More than 100 different terpenes have been detected in marijuana and there are many more if we consider the different variations of each one. For example, the typical smell of citrus fruits comes from terpenes called limonenes, but these can vary in concentration. The limonenes of a lemon are identical to the limonenes of an orange, but each variety is defined by a different smell, resulting from tiny differences in the proportions or the form of the limonenes that it contains. Conversely, cannabinoids do not have any aroma or smell.
Each marijuana plant has a cannabinoid profile containing a unique taste and olfactory molecules. This combination of possibilities creates countless variations in the flavors and effects of marijuana, and are highly valued by growers, who can select the plant that best suits their needs or priorities.
The wide range of flavors and effects offered by the different strains of marijuana also helps to avoid developing tolerance to its effects. When a single variety is used exclusively, the user and his or her body will often develop a resistance, or tolerance, to the properties of the plant consumed.
List of Primary Cannabis Terpenes
Here are some of the most well-known and common cannabis terpenes (aka, CBD Terpenes, Marijuana Terpenes, Weed Terpenes) most of which you’ll find in legal cannabis products in your area.
α-Humulene is a sesquiterpene that is common to both hops and cannabis, and has been implicated as the terpene causing “hoppy” aromas in cannabis. Humulene was the first terpene found in hops. Besides cannabis, it can be also found in clove, sage, and black pepper. Its aroma contains earthy, woody, and spicy notes. It’s also found in tobacco, ginger, cilantro, basil, and evergreen trees.
Like myrcene, and many other terpenes, it has a variety of medicinal properties. Early research has shown humulene to be anti-proliferative, meaning it prevents cancer cells, including breast, leukemia, cervical, colorectal, and lung from growing. Also, its proving to be effective in suppressing appetite, making it a potential weight loss tool. And like many other cannabis terpenes mentioned in this blog post, it reduces inflammation, relieves pain, and fights bacterial infections. It’s also a potent insecticide.
Cannabis varieties measured to contain α-humulene include White Widow, Headband, Girl Scout Cookies, Sour Diesel, Pink Kush, Skywalker OG, Durban Poison, Girl Scout Cookies, White Widow, Grand Daddy Purple, and the Kush group.
α-pinene is one of the two isomers of pinene (β-pinene being the other). It emits an aroma reminiscent of turpentine or pine trees, and is found in rosemary and parsley as well as pine trees. It is one of the most commonly occurring terpenes in nature. α-Pinene is an expectorant and bronchodilator which is why deep inhalations of forest air can be so invigorating.
It also offers anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-microbial properties and has shown promise as a memory aid and it’s been evaluated for neuroprotective potential for enhanced management of memory disorders like dementia.
Cannabis varieties reported to contain higher pinene levels include the legendary Jack Herer, Blue Dream, the Kush Group, and AK-47.
β-Caryophyllene is considered to be the most common sesquiterpene in cannabis and is best known for its spicy and peppery notes. It’s found in black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and spices like oregano, basil, and rosemary, but also found in plants like hops and lavender.
To date, β-caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact directly with the endocannabinoid system (CB2 receptors), which have involvement in anxiety and depression disorders. Because it binds to CB2 receptors, it makes it a valuable ingredient in anti-inflammatory topicals and creams. It’s a potent antioxidant and has been studied in cancer treatments. It’s been shown to delay the onset of epileptic seizures. It’s also been studied in treatments for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and shows promise in treating alcohol addiction.
This terpene is commonly found in cannabis varieties like Girl Scout Cookies, White Widow, the Kush Group, Sunset Sherbet, Super Silver Haze, Skywalker, Rock Star, and Pineapple Express.
Geraniol’s smell evokes rose grass, peaches, and plums. It’s usually used in aromatic bath products and body lotions. Besides cannabis, geraniol can be found in lemons, catnip, beebalm, Assam tea, lemongrass, grapes, citronella, Citra hops, and, interestingly, tobacco plants.
Geraniol is also one of the main components of the Nasonov pheromone that is released by worker honeybees to help re-orient the bees when they return to the hive after foraging. Bees also create it to mark nectar-bearing flowers.
Geraniol has shown a lot of potential as a neuroprotectant making it an attractive molecule for further study in treating or preventing neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease. It is an antioxidant and has shown anti-cancer properties for skin, oral, breast, lung, colon, prostate, pancreatic, kidney, and liver cancers. Additionally, geraniol has shown to augment the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs.
This terpene has been shown to be an effective plant-based mosquito repellent.
Cannabis cultivars that contain geraniol include Lavender, Amnesia Haze, Headband, Great White Shark, Black Mamba, Skywalker, Death Star OG, Afghani, Headband, Island Sweet Skunk, OG Shark, and Master Kush.
This terpene is the most responsible for the recognizable marijuana smell with its spicy and floral notes. Linalool is also found in lavender, mint, cinnamon and coriander. What’s interesting is that just like those aromatic herbs, it has very strong sedative and relaxing properties. It’s also a constituent in bergamot, which provides the characteristic scent and flavor of Earl Grey tea, jasmine, basil, thyme, hops, coriander, oregano, grape vines, Assam tea, bay leaf, and citrus.
