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What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

Unless you’re a weed connoisseur, you probably don’t know terms like “terpenes” and “cannabinoids”. So what are terpenes and why are people talking so much about them? Terpenes are what control the smell of marijuana; they’re what causes the different smell and taste in each bud. Let’s dive into the fascinating subject of terpenes and uncover their important role in marijuana.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are the oils in cannabis plants that give them their unique smell. They originate in the same glands as the cannabinoids in marijuana plants, which are the compounds like CBD and THC they cause the marijuana to have whatever effect on the body. Terpenes don’t exist exclusively in cannabis, either; you can find them in other plants. In fact, it’s the terpenes in mangoes that are responsible for the effect they have on those who are high.

Like cannabinoids, terpenes interact with the endocannabinoid system. When they are inhaled or ingested, terpenes assist the cannabinoids in penetrating the blood-brain barrier. They can also influence the neurotransmitters in the brain. They can affect serotonin and dopamine destruction and production. This helps to explain why we have different effects from different strains as well as different smells and tastes. Limonene, for example, can increase serotonin production which leads to a mood elevation.

Common terpenes

Within cannabis, there are over 100 known terpenes. Each strain has its unique terpene composition which causes the different smells, tastes, and effects. 


Smell: earthy, musky, cloves, herbal with notes of citrus and tropical fruit.

Effects: sleepiness, couch lock, relaxation

Medical value: antioxidant, good for muscle tension, pain, depression, insomnia, and anti-carcinogenic

Also found in: mango, hops, lemongrass, thyme

High myrcene strains: White Widow, Skunk #1, Pure Kush


Smell: citrus, sweet, floral

Effects: sedative qualities, anxiety relief

Medical value: anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, acne treatment

Also found in: Lavender

High linalool strains: LA Confidential and G13


Smell: pepper, spicy, wood, cloves

Effects: increases heart rate

Medical value: treats arthritis, autoimmune disorders, ulcers, and general gastrointestinal issues

Also found in: black pepper, cloves, cotton

High caryophyllene strains: hash plant


Smell: citrus

Medical value: anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, heartburn, anti-bacterial, depression

Also found in: rosemary, fruit rinds, juniper, peppermint

High limonene strains: super lemon haze and OG kush

As more and more people become aware of terpenes and their many benefits and effects, dispensaries will start catering more closely to the customers’ curiosities. Terpenes and their effects vary from strain to strain and even harvest to harvest, so make sure all of your information is up to date.

Megan Medeiros Written by Megan Medeiros (BA)

Megan Medeiros has a bachelor’s degree in English and is currently working on a master’s in English at James Madison University. She's the owner and operator of Medeiros Writing, and has been working as a cannabis writer for the past three years, mostly following the legal climate of marijuana, especially in areas like California, Colorado, Oregon, Canada, and other legal areas.

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