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Understanding Terpenes

The current concentrates market places an emphasis on these essential oils that affect your high.

Understanding Terpenes

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue. Click here to get a subscription!


This terpene, found in the oils of pine trees and a number of herbs like rosemary, is a bronchodilator, meaning it allows for larger inhalations, making it ideal for treating asthma. Pinene easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and has shown potential for increasing alertness, focus and memory retention. It also counters the short-term memory issues associated with pot. These qualities suggest it could be useful in the clinical treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to its pine aroma, this terpene is easy to identify in cannabis strains. 


In addition to cannabis, myrcene is found in hops, lemongrass, mango and thyme. Myrcene is best known for its sedative effect—it’s what contributes to the “couchlock” or body-buzz feeling of certain strains. It’s myrcene’s interactions with cannabinoids that are of interest. The terpene acts as a “synergist” of THC—when it combines with the THC molecule, it produces a stronger effect, in part because it allows more THC to reach brain cells. Myrcene helps treat insomnia, pain and inflammation. 


Lemon, lime, tangerine, orange and grapefruit background

As its name indicates, limonene is found in the peels of citrus fruits and is most associated with a strong lemon-lime or orange aroma. Limonene is a popular cannabis terpene, and its effects include increased alertness (and sometimes restlessness). It has also shown potential for combating breast cancer. Limonene is prevalent in classic cannabis strains like OG Kush and Sour Diesel. It is also used as a flavoring in foods and beverages as well as a solvent in cleaning products. 


Caryophyllene, known for its spicy, peppery aroma, is one of the most common terpenes found in cannabis. It can also be found in black pepper, clove, cotton and green vegetables. It is present in approximately 80 percent of cannabis strains and plays a major role in the entourage effect. Caryophyllene has shown potential in treating autoimmune diseases and inflammation. However, it does not appear to have psychoactive effects. It is, unfortunately, the key component that drug-sniffing dogs use to identify cannabis.


Linalool provides a dramatic floral aroma. It’s prevalent in lavender oil, and it’s best known for its sedative properties. Thanks to its ability to affect serotonin receptors, linalool is helpful in the treatment of anxiety and depression. It’s also useful in combating insomnia. Linalool’s medicinal properties point to its potential to help treat several types of cancer. It is also a beneficial component of topicals used to treat skin conditions and reduce scarring. Interestingly, linalool is also an effective insecticide. 

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