What Are Terpenes and Why They Power Every Strain

cannabis aromas terpenes

There’s nothing like the first smell and taste of an awesome, high-quality cannabis strain. Be it your go-to bud, or a new kind of flower, each gives patients a unique flavor profile to enjoy. Additionally, medical marijuana users know the health benefits that come with their tasty doses. We enjoy these flavors, smells and health benefits thanks to terpenes.

You probably have heard the name come up more recently. Don’t sweat if you’re in the dark about them. If you’ve found yourself asking, what are terpenes, today we’ll introduce you to your favorite thing in medical marijuana.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes, sometimes called isoprenoids, are the organic hydrocarbons that give your cannabis the aromas and flavors it’s known for. Terpenes are what gives favorites like G13 an earthy, sweet flavor while making Granddaddy Purple a sweet, berry flavor. They are secreted from the same trichome glands that produce popular cannabinoids THC and CBD. Essential oil fans out there might know terpenes as one of their major elements.

cannabis environmentSeveral factors make up your strain’s terpene profile development. They include climate, weather, soil and other varying points to keep in mind while cultivating. With so many factors, terpene profiles alter from harvest to harvest. For medical marijuana users, it’s especially important to note any terpene changes. Though often subtle, a change in terpenes could impact how your dosage treats you.

Currently, over 120 known terpenes have been identified in cannabis. The below wheel from Leafly expands on just some of the most common terpenes (more on that below) that may make up your cannabis.

Like many key elements, cannabis terpenes remain an understudied part of the plant. While they appear to be generally considered safe, rounds of research are needed to fully confirm if that is the case.

While terpenes are interesting in how they create a strain’s flavor profile, their abilities extend beyond that. The power of terpenes go into the actual healing properties of a strain as well. Terpenes play a crucial part in determining how one strain stands out from the rest in terms of its physiological and psychoactive effects.

Why Terpenes Matter

terpene profileTerpenes do more than help humans. They also serve as protection for plants by keeping predators at bay so they can go uneaten. In other cases, terpenes attract useful pollinators like bees.

For humans, a terpene’s most important ability is its connection with cannabinoids. Terpenes work with cannabinoids and other compounds to affect receptors in the brain and body. When bound to a cannabinoid receptor, terpenes can alter the effects of cannabis in a variety of ways, including the chemical output, and can even affect our neurotransmitters.

The effects of a terpene significantly impact the characteristics of a strain. These unique properties allow for the each flower to have a variety of healing effects. While one strain may be ideal at treating someone’s physical pain, it might not help appetite issues. Without the right terpenes in your cannabis, you won’t receive that desired outcome.

Researchers now have a growing interest in terpenes for this reason. If we are able to comprehend  its functions, it’s then easier to manipulate its cannabinoids for an ideal outcome. While much of the subject remains in the dark, that should change soon enough. Expect to hear more on terpene findings in the coming years, as it’s piqued the interest of scientists and consumers alike.

Most Common Terpenes in Marijuana

Your strain could have a number of terpenes. Each helps define the strain and how it affects your experience. There are two types of terpenes: primary and secondary. Primary terpenes assist in a plant’s growth and development. Meanwhile, secondary terpenes aid in a plant’s defense. Some of the most common terpenes in marijuana are:

citrus terpene


Limonene is dominant in Sativa strains and produces a citrus, garden smell. It also helps ease anxiety and depression. It’s also a common addition to many topicals, as well, due to its ability to assist in other terpenes being absorbed through skin and mucus.


When looking for the heaviest hitter in the terpene bunch, Myrcene might take the title. Found in most cannabis varieties, Myrcene actually dictates if your strain will be an Indica or Sativa – now that’s a decision making terpene! Depending on the percentage of myrcene in your strain, expect a sedative, Indica-like high (.5% or more), or a higher-energy, Sativa-like experience (.5% or less). Myrcene also gives you a range of flavor that can include a musky, herbal, and citrus smell.


If you suffer from anxiety, you may have heard about Linalool. In addition to giving you a spice meets floral profile, it’s been known to keep stress in check and help some patients with epilepsy. It’s also a key in lavender essential oil treatments – which is one of its common aromas, as well as citrus and various woods.

α Pinene

pine terpeneα Pinene is one of two isomers of pinene, and one of the most common occurring terpenes in marijuana and nature. In addition to serving as an anti-inflammatory, it is associated with giving cannabis its familiar aroma that we all know so well. If you’re in need of an earthy, pine strain, seek out α Pinene flower.


Looking for a smokey, sedative like experience? If so, Terpinolene is the ideal terpene for you. It’s been known to have anticancer effects on rat’s brains and gives hope for further development. It serves in numerous other “anti-” treatments including antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal. Found mostly in Sativas, Terpinolene often has high concentrations in the Jack Herer lineage.


Fragrances are often associated with Ocimene due to its pleasant, sweet smell. Some of your favorite strains tend to possess large amounts of Ocimene, including OG Kush and Lemon Sour Diesel. In addition to a lovely smell, Ocimene can help treat a number of pains from congestion to viruses.

In addition to the above, your marijuana could have a bunch of other primary terpenes including:

  • Terpineol
  • Valencene
  • Geraniol
  • β Caryophyllene
  • Humulene

Research into terpenes is just now starting to increase. Like much of the medical marijuana field, it will take some time for the data to catch up with our interest. That being said, what we do know about terpenes is exciting enough to keep the conversation going. With more to come in the years, we as patients and enthusiasts could soon find ourselves fawning over terpenes like we have with CBD and edibles.

Ready to find out which terpenes are right for you? If you live in California, Nevada or New York, PrestoDoctor can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation easily, and online! Schedule an appointment today!