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What are Terpenes?

Aug 7th 2020

What are Terpenes?

Ever wondered what gives off the citrus scent when we squeeze a lemon or what makes black pepper spicy? Generally, what exactly gives plants their aroma and flavor? It’s terpenes. Perhaps it’s a word that seems familiar but most of us admittedly do not have any knowledge about.

Terpenes are naturally found in plants, including cannabis. They give plants their aroma, taste, and color. They are the substances that whet our appetite, trigger pleasant emotions, and affect our senses. In some cases, it can soothe a person and boost the mood.

Scientists have so far identified over 20000 different terpenes. They are the basic elements in essential oils and are frequently used in food additives, perfumery, and aromatherapy.

In hemp alone, over 200 different terpenes have been discovered and about 60 of them are being closely examined in scientific circles. Research into the effect terpenes have on skin conditions and various health problems is opening new possibilities in the field of treatments with hemp.

If you are considering using hemp-derived extracts, it’s imperative to be educated on what terpenes to look for in the strain. After all, terpenes aren’t only about the scent or taste, it’s also about how it can affect the mind and body. Below are some of the terpenes you can find in hemp:


One of the most common terpenes, myrcene can be found in almost all varieties of cannabis. It is known for its earthy, grassy taste and musky smell. It forms up to 50% of the total terpene composition in different plants. Myrcene can be found in mangoes, eucalyptus, lemongrass, basil, thyme, and hops, among others.

This terpene is valued for relieving muscle cramps and treating insomnia. Carrying anti-inflammatory properties, it’s also ideal as a pain reliever and muscle relaxer. It acts as a regulator by enhancing or suppressing the effects of other terpenes and cannabinoids.

Myrcene is a dominant compound in Indica strains. When consumed in excess, myrcene can lead to the ‘couch-lock’ feeling.


Limonene, also known as D-limonene, is a frequent terpene with a characteristic citrus scent that is also present in large quantities in lemons, oranges, or at times, even grapefruits and mandarins.

According to researchers, limonene terpene displays antibacterial properties and is also used in treating gastrointestinal issues like stomach ulcers. It has also been associated with inhibiting the development of cancer cells in clinical studies. It is known to improve mood by reducing stress and facilitating the absorption of other beneficial terpenes into the bloodstream. This makes limonene commonly used in topical cannabis drugs, tinctures, skin ointments, and similar medicines.


If you love the smell of pine trees, you’ll especially love pinene. As the name suggests, pinene is known for its pine-like scent and is the main terpene that is responsible for the typical smell of pine trees.

Found in basil, parsley, and orange peel, this terpene is present in almost all varieties of cannabis as well as in rosemary, pine, and many other plants. Cannabis that releases a forest-like aroma when burnt contains pinene in significant amounts.

It has been found that cannabis rich in pinene is good for combating short-term memory loss. It is also used to treat respiratory issues as it helps open up the nasal passages and improves airflow to the lungs. Moreover, studies have shown that it is also effective in treating intestinal problems.


Lavender’s unique scent can be credited to this terpene, which features a mix of spicy and floral fragrances. Linalool helps combat stress and is loved for its soothing effect. It is used in anti-depressants and commonly used to treat anxiety. In addition, it also displays anti-inflammatory properties.


Alternately referred to as peruviol and penetrol, nerolidol is present in the essential oil of many. It possesses a gentle, floral, or woody aroma reminiscent of fresh tree bark. This terpene can be found in ginger, jasmine, lemongrass, and tea tree.

Nerolidol is considered one of the most beneficial terpenes and has a wide range of beneficial effects on the body. Clinical studies have shown that it has a strong antifungal and antibacterial effect.


Commonly produced by the chamomile flower, bisabolol or alpha-bisabolol, is known for its light, sweet, and floral aroma, It boasts of potential anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and analgesic properties. This terpene has been used in cosmetics for centuries due to its reported skin-healing properties.


Over the last decade, this spicy terpene has gained the attention of scientists because it’s been discovered to be the only terpene to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (CB2). Commonly found in cloves, black pepper, and cinnamon, caryophyllene has analgesic, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic, and neuroprotective effects.


Ocimene is used in perfumes, thanks to its pleasant odor. In nature, it acts as part of the plant’s defenses and possesses antifungal properties. Found in a variety of plants and fruits, it occurs naturally in botanicals as diverse as mint, parsley, pepper, basil, mangoes, orchids, kumquats, and of course hemp. It is recognized by its sweet, fragrant, herbaceous, and woodsy aromas.


Humulene is a common constituent in hops, cloves, coriander, and basil, which is why its smell can trigger associations to beer. It can also have a subtle earthy and woody aroma combined with spicy herbal notes.

It is prized for its anti-inflammatory properties, and while cannabis is commonly associated with appetite stimulation, humulene actually has the opposite effect. It suppresses hunger and makes you feel fuller.