When you open a jar of fresh Sour Diesel buds, your nostrils will definitely fill up with skunky fumes from myrcene, the most abundant terpene. Terpenes give plants their characteristic scents, cannabis being a plant loaded with over 200 terpenes. The scents help to attract pollinators to the cannabis plant. More importantly, they have therapeutic properties that can be tapped into in the treatment of various medical conditions.


Terpenes and Terpenoids: The Difference


You may hear terpenes being referred to as terpenoids in certain forums, even though there is a slight difference between the two. Terpenes are hydrocarbons while terpenoids have undergone oxidation through exposure to sunlight. Terpenoids are found in cannabis plants that have been cured.


Terpenens may also be called terps.


Terpenes and the Entourage Effect


As mentioned earlier, terpenes offer therapeutic value to the cannabis plant which can be harnessed in the treatment of various ailments. Terpenes can also be combined with other compounds found in the cannabis plant to offer an even more powerful and durable healing effect, this is known as the entourage effect. Cannabinoids are other therapeutic compounds found in the cannabis plant that have been used as healing agents for many years.


Before 2015, it was believed that pure isolates provide greater healing properties than combinations of different compounds. But a study conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2015 showed the contrary. The study was titled “Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol.”When cannabidiol (a potent cannabinoid) is used over time the therapeutic effects taper off after reaching a certain climax. This study proved that when a full extract (containing cananabinoids, terpenes as well as other phytonutrients) is used, the tapering off effect is overcome; this means that the healing effect is more powerful and prolonged.


With that, here is a list of 17 common terpenes that you would expect to find in common cannabis strains.


Common Terpenes


1.   Myrcene


This is by far the most abundant terpene found in the cannabis plant, with some strains containing 60% of total terpene content. It is also common in mangoes and lemon grass. It has a distinct earthy scent that may also be referred to as skunky. Most cannabis strains will have a hint of the myrcene scent.


Dr Ethan Russo who is a well known researcher in the cannabis field conducted a study on mice in 2011 that showed myrcene has both anti-inflammatory as well as sedative effects.


Another study conducted by The University of Coimbra in Portugal in 2015 revealed that myrcene has anti-catabolic effects, this means that it prevents the breakdown of cartilage and slows down the progression of arthritis.


Myrcene also potentiates the effects of THC by increasing saturation at the CB1 receptor. Finally, a study published in Aromatic Science showed that myrcene helps in preventing peptic ulcer disease.


2.   Pinene


Pinene has two structural isomers: α-pinene and β-pinene. It is mostly found in pine and fir trees, as well as cannabis. As the name suggests, it smells of pine. Similar to myrcene, it has potent anti-inflammatory properties. A number of studies have shown that pinene has broncho-dilator properties which may come in handy in treating symptoms of asthma.


Pinene also inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and this helps in improving memory. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) causes short term memory loss, when combined with pinene this effect may be reduced.


Another study conducted by Guangdong University showed that pinene has anti-tumor effects.


3.   Limonene


Limonene is an essential terpene because it helps in the absorption of other terpenes. The aroma is reminiscent of citrus fruits, and it follows that this terp is abundant in the rinds of citrus fruits. It can also be found in rosemary, juniper and peppermint.


Limonene is a known mood elevator and can be useful in treating depression. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Lastly, it can be useful in stimulating weight loss.


4.   Linalool


Linalool has an appealing floral scent with some spicy undertones.  The Kush family of cannabis strains has an abundance of this terp. It is mostly used in aromatherapy because of its mood elevating and sedating properties. It can also be used in treating convulsions and seizures, especially when combined with cannabidiol. When combined with THC, this terp helps in countering symptoms of anxiety and paranoia.


Linalool has also been shown to reduce lung inflammation caused by cigarette smoking. You may wonder if this same inflammation does not arise due to smoking cannabis; unlike cigarette smoking, there are many ways to consume cannabis that do not involve combustion.


