Leafly Terpene Colorwheel

Terpenes Tell the Story

By Michael Saunders


Our current understanding of the terpenes found in cannabis is rudimentary, but with research intensifying our understanding is improving rapidly. In biology, terpenes are defined as any one of a large group of volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants, especially conifers and citrus trees (Leafly, 2019). However, the cannabis plant has dozens of terpene compounds. Which terpenes, in what combinations and in what amounts are what truly differentiate strains of cannabis from aromatic and genetic perspectives. Terpenes tell the story of a strain. 

Terpenes bind to receptors in the brain and body and produce a host of common effects in people. Leafly has a great color wheel that helps breakdown six common terpenes and their subsequent common effects on people (see link below). 

Myrcene is a terpene commonly used as an antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-fungal as well as an anti-inflammatory medicine. This terpene is also found in Mango, lemon, thyme, lemongrass and bay leaves. It’s effects are reported as being sedating and relaxing and enhances the psychoactive effects of THC. Some common aromas associated with myrcene are musk, cloves, herbal and citrus!

Caryophyllene is a terpene used frequently as an antioxidant, for inflammation, muscle spasms, pain and insomnia. Pepper, clove, hops, basil and oregano are examples of common plants in which this terpene is found. Currently, there aren’t any direct physical effects on the body found from this terpene. However, the flavor profiles associated with caryophyllene are peppery, woody, or spicy. 

Linalool is a terpene commonly used for insomnia, stress, depression, anxiety, pain and convulsions. Lavender, citrus, laurel, birch and rosewood are plants in which linalool is commonly found. Linalool is reported to have sedating and calming effects. Flavor profiles are reported as floral, citrusy and spicy. 

Pinene is a very special little terpene that helps folks with inflammation and for bronchitis, actually, as it acts as a bronchodilator. Sage, pines and other conifers are high in pinene. Pinene is thought to be associated with memory retention and alertness. Flavor profiles for pinene includes descriptors like sharp, sweet and piney as the name would suggest. 

Humulene is a terpene that typically works for people as an anti-inflammatory, as an anti-bacterial and for pain relief. Hops and coriander are two plants with loads of humulene. Humulene functions as an appetite suppressant. Humulene is described as having woody and earthy flavor profiles. 

Limonene is a terpene that helps people with depression, anxiety and stress, if functions as an antifungal, and also helps people with gastric reflux. Citrus rinds, juniper and peppermint contain limonene. Limonene in strains helps elevate moods and relieve stress. Flavor profiles for limonene include citrus lemony and orange. 

As the research science improves, the more we come to understand that cannabis is medicine. The short list of terpenes we’ve reviewed are common in most cannabis strains. We also know that medicine that contains all of the critical compounds in cannabis (cannabinoids and terpenes) provides more benefit to the patient as they are more likely to achieve the entourage effect associated with full spectrum products.   Knowing the effects of terpenes on people should help patients make more informed decisions about the products they are consuming. 

Informational and photo credit found at link: