Cannabis 101

What are Cannabis Terpenes: Why Weed Smells the Way it Does

in Cannabis 101 on
cannabis buds

Some compare the smell of marijuana with skunk scent. Others compare it with a burning sock.

Whatever the parallel, marijuana smells the way it does due to the aromatic compounds named terpenes. There are high concentrations of terpenes found in cannabis plants, but there is much more to them than meets the...nose.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes do not only generate the characteristic smell of cannabis, but also of pine, lavender, and even orange peels. There are many terpenes found in plants and each combination results in a different scent.

These plants don't have to worry about infectious germs or animal grazing with the combination of terpenes they contain. Due to recent scientific research, the human body won't have to, either. Terpenes bring health benefits to every life form they come in contact with.

These naturally-occurring compounds are found in the trichomes of female cannabis plants. These also contain resin glands, which in turn produce terpenes. Terpenes not only give off the characteristic aroma, but have a contributing effect on the pigmentation in buds and leaves alike, and even the flavor. They make the plant attractive to some beings, while keeping other harmful beings away.

Types of Terpenes and their Benefits

So far, as many as 400 types of terpenes have been discovered by scientists. We will take a look at the 6 types that display the most obvious effects.


Also known simply as caryophyllene, this ingredient is also found in black pepper, oregano, hops, rosemary, cloves. It aids with symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

If you seek a strain with a peppery and almost spicy bite, one that contains caryophyllene will most likely have you covered.

Besides depression and anxiety, research shows caryophyllene as also alleviating conditions as liver fibrosis, colitis, cerebral ischemia, Alzheimer-like diseases, and diabetes. As research on caryophyllene continues, scientists also strive prove its importance in treating conditions that cause inflammatory symptoms.


The term itself even sounds like "lemon". It is no surprise that this terpene has citrus notes in its fragrance. Limonene also has anti-cancer, anti-tumor, and anti-anxiety properties.

Cancer researchers have shown that limonene plays an important role in holding back the growth of cancer cells. The reason being that limonene - and terpenes in general - don't attack healthy cells and don't cause side effects in cancer remedies.

Cultivars like Black Cherry Soda, Papaya Punch, and Banana OG have limonene as the main "gimmick", giving off the same citrus-y scent that terpene also gives ginger and other citrus fruits it can be found in.

Another study shows that limonene can also play a role in the behavior of a body's immune cells. The immune system depends on the bone marrow and spleen to locate and neutralize viruses and pathogenic bacteria. In order to do this, it needs to produce antibody-producing cells, and limonene helps with this task.


This characteristic scent is most commonly found in coniferous plants as the name would suggest. If you associate the smell of a piney forest with relaxation, it is due to its anti-depressant trait. Pinene also bears the ability to help kill viruses, this why it is also linked with having anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.

This aromatic terpene can be found in strains such as Crescendo, Blue Dream, Orange Creamsicle, and Gelato. Pinene-dominant strains are a bit rare but not impossible to find.

Pinene is often found in foods we love, starting from rosemary, dill, basil, to such deserts as key lime pies and everything else that includes pine nuts. Its pine tree and almost woodsy aroma does wonders to the "entourage" effect obtained from smoking cannabis.


One of the main olfactory characteristics in any cannabis strain is humulene. Scent-wise it is situated somewhere between earthy and woody (as it is also found in wood). Its name derives from the latin version of the hops plant, which is humulus lupulus.

Like pinene and linalool, it may aid with pain relief. Humulene has been used in Eastern medicinal practices for centuries and scientists are still discovering new aspects about its benefits. Besides hops, black pepper and ginseng are also used in modern medicine especially for their humulene concentrations.

Humulene contributes to energy, mood, and appetite uplifiting, and has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects. This means it can play a role in pain alleviation. Some strains that use humulene are GSC, Candyland, and Sherbert.


Myrcene, like caryophyllene, is dominant in the fragrance of cannabis. Scent-wise, think of Myrcene as a combination between humulene (earthy, musky), pinene (herbaceous and a little spicy), and top that with a mild sweet kick. This all makes sense when you consider that it is found in the mango fruit.

The main benefit myrcene brings to medicine is its anti-inflammatory properties, especially when it comes to osteoarthritis. Research shows that it helps prevent cartilage cell breakdown, and it also possesses antifungal, antibacterial, and sedating effects.

Some popular myrcene-dominant strains are OG Kush, Cherry Pie, and Granddaddy Purple.


This terpene is perhaps the most important for its antidepressant quality. It is found in lavender oil (hence its smell, mixed with a spicy kick and sweetness to mellow it out), so rubbing a few drops behind the ears causes noticeable relaxation.

Antidepressant medication in general relies heavily on the use of linalool. It also helps fight cell-damaging bacteria. Some popular strains that use linalool are Scooby Snacks, LA Confidential, and Lavender Kush.

How Do Terpenes Impact the Smell?

Scent is an important factor in choosing one's favorite strain Your lungs have to get hyped about what they are about to take in, through inhalation or smoking. Each terpene has a specific blend of smells.

Some terpenes like linalool also have therapeutic benefits, like aromatherapy. Strains work like cocktails, with enough terpene varieties to satisfy any and all tastes and needs.


Terpenes play an important role in how users choose their strains. For more information or terpene types and effects, visit out website and get in touch with our knowledgeable representatives.