Linalool also boosts the immune system by activating immune cell pathways. Lastly, linalool forms part of the building blocks for Vitamin E.


5.   Caryophyllene


This is a spicy terpene that is abundant in black pepper; a whiff may send give you coughing bouts quite easily. It has structural similarities to humulene, another terpene with a woody scent.


Caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory as well as anti-anxiety properties. An interesting finding is that this terpene may be beneficial in treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It can also be found in spices such as basil and cloves. It is the only terpene that is able to bind to the CB1 receptor.


The Fine/Rosenfeld pain study showed that this terp can be beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain, while having minimal side effects. The use of cannabis compounds in the management of chronic pain such as in cancer may provide a favorable substitute for opioids which have remarkable side effects.


6.   Eucalyptol


This terpene is only found in sativa strains. It can be helpful in the treatment of asthma. Studies have also shown that it has immunosuppressive properties and it may be helpful in treating auto-immune conditions.


7.   Humulene


This terpene has a musky aroma that may also be described as earthy. Some people mistake this for the scent given off by myrcene, the most abundant terpene. It is abundant in hops, which is used in beer fermentation. Studies have shown that this terpene has anti-bacterial as well as anti-inflammatory properties. This anti-inflammatory property is useful in alleviating allergic inflammation of the airways.


It is also speculated that humulene has appetite suppressant effects, quite the contrary to the munchies induced by THC.


Humulene is also abundant in coriander.


8.   Ocimene


Ocimene is abundant in sativa strains, and it can also be found in mint, tarragon, marjoram and parsley. It has potent cerebral effects and may work well in decluttering the mind and providing a feeling of being uplifted. It is also a known decongestant and expectorant.


It has an herbaceous aroma.


9.   Borneol


Not much is known of this terpene.  It is suspected that this terp has anti-inflammatory properties and may also help in treating neuropathic pain.


10.  Terpineol


This terpene has a floral aroma and it is often included in the ingredient list of floral perfumes. This makes it a favorite for aromatherapy. It is a mood up lifter and a sedative as well. It also has anti-malarial properties.


11.   Terpinolene


This terp is often confused for terpineol, but the two are actually quite different. On similarities, the two are both used in scenting perfumes and soaps. However, terpinolene is a central nervous system depressant and may cause drowsiness.


Terpinolene is common in sage and rosemary.


12.   Camphene


Camphene has the smell of damp woodlands and it is most useful in treating cardiovascular disease. Specifically, it is useful in lowering bad cholesterol levels and triglycerides. It is present in camphor oil and may be used to flavor foods.


13.   Phellandrene


This is a rareterpene which has a scent of peppermint. It has been used in traditional medicines to relieve digestive issues. It is found in essential oils and is responsible for the scent of these oils. It is easily absorbed through the skin and is mostly incorporated in skin care products.


14.   Carene


Delta-3-carene is mostly found in oils such as juniper and cypress oil. It has anti-cholinergic effects and may be used to dry out secretions. It is not a favorable terp as it causes irritation and coughing.


15.    Pulegone


Pulegone has a peppermint aroma and is useful in the treatment of fevers and insomnia. It can improve communication between nerve cells. This can be useful in alleviating symptoms of short-term memory loss which may be as a result of THC. It can also be used as an insecticide.


16.    Sabinene


This is a rare terpene that is found in spices and some essential oils. It has anti-inflammatory as well as anti-oxidative properties.


17.    Geraniol


Geraniol has a sweet scent and it is usually incorporated in bath foams and soaps. It is also known as lemonol or beta geraniol. It has also been added to cigarettes to improve the flavor and scent. One study has shown that geraniol has anti-tumor effects.


The list of terpenes cannot be conclusive, as research in this area still has a long way to go. For now, anecdotal and preliminary evidence is very suggestive of the immense therapeutic potential of these compounds found in cannabis as well as other plants and animals.