The Complete Cannabis Terpenes Guide

cannabis terpenes

If you’ve reached the point in your relationship with cannabis where you find yourself researching which live resin or live rosin cartridges you should buy, chances are you know a bit about terpenes. But, if you want to really dive into the science behind cannabis terpenes and how they affect your experience, read on. 

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

Terpenes are not unique to cannabis and occur naturally in almost every aromatic plant on earth. Botanical terpenes are responsible for much of the aroma and flavor you experience in weed, but they also have unique therapeutic and medicinal properties. Cannabis terpenes – of which there are more than 200 – develop in response to their growing environment in combination with their genetic makeup. 

There are two types of terpenes: monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes. In relation to cannabis, monoterpenes are much more volatile and are among the first compounds lost once a plant is harvested. However, you can stop this from happening by freezing the plants right after harvest to preserve their content.

Common monoterpenes include myrcene, limonene, linalool, and pinene. The most common sesquiterpenes are caryophyllene, humulene, longifolene, and germacrene. They have an extra isoprene unit that makes them sturdier than monoterpenes which helps them withstand more environmental changes.  

Okay, if terpenes give cannabis its scent, it’s reasonable to think you can just follow your nose to your favorite strain. For example, if you like the smell of freshly squeezed lemons, perhaps you’d enjoy a strain high in limonene. Or, you might choose limonene-heavy strains because they are known to help reduce anxiety and replace it with an upbeat, happier feeling. 

Why Are There So Many Terpenes in Cannabis?

Terpenes perform multiple functions in plants. Their two main roles are the protection against insects and herbivorous animals, and protection against high temperatures. Plants react to stimuli by producing terpenes in the areas affected by insects and herbivorous animals. They act as bitter compounds that repel them like a pesticide.

A Natural Pesticide

Monoterpenes dominate in inflorescences (flower) to repel insects. Sesquiterpenes, which tend to be bitter, are more abundant on leaves acting against herbivorous animals. Some terpenes can act as a decoy in certain plants, attracting either pollinating insects or beneficial predatory ones that feed on herbivorous insects. In the cannabis plant, terpenes are contained in the sticky resin glands. Insects are easily trapped and immobilized, preventing them from chewing on leaves or harming them in any way. 

Protection From Heat

As plants sense a temperature rise, they begin synthesizing more terpenes. These terpenes evaporate at high temperatures, producing airflow that cools the plant and reduces transpiration (water loss) throughout the peak heat of the day. This is why you might notice that the plants smell stronger during the first morning hours compared to the warmest part of the day.

This is the reason why it is recommended to harvest mature plants during the first morning hours to get the maximum production of essential oil. Additionally, it can be observed in climates that experience significant temperature changes between day and night that cannabis plants will exhibit enhanced terpene content as a result. The same terpenes that generate natural evaporative cooling during the day will not evaporate through cooler nights. This can lead to generally increased terpene content due to volatile compound loss reduction due to cool evening temperatures.

Some manufacturers will blend “botanically-derived” terpenes with liquid THC distillate in an attempt to replicate natural terpene profiles. Unfortunately, these lab-curated, non-cannabis blends often miss their mark regarding strain-specific flavor profiles. Perhaps mother nature knows best. 

How Do Terpenes Affect Your High?

Much like cannabinoids, terpenes work within the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This regulatory system modulates several important bodily functions like temperature, sleep, mood, hormones, digestion, and so much more. The ECS contains receptors throughout the body. The CB1 receptors are primarily found in the central nervous system, and the CB2 receptors are primarily found throughout soft tissues and immune systems. 

When cannabinoids and terpenes each bind to these receptors, they produce specific effects. When they bind to receptors together, the effects are amplified. The terpenes actually enhance the cannabinoids, and when they work in harmony together, we call this the entourage effect.

What About Synthetic Terpenes?

This is where the conversation opens up to the “known unknown” compounds in cannabis.  Although terpenes and cannabinoids are the major players, the supporting cast of compounds found in cannabis ties the performance together. The entourage effect is not moderated by terpenes and cannabinoids alone. Flavonoids, esters, thiols, sugars, and more contribute to the elegant tableau of naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis. Attempting to mirror or mimic a cannabis strain with cannabinoids and terpenes alone is like trying to cook bouillabaisse with only water, salt, and pepper.

Most Abundant Cannabis Terpenes

Although we mentioned that there are roughly 200 cannabis terpenes, we’ll only cover the top seven major terpenes before diving into some of the rare cannabis terpenes. You’ve likely enjoyed cannabis high in these seven types, but here’s how to recognize them the next time you’re enjoying a concentrate. 

cannabis terpenes


Myrcene is earthy, musky, and a bit sweet and spicy. Sometimes it’s even citrusy and herbal. It’s quite pungent in larger concentrations, and you’d recognize the scent in a fresh slice of mango. Fun fact: myrcene has been shown to increase the bioavailability of THC, so it’s said that eating a mango before you smoke can lead to a more powerful high. It’s mostly found in indica-dominant strains. 

Top benefits of myrcene:

Myrcene in nature:

  • Hops
  • Thyme
  • Lemongrass
  • Bay laurel leaves
  • Mango
  • Guava
  • Verbena

High myrcene strains:


Limonene is easily recognizable by its strong citrus aroma. It smells of freshly sliced oranges or a squeeze of lemon in a glass of water. It’s fresh, bright, and instantly makes you feel better. Typically limonene is dominant in strains that have a sativa-like effect. Limonene is an excellent choice for beating the winter blues or kicking a bad mood to the curb. 

