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What Are Marijuana Terpenes & What Do They Do?

Cannabis is known for its unique smells and flavors, from skunky to sweet to even unique smells like diesel fuel. But did you know that terpenes are what are responsible for these flavor and aroma profiles? In this guide, we’ll explore terpenes and answer the questions:

  • What Are Terpenes?
  • Where Are Terpenes Found?
  • How Do Terpenes Impact the Body?
  • What Are the Most Common Terpenes?
  • Terpene FAQs

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are fascinating little compounds found in plants, fruits, vegetables, and some animals and insects. Cannabis terpenes come from the trichomes of marijuana plants, and they’re responsible for the smell and flavor of a cannabis strain.

In nature, terpenes are responsible for attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies, but they can also be used by plants to repel certain critters, including insects and even animals. There are also terpenes that contribute to a plant’s ability to recover from injury or repel germs. Terpenes are an important part of a plant’s survival.

Where are Terpenes Found?

Terpenes aren’t just found in marijuana plants, though. They can also be found in other plants, and there are even terpenes made by insects and animals. Whether you’re consuming marijuana, sniffing a rose, spraying a household cleaner, or even spritzing perfume on your wrist, there’s a good chance somewhere in there, a terpene is responsible for what you smell.

Get to know other parts of the cannabis plant, like flavonoids and trichomes.

How Do Terpenes Impact the Body?

Cannabis terpenes are still being researched for any potential medicinal value, but we’re only beginning to understand what these compounds can do. However, we do know that terpenes can contribute to the entourage effect–this is the holistic effect that cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids have in the body.

What Are the Most Common Terpenes?

While there are many different types of terpenes, there are some that just are more prevalent in cannabis than others. The most common terpenes found in marijuana include: 


Also known as β-Caryophyllene, beta-caryophyllene, or BCP, caryophyllene is one of the most common terpenes in the world, and it's known for its spicy flavor. It also is the only terpene that also acts like a cannabinoid. 

Learn more about Caryophyllene


Sometimes referred to as alpha-caryophyllene or α-caryophyllene, alpha humulene or α-humulene, humulene has an earthy scent that beer drinkers will find familiar—it is one of the most prominent terpenes in hops.

Learn more about Humulene


Also called D-limonene, this terpene has its flavor and scent profile right in its name: lemon. If there’s a citrus fruit, chances are, it has limonene in it, and many marijuana strains contain limonene too. This terpene lends its tangy sweet flavor profile to many popular cannabis strains.

Learn more about Limonene


Linalool lends its sweet, floral aroma to over 200 different types of plants, including lavender, jasmine, and basil. Linalool is best enjoyed in moderation—too much and the taste shifts from pleasant to a bitter, soapy flavor like you accidentally sprayed perfume in your mouth.

Learn more about Linalool


No matter if you call it alpha myrcene, beta myrcene, or just plain myrcene, it all refers to the same prevalent and popular terpene. Myrcene has a unique flavor profile—earthy, a little spicy, and just a hint of balsam-sweet—and it can be found in anything from thyme and hops to mangoes.

Learn more about Myrcene


It’s pretty easy to guess what this terpene smells like: pine. Because of this woodsy aroma, pinene is used in everything from air fresheners to candles and cleaners. In the natural world, it’s found in pine nuts, limes, dill, coniferous trees and marijuana plants. 

Learn more about Pinene

There are other terpenes you’ll find in cannabis, including terpineol, ocimene, valencene, and geraniol. While not as prominent, these terpenes still contribute to the overall enjoyment of cannabis.

Answering Terpenes FAQs

Terpene research continues every day, so we’re always excited to answer questions about it. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about terpenes and their answers:

How are terpenes different from cannabinoids?
Marijuana terpenes and cannabinoids are completely different compounds. Terpenes are responsible for a marijuana plant’s taste and aroma. Cannabinoids, especially THC, are contributors to the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Together, both cannabinoids and terpenes may contribute to the entourage effect in the body. That is, the feelings our body experiences when we consume cannabis. Some researchers believe that the way all these compounds interact within the body create the different sensations cannabis enthusiasts talk about after consuming marijuana, rather than the feelings being solely created by THC and CBD. 

Are terpenes similar to flavonoids? 
Terpenes and flavonoids are similar, both contributing to the flavors and aromas of cannabis. However, there are far fewer flavonoids than terpenes in a cannabis plant, and flavonoids have more of an influence on the flower’s unique colors.

Are terpenes the same as CBD?
No, terpenes are not the same as CBD. Terpenes create the flavors and aromas of a marijuana plant. CBD is a cannabinoid and interacts with different receptors in the body. 

What terpenes are in sativa?
The same terpenes can be found in sativa, indica, and hybrid strains, though their levels primarily depend on the plant. For example, there may be different levels of terpenes in the strain Green Crack when compared to Trainwreck, even though they’re both sativa-leaning hybrids.

What terpenes are in indica?
All different types of terpenes can be found in indica. In fact, the terpenes found in indica strains are not exclusive to indica. The same terpenes can also be found in sativa strains. 

Understanding Terpenes

Terpenes are unique little compounds because they are what give cannabis (and other plants) their flavors and aromas. Understanding terpenes and their various profiles can help you better understand your favorite strains of cannabis, and it can also help you discover new favorites over time. Start by finding out what the terpenes are in your go-to marijuana strains, and then, you can search for other strains that have similar terpene profiles. Best of all, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try out new strains with their own unique terpenes. Just visit your local dispensary to get started. 

Recreational cannabis is not available in all states. Cannabis is for medical use only and may only be used by certified patients in Ohio and Pennsylvania. State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and certified patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.