Cannabis 101: The Six Most Common Terpenes and Their Effects

If you follow developments in the cannabis world, you may already have heard of “terpenes,” the fragrant oils that give each strain its distinctive aromas and flavors. But as researchers are learning, terpenes contribute much more than just a pretty smell: In concert with cannabinoids like THC and CBD, terpenes elicit highly specific and medically useful interactions with our bodies, ranging from delivering anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects to helping us shed stress, regulate our appetites and more.

Like the cannabinoids, terpenes are a vast topic in and of themselves; the cannabis plant contains over 200 of them! But by focusing on the six most common terpenes, we can narrow that list down a good bit. Consider this, then, a brief introduction to these fragrant plant-based powerhouses.

The Six Most Common Terpenes: Myrcene

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The most abundant terpene in cannabis, myrcene is sometimes called the “mother of all terpenes.” In fact, how much of this terpene occurs in a given plant determines whether it will exhibit a sativa-like energizing effect or an indica-like sedative effect.

What’s more, myrcene imparts powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-fighting) qualities. Characterized by a fruity, earthy and somewhat grapey flavor, myrcene also occurs most notably in mangoes.

The Six Most Common Terpenes: Alpha-pinene and Beta-pinene

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As expected, these closely related terpenes lend cannabis a deliciously piney and resinous aroma. Outside cannabis, it’s the earth’s most common terpene, occuring in pine trees, orange peel, and herbs like rosemary and basil.

Pinene has been shown to be useful in combating respiratory conditions such as asthma. Inhaling pinene-rich strains of cannabis—we recommend a vape pen or vaporizer—may help reduce inflammation in the lungs and airways.

The Six Most Common Terpenes: Geraniol

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One of the most memorable terpenes, geraniol reminds some of sweet stone fruit like peaches and plums, with notes of flowers and fresh-cut grass as well. That’s the reason it’s often found in aromatic bath products and lotions, but there’s more to the story: Research suggests geraniol has powerful antioxidant qualities as well.

The Six Most Common Terpenes: Humulene

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You’ll find this distinctive-smelling terpene in hops, the flower which gives many beers their earthy, woody and spicy notes. So it comes as soms surprise that research indicates humulene has a role to play in helping us regulate our appetites. In addition, studies indicate that humulene has antibacterial qualities and might be helpful in fighting the growth of tumors.

The Six Most Common Terpenes: Linalool

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If there’s a single aroma that conjures the classic “marijuana smell,” it’s this common terpene. It’s known to help us combat fight anxiety and depression, and it also inspires sedative and relaxing sensations. Over and above that, pilot studies suggest that linalool might help reverse the cognitive impairment and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Six Most Common Terpenes: Limonene

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Besides contributing much of the scent of—you guessed it—fresh lemons, limonene is abundant in most citrus fruits. Because it’s so universally appealing, it’s often added to many common foods and beverages, and non-edible goods like detergents.

That pleasing lemon scent can have a profound effect on our mood, as research shows. It’s further indication that while THC provides the “high,” many other factors—like terpenes—go into regulating the overall experience.

Interested in learning more? Stop by our Oakland dispensary to check out our terpene-rich strains.