant pinenes, so it can be harder to detect.
Terpineol Tasting Notes: Piney, floral, minty
Terpineol Effects: Terpineol is known to be relaxing and sedating. Some believe it contributes to couchlock. Terpineol is also studied for its antibiotic, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-malarial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Terpineol Strains: Jack Herer, White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, OG Kush
Terpinolene is a terpene also found in lilacs, nutmeg, and cumin.
Terpinolene Tasting Notes: Fresh and floral
Terpinolene Strains: Purple Haze, Critical Kush, Jack Herer
Valencene gets its name from its most common source, valencia oranges.
Valencene Tasting Notes: Piney, citrusy, sweet, floral
Valencene Effects: Valencine is believed to be uplifting. It’s known to be anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, and help treat certain skin conditions. Like geraniol and ocimene, it may also fend off insects.
Valencine Strains: Tangie, Agent Orange
That’s a lot to take in, so we’ve summarized it in the table below. This table doesn’t include all the medicinal benefits of each terpene listed above. There are just too many potential health benefits to list here. You can use this table for tasting notes and potential experiences. Because everyone’s unique, individual experiences may vary.
With the legalization of weed, we expect the medicinal use of cannabis to expand even more. Topical oils, sublingual oils (under the tongue), capsules, and vaping are popular medicinal consumption methods.
If you’re considering using cannabis to help treat medical conditions, please speak to your doctor. While we’re here to help summarize some of the latest research, it can’t substitute personalized care and expert advice from your doc.
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in nature, including cannabis. Cannabis terpenes give each strain their distinctive aromas, which are best enjoyed fresh.
Terpenes don’t work alone. With the Entourage Effect, over 140 cannabinoids and 100 cannabis terpenes work together in different quantities to give each strain their unique strengths, characteristics, and benefits.
These effects can be recreational, or therapeutic. Cannabis is actively being researched for what seems like endless medicinal uses, from cancer treatment to pain management and more. Cannabis terpenes play a role in its medicinal properties, working together with cannabinoids like CBD, THC, CBN and more.
You can get more familiar with cannabis terpenes by keeping tasting notes in a cannabis journal, like the Cannabis Taster by Gold Leaf. Joints, vape pens, or oils are all great options for getting familiar with terpenes.
You can use a journal to track recreational use, or medicinal use. It’s best to take notes as you use it, during, or soon after the high or treatment so it’s still fresh.
Have more questions about cannabis terpenes?
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