Cannabis Terpenes List: The Iconic Guide To All Things Terpenes

There’s more to cannabis than just THC and CBD. The compounds that make your cannabis smell like lemons, blueberries, or a little like cheese are called terpenes, and there’s way more to them than their scent and flavor. The latest research around the world shows that many of them can play a role in your experience. This Iconic guide sheds light on the terpenes you’re bound to encounter in cannabis and how they contribute to your overall consumption experience.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are a class of natural volatile organic compounds found throughout the plant kingdom, known for their aromatic and flavorful properties. Volatile means that terpenes have quite a low boiling point. As a result, terpenes evaporate quite quickly, making them quite difficult to preserve.

There are around 20,000 known terpenes, but only a fraction of them – as many as 200 – show up in your bud. You’ll find terpenes in the trichomes, or resin glands, of mature whole cannabis flower. When it comes to cannabis, terpenes can have a big effect on the way a product makes you feel, so understanding terpene content is key to making the right choice when you visit your local provisioning center. 

In nature, terpenes are believed to help protect plants of all kinds against disease while warding off predators and encouraging pollinators. In household goods, you’ll find terpenes in perfumes, essential oils, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, skincare, and much more. 

12 terpenes you’ll find in cannabis

A few terpenes stand out as the most common and plentiful in cannabis. You’ll see these time and again on cannabis product labels and certificate of analysis testing results. 

Here are 12 of the most important cannabis terpenes you need to know about, and what to expect from each.

1. Myrcene

    Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis. You’ll see it a lot in indica-dominant cultivars. With myrcene, sweet and spicy flavors combine with a pungent fruity scent.

    Myrcene is embraced by cannabis lovers for its relaxing and stress-busting properties. Researchers believe it can promote sleep when present in high enough quantities. This likely contributes to the popular belief that indica-dominant cultivars (strains) may result in drowsiness. In addition, studies have found that myrcene can alleviate aches and pains. 

    Beyond cannabis, myrcene is prominent in hops and may create smells and flavors reminiscent of particularly hoppy beers. 

    2. Beta Caryophyllene

      Beta caryophyllene is another major terpene found in cannabis, and it has the unique property of acting like both a terpene and phytocannabinoid like THC. Similarly to certain cannabinoids, beta caryophyllene selectively binds to and activates the CB2 receptor of the endocannabinoid system. This can modulate pain perception and inflammation. In addition, beta caryophyllene lends a peppery, spicy aroma and flavor to cannabis cultivars

      Outside of cannabis, the scent profile of beta caryophyllene is much like that of cloves or cinnamon, two other plants in which this terpene can be found in significant amounts. 

      3. Limonene

          Limonene is true to its name, promoting citrus, fruity flavors and aromas. It’s no surprise, as well, that limonene is commonly found in the rinds of citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges. Cannabis consumers of all backgrounds, from medical marihuana patients to flower connoisseurs, seek out limonene for its reported impact on pain and energy levels

          Outside of cannabis, you’ll find lots of limonene in common household cleaning products for its scent and for its other properties. This terpene is well known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties, which makes it well-suited as an ingredient in cleaning supplies. Indeed, if you reviewed the label of some of your household cleaners, you would likely find limonene included. It’s also thought to provide an uplifting experience that can boost mood.

          4. Alpha Pinene

          • How does it smell? Earthy and grassy
          • How does it taste? Herbal and bitter
          • How can it affect you? Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, bronchodilator, and neuroprotective

            Alpha pinene is known for a fresh grassy scent and earthy, herbal flavors. While it’s less common terpene in cannabis compared to myrcene, beta caryophyllene, and limonene, it makes an appearance as the dominant terpene in certain cultivars. Researchers are investigating alpha pinene’s potential when it comes to reducing inflammation and protecting against both physical and mental disease. However, there’s still a lot to learn about how it impacts humans.

            Outside the dispensary, you’ll find alpha pinene in many other plants, as it’s one of the most dominant terpenes in nature. Some plants and herbs famous for alpha pinene levels are eucalyptus, mint, and rosemary.

            5. Beta Pinene

              Often encountered alongside alpha pinene, beta pinene offers its own unique set of properties. It’s more recognizable as a pine-like smell along with hints of woodiness reminiscent of a walk through the forest. It’s also thought to encourage an energizing, mood-boosting experience. As for taste, beta pinene offers an herbal, minty flavor common among other pinene-rich plants like eucalyptus or rosemary. 

              6. Linalool

                Linalool is rarely available in high quantities, but you’ll see it in a wide range of cultivars in small amounts. Both in and out of cannabis, linalool is best known for encouraging relaxation, which can help you unwind or get some sleep. Researchers have also observed anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in linalool. It’s often connected to indica-dominant cultivars, but you’ll find it in sativa-dominant ones, too. 

                Despite its sweet, floral aromas, linalool’s taste can be described as including a bite of spiciness along with a hint of citrus flavor. In nature, you’ll find this terpene in lavender, rosewood, and bergamot, among other perfume-y flowers and plants.


                • How does it smell? Earthy, spicy, floral
                • How does it taste? Herbal, hoppy
                • How can it affect you? Anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, appetite suppressant

                  Humulene offers earthy, spicy, and herbal aromas and flavors. Researchers have examined humulene for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and there is some evidence that humulene may curb appetite as well. Although humulene is common among cannabis terpene profiles, it is seldom the dominant terpene, usually appearing instead in small amounts.

                  Humulene also makes appearances in common plants like black pepper, ginseng, and hops. 

