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Beyond Cannabinoids: Exploring Plant Synergy and the Health Benefits of Terpenes

Terpenes, or terps for short, are small molecular compounds that play a significant role in producing the familiar scent and flavours of most plants, herbs, and spices – hemp included.

We’ve talked about cannabinoids before. For example, THC is a common cannabinoid known for causing the feeling of being stoned, or high.

What we are slowly realizing is that hemp plants create another group of tiny compounds named terpenes. These molecules enhance and distinguish each plant’s scent, effects, and flavour.

In the future, we could expect to see terpene profiles being the primary way to categorize different strains; giving us more in-depth information and choice when it comes to the herb we consume.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes, although a funny word, it is a word you should add to your canna-vocabulary immediately. Oddly enough, you already know what terpenes are because you have smelled them. Terpenes are in thousands of plants and essential oils, and they are very special molecules.

When you see a plant that catches your eye, what do you do first? You smell it, right? Let’s say we have a rose bush grown at two different times. Although they are the same plant, their scent is unique to each plant. Terpenes combined with cannabinoids give hemp plants their distinct effects, aroma and flavour.

Terpenes are tiny molecules, or the oils, that give marijuana plants and flowers their one of a kind smell and effect. These guys come from the same glands of the plant as do CBD, THC and other important cannabinoids.

These molecules work with your endocannabinoid system just like cannabinoids do. When you consume terpenes, they act as a partner with other cannabinoids working as a team to break through the blood-brain barrier.

Essential Terpenes And Their Benefits

When it comes to the wonderful world of plant life, terpenes are a vital element in the ever-flowing cycle. They are the building blocks of tiny molecules like cannabinoids, they prevent insects from attacking, and they protect the plant from environmental hazards.

Terpenes are the superhero molecule that give plants their uniqueness. Not only do they provide the aromatic bouquet of scents derived from the marijuana plant, but they are also the leading player when it comes to the physical and psychoactive effects of the strain.

The entourage effect is the relationship between terpenes and cannabinoids. This relationship is what makes plants different from one another.

There are more than one hundred terpenes identified in various plants. Every plant is original and unique with different terpene compounds providing its make-up. Plants have different smells, effects, and tastes  thanks to terpenes.


Most importantly known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known to be the only terpene to interact directly with CB2 receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system. Caryophyllene is beneficial when treating arthritis, fibromyalgia, pain from injury, as well as neuropathic pain.


Limonene is found in citrus rinds and is also a dominant terpene in sativa-dominant cannabis strains. It has been recognized in treating anxiety and depression and helps your body absorb other important terpenes through your skin and mucous membranes. -Think tincture.


Terpinolene has been used for well over one hundred years to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia. Found in plants like conifers, lilacs, oregano, and cannabis, it also gives the Jack Herer strain its notable scent. The medical benefits of terpinolene are apart of the monoterpene category called isomers. Anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial effects on the body are all benefits of this terpene.


Humulene Is found in hops as well as sativa dominant cannabis strains. This terpene is what gives beer its hoppy smell. Just like terpinolene, humulene has significant anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a great appetite suppressant.


Commonly used in perfume scents because of its floral aroma, geraniol is found in geraniums among other plants. It has the potential to protect against neuropathy and is also an effective and natural mosquito repellent.


The amount of Myrcene concentration found in a plant will indicate whether the myrcene will produce calming or an energetic effects. Myrcene can produce relaxing effects in higher levels, while at lower levels of less than 0.5% myrcene may produce more of an uplifting effect. You can also find myrcene in citrus, thyme, hops, and lemongrass.


Linalool is most famous for the lovely floral scent it gives to lavender plants. It has many names such as β-linalool, licareol and linalyl alcohol. Linalool has been found in hundreds of different plants aside from cannabis including rosewood, citrus, birch, and coriander. Linalool has been used for several thousands of years to induce sleep and relaxation. Linalool is an essential ancestor in the genesis of Vitamin E.

It has been known to help and treat anxiety, mental illness such as mood disorders and as an antiepileptic agent, aiding neuropathic conditions. Linalool has been shown to reduce physical pain, chronic pain and used for anti-inflammatory purposes.  Its vapors are an effective and natural treatment to get rid of insects like flea, fruit- flies, and cockroaches.


α-Pinene is one of the essential monoterpenes, and it is a vital terpene for plants, our entire environment, and for animals too!  α-Pinene tends to interact with other chemicals, which creates a copious amount of other terpenes such as D-limonene among other compounds.

It has been used for centuries to treat asthma and enhance the quality of breathing. Think about it, when you stroll through a pine forest on a warm spring day, haven’t you noticed how you

seem to be able to breathe deeply and relax? That is α-Pinene working its terpene magic!


Aside from different marijuana strains, bisabolol is the main terpene in chamomile essential oil and is known to induce apoptosis in certain forms of leukemia. This terpene has been known to benefit the body by working as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, analgesic, as well as an anti-irritant. It is the ultimate anti and is very helpful in taking a natural approach to healing.

Final Thoughts

Developing your own knowledge enables you to have more control over your hemp product purchases. Once you are fluent in terpenes, you can play with your selections until you find the exact flavour and therapeutic effects you have in mind.

More and more research is being done in regards to cannabinoids and phytocompounds on all fronts. While most of the attention has been on CBD, THC, and their effects, terpene research is still very much relevant.

Written by: Heather Burton