Top benefits of limonene:

  • Anti-anxiety
  • Uplifting

Limonene in nature:

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Mandarin
  • Juniper
  • Peppermint

High limonene strains:


Pinene smells strongly of pine needles mixed with Christmas trees and fresh soil. Yeah, it’s very outdoorsy and familiar. It has an astringent burst when you taste it, leaving you feeling fresh and clean. 

Top benefits of pinene:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-asthma

Pinene in nature:

  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Pine needles
  • Cedar
  • Parsley
  • Eucalyptus

High pinene strains:


Linalool is most often recognized as the chief scent of lavender. It’s used widely in aromatherapy, cosmetics, and household products for its soothing, calming effects. Strains high in linalool taste sweet and floral with a bite of spice and citrus. 

Top benefits of linalool:

  • Anti-anxiety
  • Sedative

Linalool in nature:

  • Lavender
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano
  • Grapes
  • Cinnamon
  • Thyme
  • Fennel

High linalool strains:


Humulene is deeply herbal and woody. It smells a bit like walking through a forest on a misty morning. It’s subtle but perhaps most notably recognized as the scent of a hoppy beer. In strains high in humulene, the flavor is sharp and crisp.

Top benefits of humulene:

  • Anti-inflammation
  • Antibacterial

Humulene in nature:

  • Coriander
  • Sage
  • Black Pepper
  • Hops
  • Ginseng
  • Cloves
  • Balsam fir trees

High humulene strains:


Terpinolene is the least commonly found terpene of the “major” terpene collection. Its taste and smell are recognized by floral, citrus, and woody notes. It’s a very relaxing terpene and would be an excellent addition to any deep-sleep routine.

Top benefits of terpinolene:

  • Sedative
  • Anti-anxiety

Terpinolene in nature:

  • Lilac
  • Cumin
  • Apples
  • Pine
  • Fir
  • Nutmeg
  • Tea tree

High terpinolene strains:


Caryophyllene (short for beta-caryophyllene) is strongly associated with black pepper. That sharp, spicy smell serves more than a few good purposes. Caryophyllene is unique in that it reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. If you ever over-indulge, try munching on two or three black peppercorns, and you should feel better. 

Top benefits of caryophyllene:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-anxiety

Caryophyllene in nature:

  • Black pepper
  • Basil
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary

High caryophyllene strains:

Rare Cannabis Terpenes

Behind the major terpenes, several rare cannabis terpenes contribute to the entourage effect of each particular strain. Although rare, they are mighty and work alongside dominant terpenes and cannabinoids to amplify the entourage effect. 

cannabis terpenes


Valencene has a strong citrus flavor (think Valencia oranges), but it’s followed by a woody, herbal aroma and exhale. Because of its strong presence in citrus fruits, it is often confused with limonene. 

Top benefits of valencene:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Bronchodilator

Valencene in nature:

  • Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Tangerine

High valencene strains:

  • Agent Orange
  • Tangie
  • Clementine
  • Jilly Bean


Eucalyptol is minty fresh. It’s used to flavor toothpaste, gum, and tons of cosmetics and cleaning products. High eucalyptol strains are crisp, spicy, and refreshing, and leave you feeling invigorated. Pay attention to the exhale as you might find a hint of honey hiding in there.

Top benefits of eucalyptol:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant

Eucalyptol in nature:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea tree
  • Wormwood

High eucalyptol strains:

  • Super Silver Haze
  • Ace of Spades
  • Dutch Treat
  • Bubba Kush


Bisabolol is more than a quirky name. It’s quite rare because it’s not widely found anywhere in the world except in chamomile and a special tree from Brazil. And, of course, select cannabis strains. It smells and tastes much like a floral, sweet cup of chamomile tea.  

Top benefits of bisabolol:

  • Anti-inflammation
  • Pain relief

Bisabolol in nature:

  • Chamomile
  • Candeia tree
  • Sage

High bisabolol strains:


Nerolidol is somewhat of a romantic terpene that you might notice in fine perfumes. It’s floral, and woodsy, and leaves you feeling mellow and relaxed. High nerolidol strains are great for soothing the nerves but boast other benefits like antiparasitic, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.

Top benefits of nerolidol:

  • Sedative 
  • Relaxing

Nerolidol in nature:

  • Neroli
  • Ginger
  • Jasmine

High nerolidol strains:


Ocimene is fairly understudied as a cannabis terpene. However, we do know that high ocimene strains are floral, citrusy, herbal, and woodsy. It is found in many everyday products and is a popular ingredient in pest repellants. Perhaps high-ocimene strains have fewer pest problems than other strains?

Top benefits of ocimene:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-viral

Ocimene in nature:

  • Mint
  • Kumquat
  • Tarragon
  • Bergamot

High ocimene strains:


Farnesene is sweet, fruity, and woody. It tastes a lot like biting into a crisp green apple, which makes sense since that is this particular fruit’s dominant terpene. It’s also found in cedarwood and has earthy undernotes. 

Top benefits of farnesene:

  • Calming
  • Mood boosting

Farnesene in nature:

  • Sandalwood
  • Patchouli
  • Green apple
  • Turmeric

High farnesene strains:

Explore the Terpene Vault

Is your mouth watering over these deliciously juicy cannabis terpenes? If you want to learn more, head to our Terpene Vault and explore all of our strain profiles. There are plenty of rare cannabinoids that didn’t make this list, but perhaps we’ll cover those in a future post. We hope this information empowers you to find the perfect terpene profile to improve your well-being. Stay tuned for all of our newest terpene-rich drops coming soon. 



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