                  8. Terpinolene

                  • How does it smell? Pine, floral, and herbal
                  • How does it taste? Fresh, floral, and herbal
                  • How can it affect you? Antimicrobial, antioxidant, sleep promotion, and uplifting

                    Terpinolene is believed to offer an uplifting experience when consumed. It may also help promote restful sleep. Terpinolene-dominant cannabis cultivars are rare, as this terpene usually acts as a secondary or even tertiary terpene at most. There are, however, a few terpinolene-dominant cultivars out there on the market today, like Golden Pineapple and Dutch Treat.

                    Aside from cannabis, terpinolene offers a sharp, fresh smell that has made it a go-to ingredient in soaps and perfumes over the years. This terpene is also found in apples, cumin, lilacs, nutmeg, and tea tree.

                    9. Ocimene

                    • How does it smell? Sweet, earthy, citrus
                    • How does it taste? Fruity, herbal, woody
                    • How can it affect you? Anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant

                      Ocimene is a minor terpene that you may encounter as a secondary terpene in a cannabis product. Its sweet, fruity, herbal aromas and flavors, though, may contribute to the overall consumption experience. Ocimene might provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects when consumed. Ocimene may also play a role in alleviating anxiety and stress.

                      Ocimene stands out as an additive in perfumes, and it lends its scent to hops, mint, orchids, parsley, and pepper. It’s also thought to play a role in pest control in nature, 

                      10. Bisabolol

                      • How does it smell? Floral, fruity, nutty
                      • How does it taste? Sweet, citrus, peppery
                      • How can it affect you? Anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, sleep promotion

                        Bisabolol is a common ingredient in skincare products, and it also appears in small quantities in certain cannabis cultivars. Bisabolol is thought to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and promote sleep, as well as mitigate inflammation throughout the body. 

                        It’s one of the less common cannabis terpenes found throughout the plant kingdom, appearing primarily in the candeia tree and chamomile. It’s notable for its fruity, sweet flavors with a hint of spice and nuttiness.

                        11. Menthol

                        • How does it smell? Minty, fresh
                        • How does it taste? Minty, cooling, spicy
                        • How does it affect you? Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, pain relief].

                            One of the most recognizable terpenes found in cannabis is menthol. It’s known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-bacterial benefits, as well as its pain alleviating qualities. No wonder it’s an ingredient in so many over-the-counter topicals! So it comes as no surprise that menthol is commonly used as an additive in cannabis topicals, though it’s rarely seen in large quantities in flower. When it does appear in flower, it’s most common in Kush strains.

                            In addition to cannabis, menthol is found naturally in mint oils and peppermint and can also be produced synthetically. 

                            12. Eucalyptol

                            • How does it smell? Minty, fresh
                            • How does it taste? Cooling, spicy
                            • How can it affect you? Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, uplifting

                              Eucalyptol – sometimes also called cineole — is, as the name suggests, commonly found in eucalyptus plants. But you’ll find it in cannabis, too. It’s well known for its minty, cooling, spicy aromas and flavors. 

                              Eucalyptol excels at reducing inflammation and mitigating oxidative stress. It could contribute to an uplifting cannabis sesh. Like menthol, eucalyptol is rarely found in cannabis in high quantities, and yet can contribute to an overall experience and the aromas and flavors or a particular cultivar or product. 

                              Why are terpenes so fragrant?

                              Terpenes rapidly degrade when they come into contact with heat, humidity, light, and oxygen. In fact, the moment cannabis is harvested, terpenes begin to “evaporate” off the flower. As terpenes delay, they give off strong smells. In nature, that’s designed to discourage predators, encourage pollinators, and help the plant recover from an injury. In cannabis, it becomes a challenge to retain these precious and fragile compounds.

                              What are the benefits of terpenes?

                              Each terpene has its own set of properties, but many terpenes share some core potential effects, including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Terpenes are also thought to contribute to the energizing, relaxing, uplifting, and pain relieving effects of cannabis. But science has only scratched the surface! There’s a lot more to learn about the precise effect each terpene has on the cannabis consumption experience.

                              Do terpenes contribute to the entourage effect?

                              There’s some evidence that terpenes contribute to the entourage effect. 

                              The entourage effect is the theory that cannabinoids and terpenes influence one another, and that this influence alters or enhances how a cannabis product makes you feel. There’s some evidence that terpenes play a role in the entourage effect, at least in animal models. 

                              For example, a 2021 behavioral study performed at the University of Arizona Health Sciences found that when administered to lab mice individually, a synthetic cannabinoid known as WIN55,212-2 and the terpenes humulene, geraniol, linalool, and beta-pinene all reduced pain sensitivity. When combined with the synthetic cannabinoid, though, each of these terpenes produced an even greater reduction in pain sensitivity than any of the compounds did on their own. Researchers attributed this to evidence supporting the entourage effect. 

                              There’s evidence that the entourage effect exists, but research has yet to figure out precisely how or why it works. For example, it’s known that THC and CBD interact with each other. For example, CBD is thought to lessen THC’s famous high to help prevent the anxiety too much THC can cause in some people.

                              Despite the evidence gleaned from this study and others examining the entourage effect, far more research into the entourage effect in general and the role terpenes may play needs to be performed. Specifically, more human studies need to be conducted to formulate any conclusions.

                              Check the label to learn more about terpenes in your product

                              There’s still lots to learn about how terpenes affect you, but what researchers have uncovered so far is quite impressive. Whether you want to relax, hope to get some housework done, or feel like getting creative, your chosen cultivar’s terpene profile plays a part. When you shop for cannabis products at your chosen Iconic Wellness & Provisioning location, ask about cultivars high in your chosen terpene. Our friendly and knowledgeable budtenders are waiting to help you guide to the best possible choice for your needs.

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