Cannabis Terpenes – What Are They & What Do They Do?

Magnified view of cannabis terpenes

You probably know the unmistakable smell of great weed. It can be pungent, stinky, sweet, fruity, gassy, and so on. The point is that a strain’s unique aroma and flavour is due to cannabis terpenes.

They’re essentially aromatic compounds that give scent to many types of flowers and herbs, including cannabis. That’s why Amherst Sour Diesel stinks like a petrol station, and Honey Trap smells like bubblegum.

However, terpenes are much more than merely aromatic compounds. They’re responsible for various functions within the plant, and offer cannabis users a range of therapeutic effects. So, continue reading because in this blog we’re going to explain in detail what cannabis terpenes are, and what they do.

Where Do Cannabis Terpenes Come From?

trichomes on cannabis flower

The buds of weed are coated in sticky, sugar-like glands called trichomes. These are concentrated on the flowers but are also found on the sugar leaves and fan leaves in lower densities.

Trichomes have resin glands that naturally produce terpenes, which play a vital role in a strain’s aroma and flavour. They also influence the colour of a plant’s leaves and buds. In nature the terpenes act as an attraction to some insects and animals, and a deterrence to others that harm the plant.

As an example, certain terpenes repel insects and animals that may want to eat the plant, which obviously pose a threat. On the other hand, other terpenes attract certain insects and animals for various reasons, such as spreading pollen.

Terpenes support a weed plant’s immune system by adapting to its immediate growing environment. This protects the plant from pathogens and stressors and initiates immune responses.

There are many external variables that affect the terpene profile of a cannabis plant. Factors like whether the plant is grown indoors or outdoors, temperature fluctuations, growing medium, and nutrient levels all affect the terpene production. So, if you grow two identical cuttings from a strain in different environments, the terpene profile of each will differ to an extent.

How Do Terpenes Affect Us?

Humans have used aromatic properties of plants for thousands of years. If you’ve used essential oils, such as tea tree oil, for antiviral, antibacterial, or anti-inflammatory reasons, you’re partly benefiting from the terpenes within the oil.

Terpenes in cannabis have medicinal properties that we benefit from when consumed. Bubba Kush 2.0 is a superb example of this. This strain contains a stress-relieving aromatic compound known as Myrcene, along with Caryophyllene and Limonene that help reduce anxiety.

Until recently, most cannabis research has focused on the therapeutic properties of THC and CBD. However, as we better understand the complexities of cannabis, more research is shifting towards terpenes, and how they can be utilised for medicinal purposes.

Medicinal Properties of Terpenes

cannabis oil in terpenes

As the scientific community learns more about the medicinal effects of cannabis, terpenes show potential as a treatment for the following:

Pain and Inflammation

Certain terpenes imitate cannabinoids, creating an analgesic effect that reduces pain and inflammation. A recent study combined terpenes with cannabinoids and found it effective at reducing pain without an increase in negative side effects. This interaction is known as the entourage effect. When cannabinoids and terpenes are integrated, the medicinal benefits of cannabis are enhanced.

Terpenes that aid with pain relief are:

  • Humulene
  • Geraniol
  • Linalool
  • β-pinene

When you consume THC, it interacts with the CB1 receptors in your endocannabinoid system. This gives us the high sensation we associate with THC and weed in general.

However, the vast array of cannabinoids and terpenes interact with these receptors differently, thus affecting us in various ways. The above terpenes interact with the CB1 receptors in a similar way by reducing our body’s perception of pain.


Now that we know terpenes are mood-altering compounds, it’s no surprise that some have antidepressant properties. Terpenes are already utilised for treating depression. Approximately 25% of antidepressant drugs are formulated using terpenes found in herbal extracts.

Terpenes most commonly used in these medications are:

  • Linalool
  • β-pinene

If you’re looking for a strain to enhance your mood, then check out our Zittlez. It contains a decent concentration of β-pinene.


Many Terpenes have antimicrobial capabilities. This allows them to kill or stop harmful microorganisms from multiplying.

Terpenes that have this capability include:

  • α-bisabolol
  • Geraniol
  • Menthol
  • Eucalyptol
  • Terpinolene


Compounds that fight the growth of cancer cells are highly sought-after. Terpenes have immense potential in this regard. They’re also unique because it is unlikely that they will have a negative effect on healthy cells or cause negative side-effects.

Certain cannabis terpenes have shown potential at reducing cancer growth. Notable ones that display anticancer and antitumor capabilities are:

  • Limonene
  • Pinene
  • Camphor
  • Terpinene
  • Β-myrcene

Person holding up cannabis leaf to sky

Final Thoughts on Terpenes in Cannabis

As our knowledge of cannabis increases, so too will our knowledge of terpenes, and how they interact with our bodies. On the surface, it may seem they only influence the aroma and flavour of strains, but as you now know – they’re much more than that.

The medical significance of terpenes is too much to ignore. However, more research is needed before they’re adopted by modern medicine on a large scale. We believe that as evidence supporting the effectiveness of terpenes as a medical treatment increases, we’ll likely see this happen. Until then, watch this space.

Comment (1)

  • Ian

    Very informative and interesting blog!

    17 November 2021 at 7:02 am

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