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Terpenes or terpenoids are key to the smell and flavour of plants. But they prove to be more than their sense-giving ability. 

In a 2019 research titled “Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Terpenes,” varieties of terpenes showed some interesting results [1].

What are terpenes? 

Terpenes are compounds that provide the taste, flavour and smell of the earth’s flora, but they also play the key role of a protectant. They ward off pathogens, predators and even competitors of the organism they thrive in.   

There is a wide array of terpenes in nature but only a small percentage of them have been investigated.   

So far, cannabis’s terpenes are one of the most researched areas. With that said, it is not surprising that cannabis terpenes are included among the most medically sourced flora like tea, thyme, Spanish sage and citrus fruits [2]. 


How do terpenes work? 

Most terpenes are bioactive, meaning they are capable of modulating metabolic processes and demonstrate favourable properties. The International Journal of Neuroscience suggests that terpenes’ effect can be described in two ways: pharmacological or psychological [3].  

The hypothesis of the pharmacological effect of terpenes translates to the physical aspect of the human body. For example, terpenes can interact with the nervous system and the endocrine system (produces hormones) [4].  

The psychological effect of terpenes refers to a person’s perceptions, emotions and so on. Terpenes are primarily fragrant oils, so they naturally appeal to our sense of smell. The simple process of registering a particular scent may have a domino effect on mood and emotion [5].  

Types of terpenes

The effect of terpenes vary depending on the type of terpenes used, concentration and manner of administration.    

Below are some of the most common terpenes found in different types of plants:  

  • Alpha-bisabolol: This has a floral scent that is mostly sourced from cannabis, chamomile flower and candeia tree [6]
  • Alpha-pinene and beta-pinene: These cannabis terpenes smell like pine trees [7]
  • Beta-caryophyllene: Commonly used in creams and topicals [8,9,10,11].
  • Delta-3 Carene: Displays a citrus, cypress, pine and wood scent [12].
  • Eucalyptol: This is mostly found in eucalyptus trees but exists likewise on some plants [13].
  • Geraniol: Besides cannabis, geraniol is also abundant in lemons [14].
  • Humulene: This is a cannabis, clove, sage and black pepper-sourced terpene [15].
  • Limonene: Limonene is the second most abundant terpene in all cannabis strains [16,17,18].
  • Linalool: This terpene gives cannabis its distinct spicy and floral scent [19].
  • Myrcene: The most abundant terpene in cannabis [20].
  • Terpineol: A common ingredient in perfumes because of its floral-like scent [21].
  • Terpinolene: The smell and taste of this terpene has b een described as “fresh” and “herbaceous” [22]


Studies and research on terpenes 

Industry professionals have recognised the need to invest in terpene research. Some of the most important landmark studies on terpenes are:  

  • Terpene’s therapeutic effect: A 2019 study explored the therapeutic effects of terpenes [1]. 
  • Terpenes entourage effect: The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders” study tackles the potential of terpenes in enhancing cannabinoid activity on psychiatric symptoms [23].


Disclaimer: CanView does not endorse the use of Medicinal Cannabis without lawful prescription. Just like any Medicine, Medicinal Cannabis may have both positive and negative side effects on the user and should only be prescribed to patients by a Health Professional with the authority and expertise to do so. The information provided by CanView is for informational and educational purposes and is of a general nature. If you are interested in accessing Medicinal Cannabis please talk to your doctor and request a referral to a Medicinal Cannabis clinic.  


Department of Biology, California State University, Northridge, Northridge, CA USA. 2019. Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Terpenes. 

Franklin L, et al. 2001. Terpene based pesticide treatments for killing terrestrial arthropods including, amongst others, lice, lice eggs, mites and ants. 

Herz, R. 2009. Aromatherapy facts and fictions: a scientific analysis of olfactory effects on mood, physiology and behavior.

Tennant, L. 2019. How cannabis terpenes work on your body and mind.

Sowndhararajan K, et al. 2016. Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic Response. 

Braga P, et al. 2019. Antioxidant Activity of Bisabolol: Inhibitory Effects on Chemiluminescence of Human Neutrophil Bursts and Cell-Free Systems. 

Salehi B, et al. 2019. Therapeutic Potential of α- and β-Pinene: A Miracle Gift of Nature. 

Fidyt K, et al. 2016. β‐caryophyllene and β‐caryophyllene oxide—natural compounds of anticancer and analgesic properties.

Bahi A, et al. 2014. β-Caryophyllene, a CB2 receptor agonist produces multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice. 

Jung D, et al. 2020. Effect of β-caryophyllene from Cloves Extract on Helicobacter pylori Eradication in Mouse Model. 

Francomano F, et al. 2019. β-Caryophyllene: A Sesquiterpene with Countless Biological Properties. 

Strainprint. 2019. Understanding Terpenes: Delta 3 Carene. 

John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2006. Sell CS; Terpenoids. Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology (1999-2015). 

National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2020. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 637566, Geraniol. 

Hartsel J. et al. 2016. Chapter 53 – Cannabis sativa and Hemp. 

Hoenen, M. et al. 2016. Fancy Citrus, Feel Good: Positive Judgment of Citrus Odor, but Not the Odor Itself, Is Associated with Elevated Mood during Experienced Helplessness. 

Erasto P, and Viljoen A. 2008. Limonene – A Review: Biosynthetic, Ecological and Pharmacological Relevance. 

Russo E, et al. 2017. Chapter Three – Cannabis Pharmacology: The Usual Suspects and a Few Promising Leads. 

Kamatou G, and Viljoen A. 2008. Linalool – A Review of a Biologically Active Compound of Commercial Importance. 

Science Direct. N.D. Myrcene. 

Khaleel C, et al. 2018. α-Terpineol, a natural monoterpene: A review of its biological properties.

Pubchem. N.D. Terpinolene. 

Ferber, S, et al. 2020. The “Entourage Effect”: Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders.