Terpenes are the primary constituents of the essential oils found in the hemp plant. Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes are indigenous to a variety of plant species. Known for their ability to intoxicate atmospheres with vibrant colors and pungent fragrances, the development of terpenes is essential for plants to repel predators and beguile pollinators.
Terpenes are what gives an orange its citrusy smell. They give pine trees their unique aroma. They’re even responsible for the relaxing effects in lavender. They are chemicals that determine how things smell.
In hemp, terpene profiles are unique to strains. Their medicinal properties are independent from cannabinoids with the ability to increase energy levels, improve mood, and relax the body and mind.
Cannabinoids are the compounds in the cannabis plant that cause healing--and so are terpenes. It’s been discovered that terpenes can play a big role in that as well. In fact, cannabinoids and terpenes work together in something called the entourage effect.
The Terpene List
Myrcene, which can also be found in mangoes, is the primary terpene found in cannabis plants. In fact, some plants can have up to 65 percent of their terpene profile made up by myrcene alone.
Limonene is a common terpene that most people can recognize by its scent. As the name suggests, limonene gives the rinds of fruits such as lemons and oranges their citrusy smell.
Limonene has powerful anti fungal and antibacterial properties, and its great smell means that it is a common additive in household cleaning and cosmetic products. Limonene can also help to bust stress and enhance mood.
This terpene’s name says it all, really. Pinene is found most abundantly in the pine tree and is what gives pine needles their distinctive smell. Found in two varieties, alpha, which is responsible for that wonderful pine aroma, and beta, which has a scent like rosemary, dill, or parsley. Pinene is a strong bronchodilator, but also has strong anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects that have been used for centuries in herbal medicines.
Shirin-yoku, which means “forest bathing,” is a Japanese therapy that involves taking leisurely walks in the forest, soaking up the atmosphere, and enjoying the scent. Shirin-yoku may have preventive and restorative effects.
A study in Acta Salus Vitae notes that the amount of pinene in the air of a healthy forest is enough to be therapeutic. Pinene acts as a bronchodilator, allowing more air into the lungs. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect and may fight against some infectious germs when inhaled.
Linalool is most abundant in the lavender plant and gives the flower its rich scent. Linalool is one of the more important compounds in aromatherapy and is responsible for the calming effect many people get when smelling lavender or its essential oil. It's widely known for the stress-relieving, anti-anxiety, and anti-depressant effects.
This terpene, which has a spicy, woody, peppery scent, exists in many herbs and vegetables, such as cloves and black pepper. Similar to other terpenes, beta-caryophyllene may have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body that could reduce pain levels in some people.
While many other strains help to increase appetite, which is beneficial to those who have conditions in which nausea and loss of appetite are a factor, strains that contain humulene may actually help to decrease appetite. Found in hops, cloves, and basil, humulene has also shown anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties in research.