Cannabis bud and leaf with hops, pepper, lemons and fir needles

What’s the Big Deal About Terpenes?

When the topic of cannabis comes up, most people talk about cannabinoids like THC and CBD. While cannabinoids are certainly a critical component of cannabis, there are many other chemicals and compounds that not only contribute to the entourage effect, but have beneficial properties of their own. One group of compounds is called terpenes. Terpenes are responsible for the smell and taste we associate with the cannabis plant and flower; they are also present in other plants, fruits, and vegetables. So, what’s the big deal about terpenes, anyhow? What else can they do?

What are terpenes?

Aside from affecting the aroma and flavor of foods and plants, terpenes act together with cannabinoids on the human endocannabinoid system to help achieve and maintain balance in the body. The entourage effect works on both mental and physical health. While research is still in its early stages due to the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, scientists, as well as patients and recreational users, have discovered the benefits of terpenes by observing how different strains affect those with various health conditions. Though there are over 100 recognized terpenes in cannabis, several have specific benefits whether in conjunction with cannabinoids or by themselves.

Mango fruit and mango cubes.

Myrcene

Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in the cannabis plant. It’s also found in mangoes, hops (used to make beer), lemongrass, and thyme. This top-10 terpene can contribute up to 50% of the total terpene composition of some strains of cannabis – most indica strains contain upwards of 0.5% myrcene by content. It smells musky or earthy, with hints of spice, herbs, grape, and citrus. Try these myrcene-rich strains – Special Kush 1, Skunk XL, White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies, Skywalker OG, Mandarin Dreams, Banana Kush, Lime OG, Blue Dream, and Sour Diesel.

Beneficial properties include the following:

  • Sedation
  • Relaxation (think couch-lock)
  • Chronic pain relief
  • Decreases inflammation
  • May have toxic effects on certain kinds of cancer cells
half a grapefruit, orange wedge, lemon, and lime on white background

Limonene

Limonene, the second most abundant terpene, is present in many strains of cannabis, though not all of them. It is abundant in lemons and other citrus fruits, and is also found in rosemary, peppermint, and juniper. It has a distinct citrusy smell and is used in cleaning products and cosmetics. While most strains high in limonene are classified as sativas, there are also indicas and hybrid strains with a significant amount of this popular terpene, including Cookies and Cream, Lemon G, Emerald Jack, GG4, Mazar x Blueberry OG, Hindu Kush, Dirty Girl, and Liberty Haze.

Beneficial properties include the following:

  • Elevates mood
  • Decreases anxiety and stress
  • Alleviates the symptoms of depression
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Can limit the growth of tumor cells
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Relieves chronic pain
whole black peppercorns on white background

Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene has a spicy, peppery aroma. It is also found in black pepper, hops, cloves, cinnamon, basil, oregano, and rosemary. Some cannabis strains high in this terpene are Lavender, Candyland, Birds of Paradise, Blueberry Cheesecake, Girl Scout Cookies, Cookies and Cream, Death Star, and Original Glue. As the only terpene that binds directly to a type of cannabinoid receptors, specifically CB2, it has no psychoactive effects. Caryophyllene shows significant promise as a medicinal terpene.

Some ways it affects the body:

  • Decreases pain, including neuropathic
  • Lessens the inflammatory response
  • Decreases symptoms of depression
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Has been shown in studies with mice to reduce alcohol intake
  • Previously used to treat duodenal ulcers
tied lavender bunch on white background

Linalool

Linalool has a strong spicy and floral smell, and is most responsible for the distinct aroma of the cannabis plant. Also found in lavender, coriander, mint, and cinnamon, it is often used in aromatherapy. Strains high in linalool include Lavender, Special Kush, Amnesia Haze, LA Confidential, and Kosher Kush.

Some of linalool’s notable effects are:

  • Noted anti-seizure properties
  • Reduces pain
  • Sedation and relaxation
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Stress relief
  • Mosquito deterrent with up to 93% efficiency
  • Helps with insomnia
pine needles and pine cones on a white background

Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene

Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene both have a strong pine odor. In addition to cannabis, it can be found in pine trees, orange peels, parsley, dill, basil, and rosemary. There are several strains rich in pinene including Jack Herer, Strawberry Cough, Train Wreck, Blue Dream, Island Sweet Skunk, Bubba Kush, Romulan, OG Kush, and Chem D.

