I’ll admit, when I first started smoking cannabis, I didn’t appreciate its pungent aroma that varies between strains. The wafting essential oils found in cannabis were a dead giveaway when I was trying to consume discretely. But with cannabis stigma and prohibition on the decline, I learned to value and understand the importance of marijuana terpenes, the aromatic chemical compounds responsible for the scent of weed and the effects they have on consumers.
Terpenes range in aroma and flavor from skunky diesel types to fruity and sweet varieties and can be found all throughout the plant kingdom. Terpenes can be found on trichomes, resinous hair-like glands on cannabis flower buds. Research suggests that terpenes can be used to treat certain medical conditions, although more studies need to be done to determine their exact interaction with other chemical compounds found in marijuana.
If you’ve been wondering where cannabis strains get their iconic smell, here’s a short list of the commonly found terpenes in cannabis flower nugs. There’s only a small percentage of terpenes found in marijuana, which have lower boiling points that cannabinoids like THC and CBD. That means that the best way to reap the most flavor and terpenes out of your flower is to use a vaporizer with temperature control options.
Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis strains, by a lot. It’s a building block for other terpenes and has been known to increase cannabinoid absorption in the brain. Myrcene usually has an earthy and fruity aroma and sedating effects. Found in lemongrass, hops, and basil, myrcene has been speculated to be a potent anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving terpene.
Boiling Point: 334˚ F
Pinene is another commonly found terpene across plants and in cannabis. You’ll recognize its aroma of rosemary and pine with undertones of basil, hops, and dill. This earthy terpene has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. As a significant bronchodilator, pinene can open up respiratory airways in some people. In a study on animal models, pinene improved memory retention.
Boiling Point: 311˚ F
Linalool has a distinct lavender scent with a floral and spicy undertone. Found in coriander and peppermint, linalool has been shown to reduce stress, relieve pain, induce sleep, and stave off certain neurological diseases. Many cannabis topicals and aromatherapy products contain the linalool essential oil to aid in relaxation and overall stress-reduction.
Boiling Point: 388.4˚ F
Linalool is the second most abundant terpene in marijuana. You’ll find this terpene in lemons, oregano, and cloves. Its citrus and lemon scent is popular among industrial-grade cleaners and strains like Super Lemon Haze and Lemon Skunk. Limonene has been studied and shown to reduce gastric acid, which can be helpful for people with heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux. Promising research also suggests that limonene can be helpful for people with breast cancer, although more research needs to be done.
Boiling Point: 348.8˚ F
Caryophyllene has a spicy, woody, and clove-like aroma. In one study, caryophyllene was shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice. Another study showed that caryophyllene reduced pain in cancer patients. This terpene may also exhibit powerful neuroprotective characteristics.
Boiling Point: 266˚ F
Although the medical efficacy of terpenes is still unclear, research shows promise to developing specific marijuana strains with certain amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes for specific medical conditions. With so many different cannabis strains available, cannabis consumers can experiment with different genetics to find their preferred aromatic profile.