What are terpenes and why do they matter?

Cannabis terpenes are important to understanding a strain's tastes, aromas and effects

Terpenes are an important part of understanding cannabis and create the taste, smell and effects of strains.

Cannabis strains are all similar, but anyone who has tried the plant knows they have differences between their tastes, aromas and effects. While many people associate certain feelings from cannabis with strains being an indica, sativa or hybrid, they actually come from a strain’s terpene profile. 

What exactly are terpenes and why you should care

Terpenes are oils found in the same glands that create cannabinoids such as THC and CBD in a cannabis plant. Terpenes aren’t exclusive to cannabis though and are in many different plants, flowers, fruits and more. Like many strong-smelling plants, they develop as a means to repel anything that could damage a plant as it’s growing. 

There are at least 20,000 terpenes discovered in plants and over 100 in cannabis so far. Cannabis terpene profiles develop from several factors such as climate, soil, fertilizer and the plant's genetics. 

Certain types of strains will also tend to have a similar terpene profile to other similar genetics. For example, cannabis strains within the Cookie genetic lineage will typically have higher amounts of caryophyllene or strains descending from a Blueberry genetic will develop a fruity, berry smell. 

Cannabis terpenes also offer different effects from each other. For example, strains high in limonene are usually very uplifting and energetic, while strains containing heavy amounts of myrcene will be more sedative. 

Cannabis strains all contain a complex profile of terpenes, so every strain and each harvested plant will have varying levels of different terpenes that come together to create its effects. 

While there are many terpenes to learn about, and it can seem overwhelming, there are common ones found in cannabis to focus on. If you’re looking to be more specific with the effects, tastes and aromas of the cannabis you consume beyond looking at if a strain is a sativa or an indica, take a look below for a basic breakdown of some of the most common terpenes in cannabis. 


This is the most commonly found terpene in cannabis today. Myrcene is known primarily for inducing relaxing and calming effects. 


Commonly associated with uplifting and energizing feelings, limonene is a great mood-boosting terpene to look out for in cannabis. 


Pinene is rarely the most-dominant terpene in a cannabis strain but is heavily present as a secondary terpene. This terpene is good for people looking for a strain where they can still focus while high. 


This is the only terpene known to simultaneously act as a cannabinoid like THC or CBD. It’s commonly found in spices and aromatic oils creating a pungent, spiced scent and taste. 


While not dominant in most strain’s terpene structures, terpinolene is very common in smaller amounts. It is expansive in its flavor and scent profile, often being described simply as “fresh” which is why it’s commonly found in soaps and perfumes. 


This terpene is less common than others but is known for its sedative and calming effects. Most strains with prominent amounts of linalool will also have other calming terpenes like myrcene present.