Pinene’s beneficial properties include:

  • Bronchodilation – it improves airflow and respiration, benefitting patients with COPD and asthma
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Lessens THC-induced short-term memory loss
  • Potential for helping prevent cancer cells from metastasizing
  • Possible tumor-killing properties
eucalyptus branch on white background

Eucalyptol

Eucalyptol (cineole) gives the eucalyptus tree its distinctive odor. You can also find this terpene in tea tree, mint, rosemary, mugwort, sage, bay leaves, and sweet basil. Some eucalyptol-heavy strains are Super Silver Haze, Bubba Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, and Headband. It has applications as an essential oil as well as being helpful in several medical conditions.

Benefits include the following:

  • Enhanced learning and memory, (potential for Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Decreased inflammation caused by amyloid beta plaques found in Alzheimer’s patients
  • Antibacterial properties affecting resistant strains (E. coli, Enterobacter, Staph Aureus, and Serratia marcescens)
  • Antioxidant abilities
  • Suppresses growth of leukemia cells
  • Has been found to kill leukemia cells
  • Improves lung function and decreases difficulty breathing in asthma patients
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Eases pain
blades of lemongrass on white background

Trans-nerolidol

Trans-nerolidol has a woodsy, floral, citrusy aroma. In addition to cannabis, you can find this terpene in lemongrass, tea tree, jasmine, citrus peel, ginger, and neroli. Strains high in trans-nerolidol include Sour Diesel, Skywalker OG, Girl Scout Cookies, Blue Dream, Chem Dawg, Jack Herer, and Island Sweet Skunk.

Interesting applications in the medical field including:

  • Sedation
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-Leishmaniasis
  • Anti-malarial
  • Naturally defends against spider mites
  • Soothes anxiety
  • Improves how topicals are absorbed through the skin
Blossoming hop with leaves on a white background

Humulene

Humulene is woody, earthy, and spicy. It was the first terpene identified in hops. It is also present in clove, black pepper, ginseng, peppermint, basil, spearmint, and sage. As one of the most abundant terpenes, it is found in many strains. Some high-humulene strains are Girl Scout Cookies, White Widow, Pink Kush, Sour Diesel, Headband, and Sour OG.

Here are a few of the benefits of humulene:

  • Prevents cancer cell growth
  • Kills tumor cells
  • Antibacterial activity against Staph aureus
  • Provides anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant functions
  • Helps reduce inflammation in the airways from allergic reactions
  • Suppresses the appetite
  • Relieves pain
  • Reduces inflammation
rosemary branch on white background

Delta-3 Carene

Delta-3 Carene has a sweet odor like a cypress tree. It is also present in red peppers, cedar, pine, rosemary, and basil. Strains to look for include Super Lemon Haze, Super Silver Haze, Skunk #1, and Arjan’s Ultra Haze.

This terpene affects the body in some awesome ways:

  • Increases bone growth and repair, especially when related to injury or malnutrition
  • Dries secretions including saliva and tears (cotton mouth, anyone?)
  • Acts as anti-inflammatory, helping people with fibromyalgia, bursitis, and arthritis
  • Stimulates the memory, which could help Alzheimer’s patients
  • Can help women with excessive menstruation as it draws extra liquids from the body
Fir tree branch isolated on a white background

Camphene

Camphene smells like damp wooded areas, fir needles, and musky earth. While it is often confused with the aroma of myrcene, the two are slightly different. At high doses it releases irritating fumes and an acrid smoke; strains with a lot of camphene should be avoided. Camphene is found in camphor, nutmeg, rosemary, valerian, holy basil, cypress oil, ginger, and conifers (cone-bearing fir trees). Good strains for getting the benefits of camphene are Ghost OG, Mendocino Purps, ACDC, OG Kush, and Strawberry Banana.

Here are a few of camphene’s medical benefits:

  • It’s a potent anti-oxidant
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Lowers triglycerides and cholesterol, which can help patients at risk for heart disease
  • Used in topical applications, can help with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis
  • Inhibits the growth of bacteria and yeast
  • Can help prevent kidney stones

The more we study cannabis, the more we discover about its benefits. Terpenes are just a part of the whole, and researchers are finding out increasing ways the individual components in cannabis act not only on their own, but as part of the entourage effect, to benefit the body and mind of those who use it.

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