Marijuana has a distinctive scent and flavor. If you open a bag of marijuana, you’ll instantly smell a citrusy scent wafting to your nostrils. You might also notice a hint of lavender, pine, or pepper. Some strains even smell like cheese. Most weed enthusiasts love the different scents and flavors, as it whets their appetite before a smoking session. So, what is responsible for weed’s distinctive aromas and flavors?
Terpenes are organic compounds responsible for the smell in plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. As with any other plant, a marijuana strain’s unique flavor and aroma are also attributed to terpenes.
Read on to learn about the different terpenes and their unique tastes.
Terpenes in Marijuana
Terpenes are organic compounds located within the weed plant’s trichomes or resinous glands. THC and CBD are also secreted from the same glands. They are a naturally occurring blend of carbon and hydrogen atoms. As we mentioned, these compounds are behind the flavor and aroma profiles of various plants. Today, manufacturers use isolated terpenes to produce the flavors and aromas of several everyday products like body lotions, foods, and even perfume sprays.
Terpenes are somewhat secondary metabolites, if you look at them from a biological angle. They play no active role in the normal growth or reproduction of the cannabis plant. Instead, they attract special insect pollinators. They also protect the plant against pests and other predators that may try to destroy it.
Terpenes are not exclusive to cannabis plants. They are also produced in other types of plants. However, marijuana produces hundreds of terpenes in significant amounts—thus, the strong scent. So far, there are about 140 different terpenes in cannabis.
The Entourage Effect
Terpenes are bioactive, meaning they can affect the body. The entourage effect is a mechanism by which terpenes work in conjunction with CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids to produce enhanced therapeutic effects. Neither cannabinoids nor any terpene works alone.
A study review published in Frontiers in Neurology discovered that sufferers of epilepsy who took a complete CBD-extract prescription saw their symptoms improve. They also experienced fewer side effects compared to those who ingested purified CBD. The conclusion was that the compounds in marijuana, like terpenes, affect how the body uses cannabinoids by offsetting certain undesirable effects of cannabinoids like THC.
Common Terpenes and Their Benefits
While there are over 100 terpenes found in a weed plant, a few of them are among the most widely used. Here are a few of the most common terpenes you’ll come across, coupled with their respective benefits.
Myrcene makes up the highest percentage of terpene in marijuana plants. Studies reveal that it makes up to 50 percent of the plant’s entire terpene composition. Its fragrance resembles an earthy, herbal, and musky scent. The aroma is like that of fruity red grapes.
Myrcene is commonly located in other plants such as thyme, lemongrass, cardamom, bay leaves, and hops. Some of the weed strains rich in myrcene include Special Kush, White Widow, and Skunk XL.
Myrcene is famous for its sedative effects. It’s a suitable option for sedation and pain relief. That’s why it’s usually prescribed as a supplement during chemotherapy sessions.
Myrcene is also an effective antioxidant. An experiment on mice revealed that this terpene could help guard the brain against oxidative damage after a stroke. Another experiment discovered that Myrcene delivered a similar protective function in heart tissue.
As a side note, mangoes are also rich in myrcene. So, try and eat a mango before smoking your marijuana extract. You’ll be destined to feel an even stronger buzz.
Limonene is only second to myrcene as the most abundant terpene in marijuana strains. As its name implies, it is responsible for the zesty, citrusy aroma suggestive of limes and lemons. All citrus fruits boast huge quantities of this compound.
This terpene is commonly used in cosmetics and cleaning products, such as perfumes, aftershaves, and bath products. Cannabis strains that contain the term “sour” or “lemon” in their label often contain limonene.
Some of the strains that are rich in limonene include:
- OG Kush
- Super Lemon Haze
- Sour Diesel
- Jack Herer
- Durban Poison
- Jack the Ripper
For therapeutic properties, limonene is:
Pinene is another naturally occurring copious terpene. It comes in two forms:
These two compounds produce a scent resembling that of pine trees. They can be harvested in large quantities from pine needles. They are also found in other plants like orange peels, rosemary, parsley, and basil.
As with other terpenes, pinene produces anti-inflammatory effects on patients suffering from inflammation and pain. More crucially, they are known to enhance airflow and breathing functions. They help to counteract against loss of memory brought about by THC.
Patients suffering from asthma, cancer, and Crohn’s disease may be able to alleviate their symptoms by using strains rich in pinene. Some of the cannabis strains rich in pinene include:
- Strawberry Cough
- Jack Herer
- Island Sweet Skunk
- Blue Dream
- Dutch Treat
Linalool is largely responsible for the rich spicy and floral scent that is typical of marijuana. Apart from cannabis, this terpene is also found in mint, lavender, coriander, and cinnamon.
Patients with seizures, depression, arthritis, sleep disorders, and even cancer can benefit from various therapeutic properties associated with this fantastic terpene. They are:
Popular linalool strains include OG shark, LA confidential, Lavender, Amnesia Haze, and Special Kush.
If your marijuana strain has a peppery, clove-like sharp taste, then beta-caryophyllene is the chief suspect. This terpene is commonly found in cloves, rosemary, hops, black pepper, and basil. Like other terpenes, beta-caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory properties and alleviates pain symptoms in some people. It attaches to and activates CB2 receptors in the body.
