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Cannabis is made up of many compounds such as cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Most of us are familiar with some cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). However, terpenes and flavonoids are a bit mysterious to most people but we’re going to demystify these compounds shortly.

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?

Cannabis terpenes are volatile compounds present in the plant that are responsible for taste and smell. According to a study, there are more than 120 terpenes in cannabis, while other sources say that there are even over 200. Terpenes are abundant compounds and not unique to cannabis plants. Andrea Holmes, professor of chemistry and director of cannabis studies at Doane University in Crete, NE and the chief growth officer at the Hudson, CO-based Precision Plant Molecules, said in Discover Magazine that terpenes are the most abundant organic compounds in plants. Holmes mentioned that you can find terpenes in flowers, wood, fruits, and vegetables.

What Do Terpenes Do?

Plants use terpenes as protection. For example, plants use terpene to either attract insects or repel them. Plants may even use terpenes for resisting mold and fungi. With that said, plants will create more terpenes if they’re in stressful conditions. Terpenes can actually be a great help to humans as well. Different terpenes seem to have different effects.

16 Most Common Cannabis Terpenes:

  • Limonene
  • Alpha-pinene
  • Beta-myrcene
  • Linalool
  • Beta-caryophyllene
  • Humulene
  • Myrcene
  • Phytol
  • Delta 3 Carene
  • Eucalyptol
  • Geraniol
  • Borneol
  • Bisabolol
  • Camphene
  • Terpinolene
  • Trans-nerolidol

The Effects Of Terpenes On Humans

There hasn’t been a whole lot of research on the physiological effects of terpenes. It’s believed that terpenes offer up various benefits. For example, linalool, a terpene found in lavender and cannabis has been said to have anxiety-relieving properties. Limonene, found in lemon peels as well as cannabis, is also said to have anti-anxiety properties as well.

Some terpenes are even said to have anti-cancer properties. For example, geraniol is said to have anti-cancer properties. However, according to a review article called Terpenes in Cannabis sativa – From plant genome to humans, “However, to our knowledge, there is no conclusive evidence to support claims of anticancer activity of terpenes consumed with cannabis products.” The review article referenced two separate animal studies and attributed those studies as the reason why people believe in the anti-cancer properties of cannabis extracts. One of the studies concluded that some terpenes were able to stop tumor formation in rats. The rats needed quite a bit of terpene to do this, it took up nearly 10% of its diet. However, these claims seem to be unsupported in humans, at least according to the review study.

The study did speak about the lack of research within this field due to restrictions on conducting research on cannabis. However, there is hope that relaxing the restrictions would allow scientists to study terpenes in cannabis.

The Entourage Effect

Another way terpenes may affect humans is by the entourage effect. The entourage effect is the theory that the compounds in cannabis work together to produce a result. According to Holmes, “When you partner THC with limonene and pinene, it gives an ‘entourage effect’ that enhances the analgesic effect of THC. When you put them together, one plus one equals 10.” The entourage effect can also be seen as dulling some of the negative effects of cannabinoids like THC. According to Discover Magazine, THC is responsible for short term memory interruption while pinene is supposed to be a memory enhancer. When used together, the pinene would therefore counteract the effects of the THC. 

Another study/review article called The Cannabis Terpenes believes in the power of terpenes and the entourage effect. It said, “some terpenes can enhance the effect of cannabinoids and synergize the feeling of relaxation, stress relief, energy boost, and maintaining focus along with their underlying pharmaceutical functions”.

What Other Cannabis Studies Say

Not everyone is convinced that terpenes have real benefits to humans. According to a review article called Terpenes in Cannabis sativa – From plant genome to humans, “arguably, the only effect of cannabis terpenes on humans that is unquestionable are the fragrance attributes of different mono- and sesquiterpene volatiles and their mixtures.” The study also said, “other attributes assigned to terpenes in cannabis products, including medicinal properties, remain for now outside of the space of scientific evidence.”


Cannabis terpenes are compounds found in cannabis that are responsible for the smell and taste. There are claims that terpenes provide other effects whether with other compounds or themselves. Some scientists are not convinced that the terpenes have much effect on humans. The lack of research on terpenes is definitely an issue and hopefully, that will be revolved in time. With more research, will get more definitive answers and people will be able to benefit even more from the results of the research.