What Are Terpenes? A Comprehensive Guide

Posted by Adam Frost on

The cannabis world is vast, with hundreds of unique strains, each bringing its own vibe to the table. What's behind those distinct flavors and aromas? Terpenes.

These little aromatic compounds are the backbone of all those tastes and smells. Stick with us as we dive deep into a few types of terpenes and their role in the cannabis plant.

What Are Terpenes?

Have you ever smelled the distinct aromas of cannabis strains, from skunky to piney or lemony? That's the work of terpenes, naturally occurring organic compounds found not just in cannabis but also in herbs and citrus fruits.

Terpenes are the main players in essential oils and are used in many alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy. They also have a cool backstory: "terpene" refers to "turpentine," a byproduct of pine tree resin and a rich source of these compounds.

While there are over 30,000 terpenes in nature, cannabis alone has over 150 types. Beyond giving strains their unique aromas and flavors, terpenes may also have potential wellness benefits*.

What Do Terpenes Do?

Terpenes aren't just about aroma; they're the multitaskers of the plant world. In plants, they're busy defending against munching herbivores, luring in pollinators, fighting off diseases, and even aiding in cell growth.

Regarding cannabis, terpenes team up with cannabinoids, crafting those unique flavors and vibes specific to each strain. And the cherry on top? Some terpenes have potential wellness properties*.

So, next time you're enjoying a strain's aroma, know there's a lot more going on behind the scenes.

Terpenes: Common Examples

Here are some of the most well-known terpenes and their properties:


Limonene, found in citrus peel, flavors foods, acts as a solvent in cleaners like Pine Sol, is used in perfumes, and as an insecticide. It might have wellness properties*, but the research is ongoing. For cannabis enthusiasts, strains like Durban Poison, Jack Herer, Sour Diesel, and Super Lemon Haze are limonene-rich, delivering that signature lemon aroma.

lemon terpene


What gives strains like Blue Dream, OG Kush, and Granddaddy Purple their signature vibe? Meet Myrcene, the most dominant terpene in many top-shelf cannabis strains. With a fruity, earthy aroma, it's also the reason behind that herbaceous, hoppy scent in beer. Beyond cannabis, you'll find Myrcene in hops, basil, thyme, lemongrass, cardamom, and even mangoes.


Pinene is known for its signature pine-like aroma, reminiscent of forest walks. Beyond cannabis, you'll find this terpene in pine needles, rosemary, and basil. In the cannabis realm, strains like Jack Herer and Blue Dream are rich in pinene, giving them that distinct, refreshing scent. So, next time you enjoy these strains, you'll know it's pinene making its aromatic presence felt.


Terpinolene: that zesty, fresh aroma often reminiscent of citrus fruits and lemongrass. You'll find this terpene not just in cannabis but also in apples and cumin. Regarding cannabis strains, it's a standout in classics like Jack Herer and Ghost Train Haze. Next time you catch a whiff of that uplifting citrusy scent, you've got terpinolene to thank.


If you've ever noticed the scent of fresh lavender or spicy coriander, that's linalool doing its thing. This terpene isn't just in your favorite herbs; it's a star player in cannabis, too. Known for its calming effects*, you'll find linalool in strains like Lavender and Amnesia Haze. If you're drawn to floral scents, you know what to look for.

Beyond the above, the cannabis world is rich with common terpenes like Caryophyllene, Eucalyptol, Borneol, and Camphene. Each brings its own unique aroma to the mix.

Final Thoughts

Now that we've uncovered the magic behind cannabis strains' unique flavors and aromas, it's time to truly savor those cannabis terpenes.

A dry herb vaporizer from Smoke Cartel is a game-changer for dry herb enthusiasts. And if concentrates are your thing, don't miss out on a terp slurper.

Elevate your experience and make those terpenes sing!

Terpene FAQs

Do Terpenes Get You High?

Terpenes won't get you high on their own. But, they interact with your endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids, like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), influencing a strain's euphoric vibe. That's why savvy budtenders often chat up terpene profiles and terpene content over just THC content when recommending different strains. It's all about that unique cannabis synergy.

Are Terpenes Only Found in Plants?

While they're mainly found in plants, some insects have terpenes, too. The insects use them as a nifty defense mechanism. So, it's not just your favorite strains with terpenes in the mix; nature has a few other tricks up its sleeve.

Are Terpenes the Same as Terpenoids?

Terpenes and terpenoids are similar but not identical. Terpenoids are terpenes that have been oxygenated. Technically, all terpenes and cannabinoids and terpenoids.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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