Let’s Talk Terpenes: Cannabis Aroma and Medical Benefits

Terpenes are a major component of the oils found in plants, providing them with their distinct smells. 1 From fragrances such as citrus all the way to lavender, terpene structures can adjust to fit the aromatic needs of a plant.4  Its structure consists of crosslinked isoprene units that give these terpenes the credibility to be used as food additives and cosmetic formulations.3 They are ranked as low toxicity, making them safe and well-tolerated.3 What many people may not know is that in addition to their various aromas, terpenes may have the potential to provide therapeutic effects.


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Terpenes have the potential to act as antimicrobials, antifungals, antivirals, antiparasitics, and even anti-inflammatories.4 Depending on which terpene is present, it will define which biological property it has and the therapeutic effect it can potentially provide.  A few terpenes that display great skin penetration and potential therapeutic properties include limonene, myrcene, B-caryophyllene, a-pinene, linalool, humulene, and terpineol.4,6                  



Relieves anxiety

Antibacterial (Acne causing bacteria)

Stimulates the immune system


Flavour Profile: Citrus, Mint






Inducing sleep

Muscle Relaxant



Flavour Profile: Herb, Musk



Relieves Anxiety


Inducing sleep

Protects lining of digestive tract


Flavour Profile: Spice, Wood




Aids in memory



Flavour Profile: Cedarwood, Sharp pine




Relieves Anxiety

Analgesic (Pain-reliever)

Inducing sleep



Flavour Profile: Floral, Lemon, Rose, Lavender




Suppresses appetite (May cause weight loss)


Flavour Profile: Earthy wood



Relieves anxiety


Inducing sleep


Flavour Profile: Fresh, Mint


Terpenes will bind to receptors within the brain allowing them to influence the body.2 Based on the combinations of terpenes used, different effects can be seen.2


Terpenes are also found in the cannabis plant working hand in hand with cannabinoids to provide medicinal benefits to a patient.2 Heavily seen on the female plant are glandular trichomes which contain terpene-rich resins.1 Having both cannabinoids (such as THC/CBD) and terpenes present, could provide additional therapeutic benefits. The specific terpene production on each plant varies based on the stressors it encounters, such as light strength, humidity and temperature.6,17 Terpenes play a role in the cannabis’ overall aroma, flavor, and therapeutic benefit. The terpene content for each strain of cannabis harvested can vary based on how it is grown and preserved. 17 To add, it is important to note that each terpene has an appropriate temperature at which it is heated.18 If overheated, it can damage the terpene and prevent it from providing its benefits and potential therapeutic effects.18


Terpenes have become an area of interest for many experienced cannabis users. As this area of research continues to grow, the health benefits will become clearer and impact which cannabis strain will best benefit the patient.


Written by Olivia Plese – Pharmacy Intern at Solace Health 


  1. Booth JK, Page JE, Bohlmann J. Terpene synthases from Cannabis sativa. PLoS One. 2017;12(3):e0173911. Published 2017 Mar 29. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0173911
  2. Infographic: How Do Cannabis Terpenes Affect the Body?. Leafly. https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/infographic-what-are-cannabis-terpenes-and-how-do-they-affect-you. October 14, 2015. March 12, 2019.
  3. Ohnishi T, Arimura GI, Yazaki K. ‘Hidden’ Terpenoids in Plants: Their Biosynthesis, Localization and Ecological Roles. PubMed. 2017;58(10): 1615-1621. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29016891. Published October 1, 2017. March 12, 2019.
  4. Russo E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-64.
  5. Article, S. (2019, January 07). Cannabis Terpenes: The Benefits of Humulene, Caryophyllene, and Trans-Nerolidol. Retrieved from https://www.leafly.ca/news/cannabis-101/humulene-caryophyllene-and-trans-nerolidol-what-are-the-benefits.
  6. (2017, April 04). Terpenes. Retrieved from https://www.medicaljane.com/category/cannabis-classroom/terpenes/#the-terpene-wheel.
  7. Article, S. (2018, October 17). Benefits of Cannabis Terpenes: Terpineol, Valencene, and Geraniol. Retrieved from https://www.leafly.ca/news/cannabis-101/cannabis-terpenes-terpineol-valencene-geraniol.
  8. Article, S. (2019, January 07). Cannabis Terpenes: The Benefits of Humulene, Caryophyllene, and Trans-Nerolidol. Retrieved from https://www.leafly.ca/news/cannabis-101/humulene-caryophyllene-and-trans-nerolidol-what-are-the-benefits
  9. 3045ALPHA-TERPINEOL. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.femaflavor.org/flavor-library/alpha-terpineol
  10. 2633D-LIMONENE. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.femaflavor.org/flavor-library/d-limonene
  11. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.femaflavor.org/flavor-library/myrcene
  12. 2252BETA-CARYOPHYLLENE. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.femaflavor.org/flavor-library/beta-caryophyllene
  13. 2902ALPHA-PINENE. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.femaflavor.org/flavor-library/alpha-pinene
  14. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.femaflavor.org/flavor-library/linalool
  15. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.femaflavor.org/flavor-library/terpinolene
  16. Ito K, Ito M. The sedative effect of inhaled terpinolene in mice and its structure-activity relationships. Europe PMC. 2013. doi: 10.1007/s11418-012-0732-1.
  17. Hennings T. 7 Ways Growers Can Increase Terpene Levels in Cannabis. Leafly. https://www.leafly.com/news/growing/how-to-increase-cannabis-terpenes-when-growing. Accessed March 29, 2019.
  18. Cannabis Terpenes: What They Are & How They Affect You. https://www.greenrelief.ca/blog/what-are-cannabis-terpenes/. Updated June 21, 2018. Accessed March 29, 2019.