Terpenes In Cannabis

Whenever I’m introduced to new cannabis one of the first things I do is smell it. Why is that? What am I looking for? What does the scent tell me? You might be surprised by the amount of information that one can uncover with a good ol’ fashioned low-tech smell test. Not only can I glean what flavours to expect, but also the effects. For example, if I detect citrus in the smell I might expect stress relieving effects when I partake.

How could I possibly know that? I’ve learned about terpenes, a natural aromatic compound found in all sorts of different plants including cannabis. Not only are terpenes responsible for smells and flavours, like lavender, citrus or pine, but they also work with cannabinoids like THC and CBD to determine the effects we experience. Just like THC and CBD, terpenes exist in varying levels, so not every plant contains every terpene. Which terpenes exist and in what quantities in a plant is called a ‘terpene profile’. I have found that strains that smell good to me have effects I enjoy more, my nose knows!

Terpenes can be affected by the growing process, so I try to remember that different producers will get different results with the same strain. Some scientists suggest that a terpene profile is a more accurate indication of the effects of cannabis than a strain name, which is suggested to be little more than a marketing technique. Since science is still uncovering information about terpenes no one knows how many exist in cannabis, but over 100 have been identified. When I consider that there’s also over 100 identified cannabinoids, I start to realize just how different cannabis plants can be from each other.

The 6 main terpenes that have been identified, Myrcene, Caryophyllene, Linalool, Pinene, Humulene and Limonene, each have their own boiling point. This is the temperature at which the specific terpene will turn into vapour so it can be inhaled. Terpenes are best accessed using a vaporizer with single digit temperature control, like the one in The Gibson, which allows you to target specific terpenes.

Myrcene, which is recognized by its musk, herbal or citrus scent, provides a sedating or relaxing effect.

Carauophyllene, with its pepper, wood and spice aromas is said to be good for inflammation.

Linalool is sedating and calming with a floral, citrus and spice aroma.

Pinene aids in memory retention and alertness and has a sharp, sweet pine smell.

Humlene is woody and earthy and has the added benefit of suppressing appetite.

Limonene elevates mood and provides great stress relief, it is identified by a citrus smell.

Terpenes at a Glance

Name Myrcene Caryphyllene Linalool Pinene Humulene Limonene

Boiling Point

168℃ (334℉)

160℃ (320℉)

198℃ (388℉)

155℃ (311℉)

198℃ (388℉)

176℃ (349℉)


Sedating, Relaxing

No Physical Effects

Sedating, Calming

Memory retention, Alertness

Suppresses Appetite

Elevated Mood, Stress Relief


Musk, Cloves, Herbal, Citrus

Pepper, Wood, Spice

Floral, Citrus, Spice

Sharp, Sweet, Pine

Woody, Earthy

Citrus, Lemon, Orange

Also found in

Mango, Thyme, Citrus, Lemongrass, Bay Leaves

Pepper, Cloves, Hops, Basil, Oregano

Lavender, Citrus, Laurel, Birch, Rosewood

Pine Needles, Conifers, Sage

Hops, Coriander

Citrus Rinds, Juniper, Peppermint

Medical Benefits

Antiseptic, Anti-bacterial, Antifungal, Inflammation

Antioxidant, Inflammation, Muscle spasms, Pain, Insomnia

Insomnia, Stress, Depression, Anxiety, Pain, Convulsions

Inflammation, Asthma

Anti-inflammatory, Anti-bacterial, Pain

Anti-depression, Anti-Anxiety, Gastric Reflux, Antifungal

References: Here and here