Linalool has demonstrated anti-cancer, anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, and sedative properties. Like pinene, linalool has been evaluated for restoring cognitive function in degradative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Linalool’s also been postulated as being able to reduce lung inflammation from cigarette smoking.
Linalool is the ingredient in lavender essential oils that’s responsible for providing relief from skin burns without scarring. Patients suffering from arthritis, depression, seizures, insomnia and even cancer, have all found aid in this amazing terpene.
Some well-known linalool strains are Amnesia Haze, Special Kush, Lavender, LA Confidential, and OG Shark.
Limonene is often the second, third, or fourth terpene found in cannabis resin. This family of terpenes produces the typical smell we all recognize as citrus. Limonene doesn’t just smell good, but it has significant medical properties. It contains anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory properties and is also anti-carcinogenic.
Limonene prevents the deterioration of the RAS gene, one of the factors that contribute to the development of tumors. Limonene also protects against Aspergillus and carcinogens present in smoke. It quickly and easily penetrates the blood-brain barrier, which increases systolic pressure. During testing on the effects of limonene, participants experienced an increase in attention, mental focus, well-being, and even sex drive.
Cannabis varieties that tend to contain higher limonene levels include Sour Diesel, Lemon Skunk, Do-Si-Dos, Trainwreck, and the OG Group.
Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis, which is where it’s mostly found in nature. One study showed that myrcene makes up as much as 65% of total terpene profile in some strains. Myrcene emits a fruity, clove-like aroma, but has also been thought to be the source of the trademark “skunk” of certain cannabis cultivars. Its smell is most often described as having earthy, musky notes, resembling cloves or a fruity, red grape-like aroma. Myrcene is present in many plants including hops, mangoes, tea tree, celery, and lemongrass. Myrcene is also highly prevalent in hoppy beers.
Myrcene has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-septic properties. Additionally, myrcene consumes free radicals, making it a powerful antioxidant. It’s been reported that myrcene possesses effective anti-inflammatory properties useful in reducing chronic pain due to inflammation, which is why it’s often recommended as a supplement during cancer treatments.
Myrcene is common to cannabis varieties like Jack Herer, Blue Dream, the Kush Group, Granddaddy Purple, Green Crack, White Widow, or Amnesia.
Ocimene refers to three different monoterpenes that have slight differences in their molecular structure (they are isomers). These molecules are found in plants as diverse as lavender, marigold, tobacco, mint, parsley, basil, mango, orchids, kumquats, and of course, cannabis. It imparts herbal, sweet, and woodsy aromas and is commonly used in perfumes and fragrances.
While many terpenes are involved in plant health and defense, ocimene is quite the sentinel, being frequently cited as providing a strong natural defense to the plants that produce it. Spider mite infestation is a problem that many farmers combat, including those growing cannabis. It was observed that trans-β-ocimene was released by lima bean plants in response to an onslaught of spider mites and when wild legume plants were intentionally infested with about 400 spider mites per plant, an increase in trans-β-ocimene was measured. The increased trans-β-ocimene attracted predatory mites that fed on the spider mites.
Trans-β-ocimene is also a pheromone produced by honeybee larvae to “verbalize” their nutritional needs to the worker bees. The other characteristics are that it contains anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-septic, and anti-cancer properties.
Cannabis strains that can test high in ocimene include Golden Goat, Strawberry Cough, Chernobyl, Space Queen, OG Kush, Elwyn, and Lemon Sour Diesel.
The aroma of terpineol can be best described as reminiscent of lilacs and apple blossom with a little bit of a citrus note. Terpineol tastes like anise and mint. It’s a minor constituent of many plant essential oils and a common ingredient in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, fragrance, and flavors.
Medical benefits of terpineol include antibiotic, anti-cancer, and sedative properties. In fact, it’s usually the terpene responsible for the notorious “couch lock” effect.
Cannabis varieties reported to have higher terpinolene concentrations include Jack Herer, Afghani, Pineapple Kush, the OG Group, Chocolope, Acapulco Gold, Super Lemon Haze, Chernobyl, Dutch Treat, Girl Scout Cookies, OG Kush strains, and Durban Poison.
Valencene is a sesquiterpene. This terpene produces fantastic aromas of sweetness, citrus, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, herbs, and wood. This vibrant terpene gets its name from Valencia oranges, one of its main, rather inexpensive, sources. It’s often used as a flavoring ingredient and aromatic additive. It’s also proven to be an effective repellant against ticks and mosquitoes.
Valencene is yet another terpene with demonstrated potential in the field of medicine. The molecule has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties and anti-allergic activity. It also has the potential to combat sun damage to the skin and can improve the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs.
Cannabis strains that can test relatively high in valencene include Tangie and Agent Orange.
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