Terpenes - What the heck are they?

By: Darryl E

Fresh orange peel and cannabis, as well as pine, lavender, and pine cones, contain these aromatic compounds. Terpenes are responsible for the fragrance of most plants. Nature uses terpenes to protect plants from grazing animals and infectious germs.

In addition, terpenes may offer some health benefits to humans. Scientists are researching these potential benefits as cannabis regulations become less restrictive.

You can learn more about terpenes in general and their potential health benefits by reading on.

Cannabis plants contain a high concentration of terpenes, which are aromatic compounds found in many plants.

Exactly what are Terpenes?

Aromatic compounds called terpenes are found in many plants and herbs, including rosemary and lavender, as well as in some animals.

Terpenes are the cause of the distinctive smells of marijuana strains

Isolated terpenes are used by manufacturers to add flavour and aroma to a variety of common items, including foods, cosmetics, and body care products.

In plants, terpenes are essential. Terpenes have different effects on different plants. In some, they draw pollinators, while in others, they have a potent deterrent effect on insects and other foraging animals.

Others function as a component of the plant's immune system to ward against contagious pathogens.

Some terpenes perform a protective role in the plant, aiding the plant in recovering from harm. Terpenoids is a term that some people also use. Terpenes and terpenoids, however, are not the same.

When present in a living plant, these substances exist naturally as terpenes. Terpenes undergo oxidation and transform into terpenoids as a plant dries and cures—as in the case of cannabis manufacturing, for instance.

What distinguishes Terpenes from Cannabinoids?

Cannabis contains chemical substances called cannabinoids.

The body's endocannabinoid system is activated by cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The "high" that cannabis users experience is brought on by this.

Another cannabinoid that is gaining popularity for its therapeutic effects is cannabidiol (CBD). Although CBD interacts with some of the same receptors as THC, it does so in a different way and has no euphoric effects.

The two most well-known cannabinoids, THC and CBD, are only two of more than 100 that the cannabis plant contains.

Terpenes, which are among the substances found in nature in the greatest abundance, are also found in the cannabis plant.

Most plant and certain animal substances have an odor that is mostly caused by terpenes. However, some might also have an effect on the body's endocannabinoid system in a manner comparable to that of cannabinoids. The body absorbs and utilizes these substances differently, which is the main distinction.


How do Terpenes impact people?

Since many terpenes are bioactive, they might have an impact on the body. Depending on the terpene's concentration and the user, this effect will change.

Terpenes are the primary component of many essential oils and are crucial to many alternative therapies, including aromatherapy, because they give off strong scents. A person's mood and level of stress may be affected by the aromas of particular plants and essential oils when they are inhaled.

Some people believe that terpenes will affect or enhance the high a person gets from using cannabis. This is known as the entourage effect, and it implies that terpenes enhance or alter the effects of THC and CBD in the body.

These assertions are supported by research. For instance, a review published in Frontiers in Neurology discovered that individuals with epilepsy who took an extract high in CBD experienced less adverse effects and improved symptoms than those who received purified CBD. This shows that the other cannabis constituents, such terpenes, may have an impact on how the body utilises CBD.

Isolated terpenes themselves have undergone a great deal of medical research, and some may even find utility in medicine. Many terpenes have shown positive effects on the body and may be used as complementary or alternative medicines, according to a study in Chemico-Biological Interactions.


Terpene varieties

Although there are many terpenes in the natural world, researchers have only extensively examined a small number of them.

 Better-known terpenes include:


A vital component of the hop plant is humulene. It can also be found in other plants like ginger and clove.

According to a study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, terpenes like humulene may be able to reduce allergic reactions and asthma symptoms. Humulene decreased allergic airway inflammation in animal models. This might make it a valuable substance for future all-natural asthma treatments.

According to a different study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, humulene may also act as a protective agent in particular cell types. This safeguarding function might prevent cancer. To support these assertions, additional research on the effects of humulene is required as this is only early data.



Many plants and herbs, like cloves and black pepper, contain beta-caryophyllene, including those.

The terpene beta-caryophyllene, like other terpenes, may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which may help some people feel less pain.

Beta-caryophyllene was found to be pain-reducing in animal research for both inflammation and nerve pain. Because the body did not appear to be acquiring a tolerance to these effects, the researchers remarked that this analgesic and anti-inflammatory impact could be helpful for managing long-term chronic pain.



Terpenes like myrcene are frequently found in plants including thyme, lemongrass, and hops. Myrcene is also included in the cannabis plant's flowers.

A potent antioxidant, myrcene. According to one mouse study, myrcene may aid in preventing brain oxidative damage after a stroke.

A comparable protective effect of myrcene on heart tissue was discovered in another mouse investigation. Myrcene may be a helpful alternative therapy for ischemic stroke, according to the study.

It's crucial to keep in mind that these experiments used myrcene at extremely high concentrations—up to 200 mg per kilogramme (kg) of weight.

According to a different study using a cell model of osteoarthritis, myrcene appears to have anti-inflammatory properties and may even stop some cartilage cells from degenerating. This might make it effective in treating osteoarthritis.



The lavender plant produces the most linalool, which gives the bloom its distinctive aroma. One of the more crucial elements in aromatherapy is linalool, which is what gives lavender or its essential oil its relaxing effect on many individuals.

According to a study published in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, linalool has a number of features that could have an impact on the body. 

These include:

  • Neuroprotective 
  • Anticancer 
  • Anti-inflammatory 
  • Antidepressant 
  • Anti-anxiety
  • Antimicrobial 

Although linalool does seem to have an effect on the body, further research is needed to determine how people might use it to improve their health.



Most individuals can identify the ubiquitous terpene limonene by its aroma. The zesty scent of the rinds of fruits like lemons and oranges is due to limonene, as its name suggests. According to a study published in Chemico-Biological Interactions, limonene has the following beneficial medical properties:
  • anti-inflammatory 
  • antioxidant
  • antiviral 
  • antidiabetic 
  • anticancer
Limonene appears to alter the behaviour of some immune cells, which could shield the body from a variety of diseases. People can safely use limonene as a supplement.  


Another common terpene found in nature is pinene. A-pinene and b-pinene are the two varieties of pinene. Numerous plants, such as pine needles, rosemary, and basil, all contain pinene, which gives them their fresh, vibrant aroma. There may be some therapeutic advantages to pinene.

Shirin-yoku, which translates to "forest bathing," is a Japanese therapy that entails taking slow strolls through the forest to take in the sights, sounds, and scents. On a person's psychology and physiology, shirin-yoku may have both preventive and restorative effects.

According to a study published in Acta Salus Vitae, there is enough pinene in a healthy forest's air to have therapeutic effects. Pinene has bronchodilator properties that increase airflow to the lungs. Additionally, it has an anti-inflammatory impact and, when inhaled, may be able to combat some contagious microorganisms.

Other terpenes

The terpenes listed above are some of the most common active terpenes that humans are likely to encounter. Other typical terpenes include:

  • geraniol
  • terpinolene
  • ocimene
  • nerolidol
  • phytol



Terpenes are the chemical elements responsible for most plants' odours. They are common in many different plants, fruits, and herbs, including cannabis. They might influence the wellbeing and longevity of the plants in which they live.

Certain essential oils, terpene-rich plants, and spending time in terpene-rich environments may occasionally offer some health advantages to people.

Terpenes must be further studied in order for researchers to fully comprehend all of their potential therapeutic and medical benefits.