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What are Terpenes in Marijuana?

Dani Walton
Dani Walton

First, we will start by defining what terpenes are. As you should know, they are the organic hydrocarbons found in cannabis that give the plant and its flowers different flavors and aromatic diversity. In short, it is what gives flowers and plants the aromas that characterize them. In fact, this is a defense mechanism of cannabis to deter some animals from eating it.

Like essential oils, terpenes are produced in the sticky resin glands of cannabis where cannabinoids like THC and CBD are also secreted. While regular consumers notice terpenes primarily due for their aromatic and pungent distinctions, these compounds provide more benefits than just an intense smell.

These terpenes are recognized by the FDA as safe to use, plus terpenes can be found in many fruits, herbs, and plants. In general, these compounds are frequently used in the production of flavorings and fragrances for a wide range of organic products. For example, the distinctive fragrance of marijuana, mint, or lavender is primarily due to the unique structure of the terpenes in these plants.

Types of Terpenes

More than 100 different terpenes have been detected in marijuana and there are many more if we consider the variations of each one. For example, the typical smell of citrus fruits comes from terpenes called limonenes, but these vary in different concentrations. Lemon limonenes are identical copies of orange limonenes, but each variety defines a different smell, resulting from minute differences in the proportions or shape of the limonenes it contains.

Here, we present the main terpenes that we find in Cannabis Sativa and what their effects on health are. You can see that the percentages can vary a lot from one variety to another.


Myrcene, or beta-myrcene, is a linear monoterpene carbohydrate that is the main component of the essential oil of wild thyme, accounting for 40% of its composition. In addition, it is found in high concentrations in other plants such as hops, mango, and lemongrass, among others. Myrcene acts as an anti-inflammatory by interfering with the prostaglandin inflammatory signaling pathway. Myrcene is the sedative active principle of hops and it is used in herbal medicine and in natural therapies to help you fall asleep.

In laboratory animals, its sedative, hypnotic, analgesic and muscle relaxant properties have been clearly demonstrated. Its mechanism of action is not fully understood but it could have adrenergic and/or opioid effects because the analgesic effect is blocked by an opioid antagonist (naloxone). It has also been shown that myrcene alters the blood-brain barrier, favoring the entry of cannabinoids into the brain and producing an increase in effects.

In a recent study, it was seen in analyzing the composition of terpenes in indica varieties and comparing the composition with sativa varieties, that a greater presence of myrcene was found in varieties with indica dominance, making up 60-80% of its composition. It is commonly accepted that indica varieties have more relaxing and sedative effects than sativa varieties. Putting all of this evidence together, we can speculate that the effect of myrcene combined with the effect of THC produces a highly physical and hypnotic effect that is typical of indica strains.

Bruce Banner Seeds

Bruce Banner is one of the Blimburn Seeds varieties where earthy flavors dominate which is determined by the Myrcene terpene that is responsible for this incredible flavor.


Pinene is the common name used to refer to two isomeric bicyclic monoterpenes, alpha-pinene and beta-pinene which are the main components of pine resin and other conifers. This is the reason for its name, although it is the most widely distributed terpene in nature. In fact, they are not only found in the plant kingdom because the two compounds are also part of the chemical communication system of insects and act as repellents for insects.

They have broad antibiotic activity, even against antibiotic-resistant pathogens. One of the greatest therapeutic activities they have is anti-inflammatory, blocking the inflammatory signaling of prostaglandins in a similar way to myrcene. They also have activity as a bronchodilator in humans when they are inhaled at low concentrations. This effect could influence a greater absorption of cannabinoids in the lungs when smoking or when vaporizing Cannabis with high contents of alpha and beta-pinene, increasing plasma concentrations and, as a consequence, the effect of cannabinoids.

Alpha-pinene is an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor and may have favorable effects on memory and may reduce the negative effects of THC, although this is currently a mere hypothesis. Apart from its activity, alpha-pinene has also served as a biosynthetic base for the CB2 cannabinoid receptor ligands. In the different varieties of Cannabis, pinene seems to be very stable in its expression, making up around 10% and reaching a maximum of 15-20% of the terpene composition.

Forbidden Fruit Marijuana Plant

Forbidden Fruit is a variety that makes people talk about its exquisite flavors and aromas thanks to its terpenes. In this variety, the pine flavor is the one that dominates and is what gives this variety those woody and fresh tones.


