What are Terpenes? Understanding the Cannabis Plant

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Terpenes are all around us. They often create the distinctive smells that bring back previously forgotten memories. The fresh scent of lemon, the earthy aroma of pine needles and many others all come from terpenes.

They are often what gives something its unique and memorable smell. It is the same for cannabis. The unique flavours and aromas of your favourite strains are created by the blend of terpenes contained in their oils.

Related: The Effects of CBD on the Human Body

Not only do they provide smells and flavours, but they also add to the many health benefits found in cannabis and full spectrum hemp oils. Alongside cannabinoids and flavonoids, terpenes form a part of the entourage effect produced by many high-quality cannabidiol (CBD) oils.


What terpenes are and how do they work

Terpenes are naturally occurring organic hydrocarbons that are present in the essential oils of plants. The unique smells that they create are the plants’ way of deterring predators and attracting useful insects and animals.

In cannabis plants, terpenes are secreted by the same glands that produce CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It has been found that they play a role in what makes the effect of each strain unique. If two strains have exactly the same levels of THC and CBD, their impact on your body may still be different. This difference is believed to be caused by terpenes.

Cannabinoids like THC and CBD affect your body by interacting with endocannabinoid receptors found in your central and peripheral nervous systems. Interactions with these receptors influence your body’s homeostatic mechanisms and can make small changes to maintain the body’s internal stable environment. Terpenes can also interact with these receptors and change how the cannabinoids interact with them, causing a range of unique effects and sensations.


The health benefits of terpenes

Terpenes are used for a wide range of reasons and potential benefits:

Taste and smell: The unique tastes and smells created by individual terpenes and blends have been linked to a boost in emotional wellbeing. Different scents have been observed creating a range of different effects. Limonene which creates a lemon scent creates a mood-boosting effect while linalool from lavender can create a calming effect.

Studies have also linked the benefits observed during the Japanese art of forest bathing to it being a terpene rich environment. However, the taste and aroma that terpenes bring is just the start of their benefits.

The entourage effect: Even minute amounts of terpenes have been observed affecting how cannabinoids interact with endocannabinoid receptors. The alterations often cause greater benefits than when cannabinoids are taken in isolation. This discovery — in 2015 — led to the widespread use of full spectrum CBD oils instead of CBD isolates.

The potential of the entourage effect is huge. Not only can it enhance the effect of cannabinoids but some researchers believe that they may be able to use terpenes to target CBD and THC for specific uses.

In a recent study by the Chongqing Medical University, a terpene called beta-caryophyllene has been linked to a reduction in inflammation and pain relief. They also trialled its use for treating Alzheimer’s by reducing inflammation in the brains of mice. Studies have also shown that terpenes may have promise for reducing inflammation, relieving pain and aiding sleep.


Some of the most popular cannabis terpenes and their uses

Linalool: This terpene is found in cannabis, lavender, mint and many other herbs. It has a calming and relaxing effect.

Limonene: This occurs naturally in citrus fruits and, unsurprisingly, has a distinctive smell of lemons. It can often be found in cosmetics, hair and body products and even cleaning products. It is found to be revitalising and some people have found it to improve mood and reduce stress.

Pinene: Both Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene have a pine smell and are present in many species of pine trees as well as rosemary and orange peels. It has also been linked to a reduction in inflammation and has been used to treat asthma and arthritis.

Myrcene: This is often the most abundant terpene in cannabis and gives it its distinctive earthy flavours. It is associated with the sedative effect of cannabis which may come from the terpene THC interaction.



Terpenes add flavour and aroma, not just to cannabis but to our whole lives. Scents give us many of the memorable experiences that help us to relax and enjoy life.

They are also beginning to get popular as supplements to support a wide range of medical treatments. These have varying effects and there is lots of research still to be done.

As companions to cannabinoids, they are already widely used. They are found in full spectrum blends but companies like for the Ageless also stock terpenes that can be added to other products.

Terpenes already provide us with many of the unique elements of each cannabis strain. It is often the terpene that creates our preferences for each brand and influences its wide range of effects.

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