If you spend any time reading about cannabis, you’ve probably encountered the word “terpenes” and wanted to know more. What are terpenes? At their most basic level, they’re the fragrant hydrocarbons (or what some people call “essential oils”) that give different strains of cannabis their unique aromatic qualities.
But terpenes lend much more than just the fascinating scents and flavors associated with different strains. In today’s post, we’ll dive into the latest research on cannabis terpenes and what researchers are learning about their powerful and unique medical qualities. So without further ado, let’s go on a guided tour of the “Top 8” terpenes found in the cannabis plant.
What Are Terpenes? The Natural World’s “Scent Factories”
Terpenes aren’t just limited to cannabis. They appear in countless plants and trees—even some insects!—and in total they represent the largest and most diverse family of naturally occurring compounds. As well as being the source of plants’ tastes, fragrances, and pigments, terpenes are the main source of plant-based oils. They’re also hugely important for their beneficial effects, many of which we’ll explore later in this article. But for the purposes of keeping our terpenes definition mangeable, we’ll limit today’s discussion to the cannabis terpenes.
While any terpenes definition naturally begins with their intriguing flavors and scents, the fact is that they do much more than simply lend their unique scents to the fresh, fragrant and premium flower we offer. As a growing body of research suggests, the terpenes in cannabis impart specific health benefits, even contributing to the kind of high you experience!
Cannabis Terpenes: The Marijuana Plant’s “Secret Ingredients”
There are a lot of terpenes in cannabis: So far, researchers have identified at least 150 of them. As a recent study makes clear, they’re among the most important naturally occurring products, and are being studied for potential anticancer, antidiabetes, and other useful medical effects.
Where should you begin when studying the terpenes? Because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed, we’ve carved that giant list into a “Top 8” of common cannabis terpenes. And we’ll begin our journey with the most important one of them all: Myrcene, sometimes known as the “Mother of Terpenes.”
Myrcene is the most abundant terpene, characterized by its fruity, grapelike flavor and scent. In addition to imparting that unique flavor and gentle relaxing effects, it helps synergize the actions of other terpenes and cannabinoids, making it an important team player in the overall ecosystem of the cannabis plant.
Outside of cannabis, one of the places myrcene shows up most notably is in mangoes. Perhaps that’s why some myrcene fans report that if you consume a mango about 45 minutes before cannabis, its myrcene leads to an especially intense and long-lasting high. Fact or fiction? You may just have to find out for yourself!
Myrcene-rich strains include: Skunk XL, White Widow, and Special Kush
Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene
As principal constituents of the scent of the pine tree, these closely related compounds are the most common terpenes on Earth. So it should come as no surprise that in cannabis, they impart a distinctive piney, resinous aroma. Other natural sources include herbs such as rosemary and basil, and it’s also found in orange peels.
Pinene exhibits a gentle anti-inflammatory effect. Research demonstrates that inhaling cannabis rich in pinene—especially if you use a vape pen or vaporizer—can help reduce inflammatory responses like asthma in the lungs and airways.
Pinene-rich strains include: Jack Herer, Strawberry Cough, Blue Dream and Dutch Treat
This terpene has an unforgettable flavor, calling to mind black pepper, cinnamon, cloves and oregano. In terms of its potential therapeutic effects, caryophyllene may deliver powerful analgesic and anti-anxiety properties. And because of its unusual molecular binding properties, it’s also a key ingredient in anti-inflammatory topicals and creams.
Caryophyllene-rich strains include: Super Silver Haze, OG Kush, and Rock Star
This distinctive-smelling terpene is also found in hops, which helps give some beers their earthy and spicy flavors. As well as having antibacterial qualities, humulene may be helpful in fighting the growth of tumors as well as helping to suppress the appetite. Finally: A cure for the munchies?
Humulene-rich strains include: White Widow, Headband, Girl Scout Cookies (GSC) and Pink Kush
We’ve written previously about limonene, and how it may hold a key to medicine’s holy grail: The cure for cancer. Studies suggest that this terpene helps regulate our immune system and might also play a role in controlling the spread of certain cancers. Limonene is well-loved for its ability to impart general uplift and mood-lightening effects, as well as reducing stress and anxiety.
Limonene-rich strains include: Sour Diesel, Super Lemon Haze, Durban Poison, and Jack Herer
Arguably the terpene most clearly associated with the stereotypical “marijuana smell,” linalool is also found in lavender. It’s known to help relieve anxiety and depression, and to impart sedative and relaxing sensations. What’s more, preliminary studies suggest that linalool might help reverse the cognitive impairment and memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
Linalool-rich strains include: Amnesia Haze, Special Kush, Lavender, LA Confidential, and OG Shark
Can you catch better ZZZ’s with a terpinolene-rich strain? Research suggests it might. With an aroma reminiscent of lilacs, terpinolene helps bring on drowsiness, similar to linalool.
Terpinolene-rich strains include: Jack Herrer, Ghost Train Haze, and Dutch Treat.
Also known as cineol, eucalyptol is found in mint, rosemary, tea tree, and more. Known for its anti-asthmatic properties, its cooling aroma is great for hot days.
Eucalyptol-rich strains include: ACDC
Cannabis Terpenes: Wrapping Up
As we hope today’s post makes abundantly clear, the world of cannabis terpenes is wide in its variety. And if you’re interested in performing some hands-on research with cannabis terpenes, we’ve got a hot tip for you: You can grab some fresh terpene-rich strains at your favorite Venice Beach dispensary. Check out our online menu to place your order now. We look forward to seeing you!