Photo by Matt Montgomery

Cannabis Terpenes 101

‘Terpene’ is a popular term in cannabis communities, but if you’re new to the space you may be wondering what exactly a terpene is. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Terpenes are complex, non-psychoactive compounds that give each cannabis plant a unique scent, producing pungent oils and complex fragrance and flavours. In cannabis, these pungent hydrocarbons are formed in the plant’s trichomes. (Trichomes are visible to the naked eye, appearing as little white hairs on the surface of bud and leaf. Trichomes are sometimes called dust, frost, crystals, or even “hippie crack.”)

Cannabis terpenes are increasingly of interest for their therapeutic properties. Here are some of the cannabis plant’s most common terpenes:


Myrcene is the most commonly found terpene in cannabis. Myrcene can be quite pungent and has an earthy odor, with hints of clove. You may recognize its scent in some of your everyday cooking with herbs such as thyme or lemongrass. As well as possessing antimicrobial properties, myrcene is also anti-inflammatory, analgesic and sedative.


You guessed it – this terpene tastes and smells of trees, specifically pine and fir, which also contain pinene. Pinene is used as a cancer treatment in traditional Chinese medicine, and has been shown to have anti-tumour effects. Research also shows that pinene may also have anti-osteoarthritic properties. Pinene is associated with increased focus and can be an antidepressant.


Close your eyes and let the aromatics of this terpene take you away. As its name suggests, limonene offers an unmistakably citrusy scent and flavour. Because of this, limonene is a popular ingredient in household cleaning supplies. One of the most widely used terpenes, limonene can help promote gastric healing and prevent outbreaks of yeast.


This terpene is best known for giving lavender its distinctive scent, exhibiting sweet floral tones and a hint of citrus. Because linalool encourages relaxation, some people turn to it as a sleep aid or treatment for anxiety. Linalool can be a fairly powerful anti-inflammatory, too.


Caryophyllene gives off a robust woodsy scent with a distinctive peppery note. If you’re looking for this terpene in your local grocery store, you’ll find it in black pepper, basil, cinnamon and caraway. Caryophyllene has numerous medicinal benefits including acting as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and local anaesthetic. Caryophyllene may also alleviate the paranoia and anxiety associated with THC.