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Six common cannabis terpenes and what (we think) we know about them

Terpenes, the aromatic oils found in plants, are marvellous organic compounds that give each plant its unique scent (and aroma). We know that they are active molecules that work with the receptors in our nervous system, but there’s a lot more that we don’t know about how they work and what they do.

The cannabis plant is particularly rich in terpenes. We’ve isolated and identified more than a hundred unique cannabis terpenes. They are produced in the trichomes of the cannabis plant, and are found in the crystalline resin that dusts the exterior of the flowers or buds.

Here is a list of six of the most plentiful terpenes found in cannabis, and what (we think) we know about them. Note that we are still waiting for hard science to back up many of the medical claims attributed to these compounds.


  • The aroma: A strong citrus smell.
  • Effects: It’s suggested that limonene helps with relaxation and stress relief. A mood-enhancer.
  • Possible medicinal benefits: Limonene has shown some beneficial effects as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent, as well as demonstrating anti-depressive and anti-anxiety properties.


  • The aroma: The astringent smell of a fresh pine forest.
  • Effects: Cognitive effects have been demonstrated, including an ability to mentally focus, increased alertness and improved memory function. Pinene may help work against the “couch-lock” effect of some strongly sedative strains of marijuana.
  • Possible medicinal benefits: Some evidence suggests that pinene is helpful as an anti-inflammatory, as well as giving some relief to pulmonary/breathing conditions by relaxing airway tissues and increasing the flow of oxygen into the body.


  • The aroma: A lovely floral aroma, with hints of lavender and spice.
  • Effects: A sedative, calming effect has been noted with linalool. Enjoyable to pronounce—linalool may also produce unexpected delight at how it sounds when spoken out loud.
  • Possible medicinal benefits: Linalool seems to help with insomnia, as well as anxiety and depressive disorders.


  • The aroma: A spicy, peppery smell with woodsy notes.
  • Effects: While relief from pain has been noted with caryophyllene, its effects haven’t been fully studied or recorded yet.
  • Possible medicinal benefits: Some research into its anti-cancer properties has shown promise. It appears to relieve pain and may act as a powerful antioxidant to keep body tissues healthy.


  • The aroma: Myrcene has an earthy, fruity scent, with hints of spice. Its aroma has been compared to fresh mangos.
  • Effects: Myrcene has been shown to strengthen the effects of THC on our endocannabinoid receptors, enhancing cannabis’s high. It has notable relaxation and sedation properties.
  • Possible medicinal benefits: Myrcene has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties for body tissues, and may prove useful in treating cancer.


  • The aroma: Humulene contributes a dank, earthy smell. Some compare it to the complex, bitter aroma of fresh hops.
  • Effects: Humulene has demonstrated appetite-suppressant properties. If your cannabis high doesn’t give you the munchies, humulene may be the culprit.
  • Possible medicinal benefits: Research on humulene in other plants like ginseng and hops has shown this terpene has anti-inflammatory and anti-infection properties.
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