Limonene is the main cyclic carbohydrate component of the essential oil of the skin of lemons and other citrus fruits and from there it gets its name. It is the second most widely distributed terpene in nature and is an intermediate product in the biosynthesis of other terpenes. Limonene is not found in insects, unlike pinene, but it also has repellent activity as well as insecticide. Limonene is widely used in the food and pharmaceutical industries as a flavoring agent. Lately, its use in dermal patch formulations is being studied to improve the transdermal absorption of the active ingredients.

In the cosmetic and cleaning industry, limonene is used as a fragrance and as an environmentally friendly, biodegradable, organic solvent. Limonene is rapidly absorbed by inhalation or through the skin and rapidly metabolized, but there are indications that it accumulates in fatty tissues such as the brain. Limonene is not toxic and does not cause skin irritation, but some of its airborne oxidation products are irritating to the skin and mucous membranes, producing 3% of dermatitis in people who have been exposed to high doses for a long time such as paint industry workers, among others. Even so, limonene has therapeutic effects in certain dermatological diseases and antiseptic properties, especially against acne bacteria.

Animal studies suggest that limonene has anxiolytic effects, producing an increase in the neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, in the brain. It has been shown that the dispersion of limonene in the environment has produced a decrease in depressive symptoms in hospitalized patients in addition to producing a strong immunostimulation. Limonene also causes apoptosis, or cell death, of breast cancer cells and its effectiveness is currently being tested in clinical trials. Finally, the use of limonene against gastroesophageal reflux has been patented.

Sour Diesel Marijuana Plant

Sour Diesel stands out for its Diesel flavor and aroma with strong citrus notes due to the fact that Limonene forms a large part of this variety and predominates over other terpenes.


Linalool is linear monoterpene alcohol and is one of the main compounds in the essential oil of lavender but it is also present in many other plants. Linalool is widely used as a fragrance in the cleaning and hygiene products industry, as an intermediate product in the chemical industry, and as an insecticide against flies and cockroaches, although it is not effective as a repellent. Lavender essential oil relieves skin burns and even reduces the intake of morphine when inhaled by patients in postoperative treatment. These effects are attributed to linalool as it is the main component of lavender essential oil. After ingestion, in the gastric tract, other components such as linalool acetate monoterpene are hydrolyzed into linalool. Linalool itself has demonstrated anxiolytic effects in the range of local anesthetics comparable to lidocaine and menthol, analgesic effects in experimental animals mediated by adenosine type 2 (A2a) receptors and glutamate receptors, and sedative effects by inhalation.

In addition to these effects, linalool has anticonvulsant properties that inhibit glutamatergic activity and is capable of reducing the release of neurotransmitters from neurons stimulated by glutamate. With all of this, we can argue that the sedative, anxiolytic, and anticonvulsant effects have their mechanism of action in the modulation of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA in a similar way to how we saw that cannabinoids act. Thus, a Cannabis plant with THC and linalool will probably produce a great sedative and analgesic effect due to the synergy of the two compounds. However, a Cannabis plant with CBD and/or THCV and/or CBDV and linalool will probably produce a synergistic effect as an anticonvulsant that would be effective in cases of epilepsy, even as a preventive.

Blackberry Moonrocks Marijuana Plant

Blackberry Moonrocks is a strain where the terpene linalool predominates and stands out for its floral aroma and flavor that highlights lavender notes. This variety is mostly indica and thanks to its parents, it inherits those flavors and aromas.


Eucalyptol, or 1,8-cineole, is a monoterpene ester that makes up practically all of the essential oil of eucalyptus from which it gets its name, but it is widely distributed in the plant kingdom. It has repellent and insecticide activity, although it is produced by certain orchids to attract male bees.

Eucalyptol is used as a food additive to provide flavor and the products that contain it must have a concentration of 0.002% because the intake of higher amounts can affect the central nervous system CNS and can even be psychotropic. It is widely used in the cosmetic and chemical industries, but it is still classified as a reproductive toxicant. Some studies have shown some clinical efficacy of eucalyptol in asthma, sinusitis, and as an anti-inflammatory and local analgesic.

In addition, its immunosuppressive and anti-leukemic properties have been demonstrated in vitro. In the aforementioned study of the terpene profiles of the different varieties, it was found that eucalyptol, carene, phellandrene, and terpinolene are the practically exclusive terpenes of sativa varieties. Eucalyptol, carene, and phellandrene are found in concentrations of around 5% and terpinolene around 20% of the total terpenes in sativa varieties while always in concentrations of less than 1% in indica varieties.

