What are Terpenes?
It may not surprise you that there’s a lot more to a cannabis strain than just its THC and CBD content. When it comes to getting the most out of your cannabis, seasoned consumers will often suggest using your nose as a guide. Why? Because like many other plants and trees, cannabis releases fragrant oils from the flowers’ resin glands (also known as trichomes).
The class of naturally produced chemicals that is largely responsible for the diverse range of aromas is called “terpenes”. Think of the smell of pine as you walk through the woods, the zest of a lemon, or the various smells as you chop fresh herbs.
If you’re not yet convinced, just give your cannabis a sniff!
The terpenes found in cannabis may not only determine the scent and flavour of a specific variety, they may also influence how each strain of cannabis impacts each person.
Terpenes are suspected to have medicinal properties of their own in addition to possibly working with CBD, THC and other cannabinoids to impact the overall therapeutic effect of a product. This hypothesis is often referred to as the “entourage effect,” and while the science that underlies it is complicated and continues to be explored, many patients and consumers report differences between cannabis varieties which may be partly attributed to the terpene profile.(1, 2) Currently available scientific evidence on individual terpenes and cannabinoids can be found in this review paper.
By developing a better understanding of prevalent cannabis terpenes and their aromas, you will start to learn more about the products you prefer.
10 Common Terpenes Found in Aurora Products:
Guaiol is a terpene generally found in relatively small amounts in cannabis. It carries a piney aroma with floral or rose notes and is also found in guaiacum (a flowering shrub) and pine trees.
The most common cannabis terpene, β-myrcene, has an earthy aroma that can be found in hops, bay leaves, thyme, lemongrass and mangoes. Consumers and patients report that β-myrcene has relaxing or sedative effects but research is currently ongoing by scientists to fully understand the effects of β-myrcene.
Pinene is actually found in cannabis in two forms, α- and β-pinene, which are called “isomers.” Isomers have the same molecular makeup (i.e., same chemical formula, for those of you that remember high school chemistry), but they are physically arranged differently. This difference in structure even results in different aromas. α-Pinene is the more abundant form and carries a distinct pine scent, while β-pinene has a more herbal aroma and is more dominant in plants like rosemary, dill, basil and parsley.
Limonene is a terpene with a fruity aroma most commonly associated with citrus. It’s also found in rosemary, juniper, peppermint, and the rinds of many fruits. As one would expect, limonene brings a fresh aroma to cannabis, and is often a specific characteristic sought out by patients and consumers.
β-Caryophyllene (also referred to as trans-caryophyllene) is perhaps the most noticeably “spicy” smelling terpene found in cannabis, with a distinctly warm, peppery aroma. It is found in black pepper, basil and oregano and is commonly used as a flavouring agent in food. Naturally occurring in such herbs as lavender and cinnamon leaves as well, this terpene is a natural insecticide and antifungal that protects a number of plant species!
Terpinolene imparts a complex and distinct aroma that is very identifiable once you are familiar with it. It carries a pungent and smoky aroma with an element of citrus. Terpinolene is also used in cosmetics and perfumes.
This terpene produces a fruity aroma, naturally occurring in tropical fruit (like mango and kumquat) and berries (like blackcurrant). Because of its sweet, herbal scent, β-ocimene is often used in perfumes and fragrances. As for herbs and spices, this terpene has been linked to parsley, basil and thyme, and is also a component of hops.
Linalool imparts a sweet, floral aroma with just a hint of spice. Linalool occurs naturally in roughly 200 plants, including mint and other scented herbs, and is often associated with lavender. Woody and herbal smelling, it’s also a natural constituent of cinnamon, laurels and rosewood. Because of its aroma, this terpene is often used in the cosmetics industry to add a pleasant scent to perfumes, soaps, shampoos and lotions.
Aurora products that contain linalool include Haiduk.
This terpene emits a sweet and floral aroma that naturally occurs in chamomile. It is most commonly used in fragrances and cosmetics and can be found in some teas.(1)
MedReleaf products that contain α-bisabolol include Sedamen.
α-Humulene carries an earthy aroma and occurs naturally in hops and sage. Both cannabis and the hop plant produce relatively high levels of this terpene; the two plants are actually closely related. Aurora products that contain α-humulene include Warwick #1 and Haiduk.
If you're curious and want to dive into more information on terpenes, check out this review paper that summarizes the currently available scientific evidence on the individual terpenes and cannabinoids.
- Baron, E. P. (2018). Medicinal Properties of Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Flavonoids in Cannabis and Benefits in Migraine, Headache, and Pain: An Update on Current Evidence and Cannabis Science. Headache Currents, 58, 1139-1186. https://doi.org/10.1111/head.13345
- Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming potential cannabis synergy and terpenoid entourage effect. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163, 1344-1364. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.