Terpenes 101: Your intro to compounds

Be the one person you know that can discuss terps as a science. Here it is, in under 700 words.


Ever wondered why the smell of a particular flower is relaxing or why do some plants have a distinct aroma that pulls you closer? Or when you bark a tree you notice a peculiar balsam dribbling out with a viscous texture?

The answer is Terpenes. Yes, it comes from the word turpentine, and it’s kind of a big deal in the plant kingdom.


The play of smell, taste, and color of Flora

All the natural compounds (primarily plant-based) built from ‘isoprene subunits’ (5 carbon molecule repeating unit) are termed ‘Terpenes’. Consider it an umbrella term to cover all such naturally occurring compounds. Many plants have terpene production for various purposes like pollination, repelling animals and predators, attracting specific insects etc. The pharmacological properties and activities of the flora are shaped by Terpenes.

Cannabis too is no exception to this phenomenon and carry a number of terpenes. 200 different types of terpenes are found in Cannabis. It’s the terpenes which give cannabis strain its unique taste, smell, and color. These compounds display an array of therapeutic effects as well.


The Entourage Effect

Cannabis is predominantly polypharmaceutical and the interactions between its multiple components result in synergistic biochemical coordination. This is referred to as ‘The Entourage Effect’ where the plant as a whole is regarded more useful than its individual components. It is useful to understand how terpenes work.


Terpenoids and Cannabinoids

Terpenoids are oxygenated derivatives of hydrocarbons and are used interchangeably with terpenes.

Based on the kind of terpenes they comprise of, terpenoids too contribute to the usefulness quotient with many more on the list.


Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds that interact with our body cells when we inhale or ingest marijuana.

Also called cannabis terpenes, they are mostly odorless and play a major role in the evolutionary episode of cannabis.


Terpenes and their types

Based on their molecular structure, over 20,000 types of terpenes have been discovered by scientists till date. To further elaborate, the molecular structure is subdivided into – mono, di, and sesqui. Some of them are therapeutic and some are aromatic depending on the inherent structure they possess. Whatever the case, terpenes account for the largest constituents of essential aromatic oils.

The common types of Terpenes found in Cannabis are-


1- Alpha/Beta-pinene

The most common kind of terpene found in the plant world, this one is found in Cannabis too.

Potential Uses

A bronchodilator, this terpene is helpful in treating asthma. Its consumption also increases alertness and memory retention by inhibiting the metabolic breakdown of acetylcholinesterase; the neurotransmitter of the brain.



2- Alpha Bisabolol

Also found in chamomile, this one is a catch when it comes to infections and wounds.

Potential uses

Multifaceted, it can be used as a deodorizing agent and helps fight bacteria. It’s also capable of healing wounds.



3- Beta caryophyllene-

A sesquiterpene, this one is found in abundance in black pepper, clove, cotton, oregano, edible herbs, green and leafy vegetables and of course cannabis.

Potential uses

This one is useful in treating gastrointestinal problems, specific ulcers, and inflammation. It has the ability to bind directly to the peripheral cannabinoid-CB2 and works wonders. It is also described by some doctors as a dietary cannabinoid.



4- Cineol/Eucalyptol

Found in Rosemary and Eucalyptus, this one turns up your spicy buds as it smells spicy.

Potential uses

Combats pain, increases blood circulation.



5- Carene

Delta 3 Carene is one of theconstituentst of Cedar resins, rosemary pine, cypress oils, juniper berry oil, basil oil, grapefruit, etc. It is a natural nervous depressant.

Potential uses

A nontoxic terpene, it flushes out excess body fluids such as tears, mucus, and sweat.



6- Camphene

Camphene emits a pungent smell of damp woods and fir needles. It is a monoterpene found in basil leaves, turpentine, ginger oil, citronella oil, etc.

Potential uses

It is used as food additive for flavoring and for preparing fragrances.


Next time you try some cannabis or smoke some weed that has a sweet smell, you know terpenes are to thank for that!