What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

Cannabis is known for many things, but one of its most prevalent qualities is its smell. Certain strains smell fruity and sweet, while others are sour and lemony. 

The potent aroma comes from compounds called terpenes. You can find terpenes in all sorts of plants and herbs, but they’re especially abundant in the cannabis plant.

Why does cannabis contain terpenes? Part of it has to do with evolution. Strong smells (such as citrus, lavender, and pine needles) tend to repel predators. The cannabis plant may have evolved to protect itself from hungry herbivores by utilizing terpenes. Other terpenes may serve to attract pollinators with their sweet, floral scents. 

As a result, terpenes have strong aromatic qualities. For some, pleasant scents offer therapeutic value. The effects are highly subjective, but certain consumers find that certain aromas help them relax and unwind after a long day. 

But what are cannabis terpenes exactly, and how do they differ from one another? We’re going to explore the chemical profile of different terpenes, and list some of the most common cannabis terpenes:

How Do Terpenes Work?

Macro detail of cannabis bud (Russian Black marijuana strain

Terpenes are naturally found in cannabis, and it’s estimated that more than 100 terpenes exist. Depending on the cannabis strains that you choose, you can experience a unique terpene profile. 

Various combinations of terpenes interact with other cannabis compounds to create the entourage effect. This term describes the unique ways that cannabinoids and terpenes interact. All the cannabinoids found in cannabis (including CBD, THC, and CBN) synergize with the unique terpene profile in a given strain. 

In essence, this effect describes how one compound can give rise to the effects of another. Like an ancient Greek philosopher used to say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Terpenes are generally considered to be non-psychoactive; while they may affect the human body in some ways, they will not alter your mental state to the same degree that THC does. 

Types Of Terpenes

The cannabis plant features hundreds of terpenes. While you’re consuming cannabis, you may notice terpene profiles such as:


This is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis. It has a deep and earthy scent, with subtle notes of fruit. You can find this terpene in certain teas and spices, including lemongrass and bay leaves. Marijuana strains with high levels of myrcene smell a bit “skunky”!


Another abundant terpene in cannabis is limonene. You can’t miss the distinct scent of citrus fruits. This bright scent is often found in cleaning and beauty products. If you’re interested in trying cannabis with limonene, check out the strain Sour Diesel. 


You can find linalool in more than cannabis plants; this terpene is also in lavender, cinnamon, and mint. Linalool has a floral, uplifting scent, which is why it’s frequently used in aromatherapy. If you prefer flowery scents, you’ll appreciate marijuana strains that contain linalool.


This terpene is also found in black pepper, hops, and cloves. It has a spicy, herbal scent. One unique property of this caryophyllene is that it’s the only terpene that’s known to bind to the CB2 receptor.


Cannabis leaf trichomes in droplet

When you breathe in the scent of pinene, it smells like you’re deep in an evergreen forest. Its rich scent will remind you of pine trees. Pinene emits the soothing smell of tea tree with fresh notes of rosemary.

There’s a lot of buzz about terpenes among cannabis consumers. But as it stands, there isn’t a lot of research about them yet. Cannabis research is ongoing, and we’re eager to find out more about how terpenes work. We look forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the role that terpenes play in the cannabis experience.

Now that you know about the most common cannabis terpenes, you may have a few favourites in mind. If you’re interested in aromatherapy, you might be searching for cannabis strains with a specific terpene profile. At our Okanagan Cannabis Stores, we’re happy to help our customers learn more about cannabis products. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us today!

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