 Bearing in mind that eucalyptol is the only one of these that has so far been shown to be active in the CNS, that it is almost unique to sativa strains, and that sativa strains have a euphoric effect that is distinctive to indica strains, we can hypothesize that the synergy between THC and eucalyptol is what gives the qualitative difference in the activating effect of the sativa varieties, just as myrcene could be responsible for the hypnotic effect of the indica varieties.

Alien OG is a hybrid strain that has marked herbal tones because the eucalyptol terpene predominates and also generates pine flavors with a spicy aftertaste. The foregoing makes the aroma of this variety also have a complex fragrance that is difficult to describe, an issue that makes it special for cannabis connoisseurs.


We commonly call Caryophyllene the mixture of three compounds: alpha-carophyllene or humulene, first described in hops, beta-caryophyllene which is the main component of the essential oil of black pepper, and caryophyllene oxide, an oxidation product present in lemon balm and eucalyptus. All of them are bicyclic sesquiterpene carbohydrates and are present in all varieties of Cannabis. In fact, carophyllene oxide is the signal detected by police dogs trained to find Cannabis.

We have to take into account that it is one of the least volatile terpenes and that as we mentioned before, it resists the decarboxylation process, thus being the most present terpene in Cannabis extracts. In the plant kingdom, beta-carophyllene fulfills an evolutionary survival function, increasing its biosynthesis and release in plants parasitized by herbivorous insects, and thus being able to attract predatory insects to reduce the damage caused by herbivores.

Carophyllene oxide is involved in the plant defense system, acting as an insecticide and antifungal. Here, it is worth mentioning that in the plant, caryophyllene and CBC act jointly in the defense against fungal attacks. In addition, caryophyllene oxide has shown clinical effectiveness against certain cases of fungal infection. Beta-caryophyllene has anti-inflammatory properties acting at two levels, one at the level of blocking the inflammatory pathway of prostaglandins like myrcene and pinene and another as an agonist of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor.

This last mode of action makes beta-carophyllene the first non-cannabinoid molecule with cannabinomimetic action and which is also authorized for human consumption, opening up wide therapeutic applicability. Its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and (effective) action against atypical dermatitis has been demonstrated in animal models, but has not yet been demonstrated in humans.

Due to its action on the prostaglandin pathway, caryophyllene has anti-blood coagulant properties and, unexpectedly, has gastric protective properties. Gastric ulcers are a side effect of certain prostaglandin antagonist anti-inflammatory drugs that limit their therapeutic applicability, but caryophyllene not only does not have this side effect, but can also protect against its appearance. With all of this evidence, we can hypothesize that a Cannabis that contains CBD and carophyllene will have great anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, acting on prostaglandins and the cannabinoid receptor.

Orka is a mostly sativa strain that has citrus flavors of Lemon thanks to the carophyllene terpene and, on the other hand, the aroma that it emanates is a mix between incense and wood in a soft and fragrant way. After 1 or 2 months of curing Orka, when you open your jars, you will smell the exquisite aroma release from the inside in a phenomenal way.

Now that you know the most recognized terpenes in the world of cannabis and also the main varieties that contain these terpenes, it’s time to cultivate. Do not forget that at Blimburn Seeds, we have the largest number of varieties of marijuana seeds for sale.

Strains featured in this article:

Dani Walton

Dani Walton is a highly accomplished cannabis expert and entrepreneur hailing from the Bay Area. With an impressive track record spanning over 20 years, Dani has amassed a wealth of experience in the cannabis industry. Her journey has taken her across the globe, as she traveled with the executive team of Harborside for more than 11 years, passionately advocating for the positive impacts of the cannabis plant.

During her tenure at Harborside, Dani excelled in managing wholesale and distribution for Harborside's farm, while also playing a pivotal role in the development of their in-house brand, Key. Following her departure from Harborside, Dani embarked on a new venture, co-founding NXTLVL, a women-owned concentrate delivery service that quickly gained recognition and Agris Farms. A beautiful 5 acre light dep farm located in Woodland, near Sacramento.

Her extensive knowledge encompasses the latest consumer trends, cannabis sales, extraction techniques, cultivation methods, new brands and products, as well as the evolving science of cannabis medicine. Recognized as a respected authority in the industry, Dani has served as a judge for esteemed cannabis competitions such as Chalice, High Times, Dab- A- Doo, The Organic Cup and The Emerald Cup. Her expertise and insights have been sought after by renowned publications and media outlets, including Forbes, The Guardian, The Independent, and many others.

With her remarkable background and unwavering commitment to advancing the cannabis industry, Dani Walton stands as a true pioneer and an influential figure in the field.

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