What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

Terpenes is a word you may be hearing a lot lately, especially if you’re involved or are interested in modern cannabis culture. Perhaps even to an annoying extent, terpenes have become the go-to topic for marijuana snobs across the globe. But, worry not, we’re here to let you know everything you need to know about cannabis terpenes, without all the unnecessary fluff that budtenders and your long-winded friends like to throw in with their explanations. So… What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

First, some basics.

Terpenes, not just for weed!

Terpenes are not unique to the cannabis plant. Terpenes are simply a compound found in plants that provide their smell, and often their flavor when eaten. Terps can be found in plants all over nature. They are what makes an orange smell like an orange, and they’re what make Lemon Skunk smell like sweet lemon and old feet.

Often the same kind of terpene will show up in more than a few different organisms, which is why you’ll smell a flower and catch hints of citrus or pine. For that same reason, you’ll get whiffs of these traits when you smell and smoke/vaporize a marijuana bud.

There are primarily six terpenes that are found in the cannabis plant, and each of them will have different effects on the consumer. This list will explain the differences between each terpene compound typically seen in your favorite marijuana strains.

Cannabis Terpene Profiles

No marijuana strain is made up entirely of one kind of terpene. It’s what we call the full “terpene profile” that really defines its smell, flavor, and physical effect when consumed. Sometimes these terps interact in interesting ways to create their individual terpene profile.

Now here’s a breakdown of the different terpenes you’ll find out there in the cannabis world, and what you need to know when you’re shopping around for your favorite strain.


Caryophyllene is what you’re smelling almost every time you describe a plant as “earthy.” It almost has the smell of bark, or freshly chopped wood. Although it can be one of the more obvious aromas of the bunch, it doesn’t do all that much to give you a buzz. If you’ve ever noticed that White Widow has a peppery note to its smell, that’s the Caryophyllene at work. It’s also one of the defining scents of OG Kush.

This compound has been used as an antioxidant, and is good for inflammation and muscle spasms.


Humulene is often confused for pinene as they both share very woody qualities in their smell and taste. You’ll notice humulene most obviously in Sour Diesel or Girl Scout Cookies, cannabis strains that have a very bitter flavor and smell, comparable to hops. This should be a go-to terp if you suffer from chronic pain, as it’s known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.


This is one of the more recognizable terpene compounds, as it has a uniquely floral scent that might remind you of a grapevine. It’s spicy and sweet, like the strains Lavender and Headband. You’ll also find these terpenes in rosewood or birch trees. Linalool has a been used to treat insomnia, depression, and anxiety, while also helping those that suffer from seizures.


Limonene is the terpene you want to eat. The strains that contain heavy doses of Limonene are sweeter than candy, and smoother than butter. Bubba Kush has a limonene-dominant terpene profile that makes it almost smell like Fruity Pebbles cereal. Super Lemon Haze, a strain that smells like it should be lightly squeezed over a salmon steak, has a terp profile heavy in limonene as well. This is the euphoria terpene that’s great for stress relief.

It’s also been known to treat acid reflux disease, and also has antifungal properties.


Myrcene, in addition to being found in heavy indica strains such as Granddaddy Purple and Northern Lights, is often found in lemongrass, bay leaves, mango, and other citrus fruits. The smell is citrusy and earthy, almost like cloves.

When consuming a cannabis bud with Myrcene present, you may notice a more powerful psychoactive effect. That’s because this compound complements and actually boosts the psychoactive effects of the plant’s THC. That’s why Northern Lights can be so zombifying, because that Myrcene brings the potency to another level.


Pinene, as you might expect, is the sharp, sweet aroma that you get from pine needles or sage. It’s the dominant terpene found in strains like Gorilla Glue, Blue Dream, and Romulan. People have said that it can smell like a musty basement in some situations, especially in the case of a dank batch of Gorilla Glue. Check out strains with pinene in them if you’re looking to treat inflammation or Asthma (vaporizer recommended).