Terpenes, or isoprenoids, provide cannabis with its unique bouquet. The molecules are quite small and consist of repeating units of a compound called isoprene. Although less well-known than the major cannabinoids, terpenes are instrumental to the physiological and psychoactive effects of cannabis. The relationship between terpenes and cannabinoids, known as the “entourage effect,” ultimately differentiates one strain of cannabis from another.

Terpenes play a vital role in the plant kingdom; they deter insect predation, protect plants from environmental stresses, and act as building blocks for more complex molecules, such as cannabinoids. Many terpenes act synergistically with other varieties of terpenes, and some either catalyze or inhibit formation of different compounds within a plant. Understanding how terpenes function allows scientists to manipulate cannabinoids to desired ratios

Primary Terpenes Found in Cannabis

α Pinene

α Pinene accounts for cannabis’ familiar odor, often associated with pine trees and turpentine. α Pinene is the most common naturally occurring terpenoid.


Linalool has a floral scent reminiscent of spring flowers, but with spicy overtones.


Myrcene is the most prevalent terpene and is found in most varieties of hemp. Myrcene concentration dictates whether a strain will have an Indica or Sativa effect. Myrcene is also present in thyme, hops, lemongrass, and citrus, and is used in aromatherapy.


Limonene is a dominant terpene in hemp. It is also found in the rinds of citrus fruits. Limonene aids in the absorption of other terpenes through the skin and mucous membranes. 


Ocimene is frequently used in perfumes for its pleasant odor. In nature, this terpene contributes to a plant’s defense system. 


Terpinolene is responsible for many of the floral notes found in Jack Herer varieties.


Terpineol is known for its pleasant smell and is often used in soaps and perfumes.


Valencene is present in Valencia oranges and contributes to hemps’ citrus aroma. 

β Caryophyllene 

β Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact with the body's endocannabinoid system (CB2) receptors.


Also present in geraniums, geraniol emits a rosey scent that makes it a popular perfume additive. It is an effective mosquito repellent.

α Humulene

α Humulene contributes to the "hoppy" aroma of cannabis.


Secondary Terpenes Found in Cannabis


Phellandrene is commonly found in the essential oil of plants in the eucalyptus genus. Its smell is reminiscent of peppermint, with a slight citrus tone.


Carene has a sweet, pungent odor and is a main constituent of pine and cedar resin. It is used to dry out excess body fluids, such as tears, mucus, and sweat.


Terpinene is used as a fragrant additive in both the cosmetic and food industries.It is also considered to be a well-tolerated additive in the pharmaceutical industry. It has very strong antioxidant properties.


Fenchol is found in basil and is used extensively in perfumery.


Borneol has a menthol aroma and is used as a calming sedative in lots of nutritional remedies.



Bisabolol is the primary constituent of German chamomile essential oil.


Found in green tea, phytol is a diterpene that results from the degradation of chlorophyll.


Camphene is found in essential oils extracted from certain trees.


Sabinene is known for its spicy, oak, and black pepper accents.


Principally derived from the camphor tree, camphor is readily absorbed through the skin. When applied topically, it produces a cooling sensation similar to that of menthol.


Isoborneol is found in the mugwort plant .


Cedrene is present in the essential oil of cedar.


Nerolidol is found in oranges.


Guaiol is an alcohol found in the oil of guaiacum and cypress pine.


Isopulegol is a chemical precursor to menthol, and has a variety of promising routes.


Geranyl Acetate

Geranyl Acetate is found in a variety of natural oils, derived from citronella, lemongrass, sassafras, roses, and many others. It has a strong floral aroma with a fruity twist.


Commonly found in the essential oils of cumin and thyme.


Derived from eucalyptus oil, eucalyptol has a minty, earthy aroma.


Pulegone has a pleasant peppermint aroma and is a strong insecticide.