In one animal research experiment, beta-caryophyllene was reported to alleviate pain from nerve inflammation. Its analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect can therefore effectively treat lasting chronic pain, as the animals’ bodies reacted positively to these effects.
Other studies have also discovered that this terpene can help with alcoholism rehabilitation by reducing deliberate consumption of alcohol. So, if you’re grappling with alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you can use caryophyllene. Some of the strains that contain this terpene include Rock Star, Skywalker, and Super Silver Haze.
Hop plants have humulene in abundance. Marijuana and other plants, like ginger and clove, also have it. Its scent is comprised of earthy, woody, and peppery notes.
Humulene boasts a wide range of medical properties. Just like many terpenes, humulene alleviates pain and inflammation and also protects against bacterial infections. Studies reveal that this terpene may have a protective effect that can fight cancer cells. It may also prevent asthma and other allergic reactions and can be used in weight control programs to suppress appetite.
Some humulene-infused strains include:
- Skywalker OG
- Pink Kush
- Sour Diesel
- Girl Scout Cookies
- White Widow
This is the key terpene in eucalyptus trees. It’s also called cineole. Eucalyptol is behind the minty, pleasant, and somewhat spicy scent of certain marijuana strains. It accounts for about 0.06 percent of cannabis’s complete terpene composition.
Because of the aromatherapy properties it possesses, eucalyptol is commonly used in products such as cough depressants, mouthwashes, and body powders. From a therapeutic perspective, this terpene alleviates pain and fights against bacteria and fungus buildup. Early research has also revealed some noteworthy effects on the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. You can find eucalyptol in strains like Headband and Super Silver Haze.
Geraniol smells like rose-scented perfume. That’s why it is commonly used in aromatic body lotions and bath products. Apart from weed plants, this terpene can be harvested from tobacco and lemons.
Geraniol possesses the following properties:
It can be found in strains like:
- OG Shark
- Master Kush
- Island Sweet Skunk
- Amnesia Haze
- Great White Shark
This is also known as bisabolol or levomenol. It comes with a sweet floral scent. Apart from marijuana, you can find it in candei trees and chamomile flowers. Due to its pleasant aroma, it’s commonly used in the beauty industry. Research has also shown a couple of its medical benefits in weed plants.
Because of its analgesic and antioxidant properties, alpha-bisabolol can effectively treat bacterial infections and injuries. You will find it in several strains, including OG Shark, ACDC, Harle-Tsu, Headband, and Pink Kush.
Delta 3 Carene
This has a pleasant aroma, smelling like a cypress tree. It’s available in several plants, like cannabis, pine, cedar, basil, and rosemary. Its major medical attribute lies in helping to heal broken bones. Thus, it is suitable for patients with arthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia.
Another exciting tidbit regarding this terpene is that it rouses your memory and boosts memory retention. This makes it a key component in the continued search for Alzheimer’s disease cure.
This terpene is found in marijuana plants in small quantities. Similar to pinene, its fragrance can be described as piney, with floral notes. It boasts a mint aftertaste. Terpinolene is used to manufacture cosmetics, perfumes, and flavors.
This terpene produces heavy relaxation effects. It is associated with the infamous couch-lock effect. From a medical standpoint, it offers sedative, antioxidant, and antibiotic properties. OG Kush, Jack Herer, and Girl Scout Cookies strains are usually filled with this terpene.
Ocimene is less popular than other terpenes. It’s responsible for the pleasant, herbal scent and citrusy, woody flavor in marijuana. Ocimene is also harvested in tropical fruits like lavender, orchids, kumquats, and mangoes.
Due to its floral scent, this terpene is used mostly in perfumes and acts as a protective agent against insects and other predators. Research shows that ocimene enjoys the following properties:
The aroma of this terpene is a blend of citrus, rose, and apples. It’s generally best described as citrusy, woody, and floral. It’s famous for its anticancer, antifungal, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic properties. Some of the strains rich in trans-nerolidol are Sweet Skunk, Skywalker OG, and Island Jack Herer.
This terpene has a distinct herbal minty aroma. It’s readily available in marijuana and herbs like camphor, mint, and rosemary. Borneol is a common ingredient in insect repellent products. Research has shown that this terpene destroys breast cancer cells. The famous acupuncture treatment method makes use of this terpene. Cannabis strains infused with Borneol include K13 Haze, Golden Haze, and Amnesia Haze.
Camphene emits an aroma that resembles musky earth and wet woodlands. The scent is similar to that of myrcene, which is the typical weed smell known to cannabis consumers.
This terpene has tremendous potential on the medical front. A combination of camphene with vitamin C produces a powerful antioxidant. It is commonly used as a topical for skincare problems like psoriasis and eczema.
Its arguably most significant benefit lies in its ability to reduce the amounts of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood, thus alleviating the threat of cardiovascular ailments. Strains rich in camphene include Strawberry Banana, Ghost OG, and Mendocino Purps.
The name of this terpene originates from sweet Valencia oranges. It boasts citrusy notes and flavors. It’s used in insect repellant products. Agent Orange and Tangie strains are usually high in Valencene.
The Bottom Line
There you have it! Above is a detailed list of the common terpenes and their related medicinal properties. Because different cannabis strains come with varying terpene content, the best way to know what you’re getting is to read the product label.
The marijuana sold in state-regulated dispensaries usually undergoes mandatory state testing. So, each product’s label will indicate the type and quantity of terpene in the weed product.