Understanding Terpenes in Cannabis: Aroma, Effects, and Strain Guide

December 28, 2023

Marijuana enthusiasts appreciate the pleasant aroma of weed. This delightful smell is attributed to terpenes, special chemicals found in various plants and organisms.

Terpenes contribute to the taste and scent of plants. Certain marijuana strains can contain more than 120 different terpenes, concentrated in the plant's buds.

If you take a careful look at a cannabis plant, you'll notice the buds are sticky, covered in tiny hairs, and have a crystal-like texture. These tiny hairs, called trichomes, produce various substances such as terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids, and cannabinoids.

These substances are the main factors that cause the relaxing and sometimes intoxicating effects of marijuana.

Terpenes vs. Terpenoids

Terpenes are hydrocarbon compounds made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms. In contrast, terpenoids are modified hydrocarbons, undergoing processes such as oxygenation. Essentially, terpenoids are chemically altered terpenes. Some terpenes can naturally transform through heat or chemical processes, both in natural environments and in laboratories. It's important to note that in the context of marijuana products, the term 'terpenes' is more commonly used than 'terpenoids.' Since terpenoids are considered a subclass of terpenes, this article will specifically focus on discussing terpenes.

Terpenes play a significant role in the fragrance and flavor of cannabis strains, contributing to the unique scent profiles of different varieties and potentially offering therapeutic effects. While terpenes are natural compounds found in various plants, including cannabis, understanding their distinction from terpenoids, the modified forms of terpenes, is important. Focusing on terpenes allows us to explore their diverse properties and how they enhance the overall experience of using marijuana.

The Entourage Effect: Terpenes Working Together

Terpenes are key compounds responsible for giving plants, including cannabis, their unique flavors and aromas. When you use cannabis, it's the terpenes that determine how it smells and tastes. But terpenes do more than just add flavor; they also possess specific therapeutic effects. These effects are enhanced when terpenes work together with cannabinoids, a synergy known as the entourage effect.

The entourage effect suggests that the best results from cannabis products come from those containing a wide range of compounds from the plant. This effect is most pronounced when using full-spectrum cannabis products, which include a variety of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Therefore, opting for cannabis that only has high levels of THC might not be as beneficial as it seems. While THC and CBD are important, terpenes are often the unsung heroes behind the most effective effects of marijuana.

Related article: THC and CBD, and the Entourage Effect!

Top 6 Most Common Terpenes and Their Effects

To effectively choose terpenes, it's essential to understand which strains contain higher concentrations of specific types. Below are the most frequently encountered terpenes in cannabis, along with their unique effects and the strains where they are commonly found:

  • Myrcene: The most common terpene in cannabis, myrcene is predominantly found in strains like Mango Kush, Granddaddy Kush, Cherry Pie, OG Kush, and Blue Dream. It has a diverse aroma profile, including cardamom, cloves, earthy, musky, and herbal scents. Myrcene produces sedative effects, making it beneficial for stress, anxiety, and insomnia. It is also present in basil, thyme, lemongrass, and mangoes.

  • Limonene: This lemon-scented terpene is known for its relaxing effects. Limonene offers anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Strains rich in limonene include Super Lemon Haze, Jack Herer, Wedding Cake, White Fire OG, and Sour Diesel. It's also found in citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruits.

  • Pinene: The most abundant terpene in nature, pinene is present in forest trees, especially conifers, and herbs like basil, dill, and rosemary. It exists in two forms: alpha-pinene, with a pine needle aroma, and beta-pinene, smelling like dill. Pinene is notable for its anti-inflammatory properties, useful for conditions like asthma and arthritis. Cannabis strains with pinene include Chem Dawg, Strawberry Cough, Critical Mass, and Snoop’s Dream.

  • Linalool: Commonly found in lavender, linalool is known for its calming and relaxing properties, making it effective against stress and insomnia. It also aids in immune system support, pain management, and reducing inflammation. Look for linalool in strains like Kosher Kush, Amnesia Haze, and Do-Si-Dos. It's also abundant in birch bark.

  • Caryophyllene: This terpene offers a blend of peppery, spicy, woody, and clove aromas. Unique for also acting as a cannabinoid, caryophyllene binds to the same receptors as CBD, aiding in anxiety relief, pain management, and reducing inflammation. It also has antioxidant properties and boosts immunity. Find it in strains like Super Silver Haze, GSC, Purple Punch, and Original Glue, as well as in black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and hops.

  • Terpinolene: Present in about one out of ten cannabis strains, terpinolene has diverse aromas, ranging from piney to floral and herbal. It's found in XJ-13, Chernobyl, Ghost Train Haze, and Jack Herer. Terpinolene offers antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties, and is uplifting, making it suitable for anxiety, depression, and mood swings. It's also in tea trees, nutmeg, conifers, cumin, apples, and lilacs.


Resources for Researching Terpene/Strain Info

While the topic of terpenes in cannabis is fascinating, this knowledge is most valuable when applied practically. Understanding the difference between linalool and caryophyllene is important, but it's even more crucial to know which terpenes are present in specific strains. To assist in this, we’ve compiled a list of resources that are helpful in identifying the terpene profiles of various strains:

  • Leafly: Leafly offers concise guides for most marijuana strains. Although they don't always explicitly list the terpenes, you can often deduce which terpenes are present based on the described aromas, flavors, and effects.

  • Allbud: Allbud is a straightforward and reliable source for marijuana information. Similar to Leafly, they don't explicitly detail the terpenes but do list flavors and aromas, which can be very helpful. They also feature an accurate indica/sativa sliding scale.

  • Hytiva: While Hytiva has a smaller strain encyclopedia compared to the others, they provide more specialized information for the strains they do cover. If a strain is listed on Hytiva, they often explicitly describe its terpene makeup, which is extremely beneficial for those seeking specific terpenes.

  • 421Blvd: And finally, our own blog. 421Blvd can't but offers one of the most comprehensive and compact lists of strains and terpenes currently available.

With these four resources, you can find detailed information on most marijuana strains, including their terpene profiles.


Terpenes are as crucial as CBD and THC in the cannabis experience, playing a unique role in enhancing the aroma and taste of the plant. Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes are primarily responsible for these desirable sensory qualities.

Being an informed cannabis consumer requires some understanding of terpenes. Although this article has provided you with knowledge, keep in mind that your budtender may not have the same level of insight. Terpene information is often omitted on product labels, making it imperative for you to be well-informed and proactive about your purchases.

A practical tip is to maintain personal notes on the different strains you try. This practice will aid you in identifying your preferences and help you evolve into a knowledgeable cannabis enthusiast. With the insights gained from this article, you're already making strides in the right direction. Regardless of your preferred flavors, one thing is universally true: terpenes have a special place in the heart of every marijuana aficionado.

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