Terpenes 101

By: Bailey Rahn     Febrary 12, 2014

What are Cannabis Terpenes and What They Do?

There’s something about the aroma of cannabis that soothes the mind and body.  Whether it’s the sweet fruity taste of Pineapple Trainwreck or that skunky smell that bursts from a cracked bud of Sour Diesel, we know there’s something going on under their complex and flavourful bouquets.

Terpenes are what you smell, and knowing what they are will deepen your appreciation of cannabis.

What Are Cannabis Terpenes?:

Secreted in the same glands that produce cannabinoids like THC and CBD, terpenes are aromatic oils that color cannabis varieties with distinctive flavours like citrus, berry, mint, and pine.

Not unlike other strong-smelling plants and flowers, the development of terpenes in cannabis began for adaptive purposes: to repel predators and lure pollinators.  There are many factors that influence a plant’s development of terpenes, including climate, weather, age, and maturation, fertilizers, soil type, and even the time of day.

Over 100 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant, and every strain tends toward a unique terpene type and composition.  In other words a strain like Cheese and its descendants will likely have discernible cheese-like smell, and Blueberry offspring often inherit the smell of berries.

Terpenes may also play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains, but more studies are needed to understand how and to what extent.

Some terpenes might promote relaxation and stress-relief, while others potentially promote focus and acuity.  Myrcene, for example, is found in many relaxing cannabis strains like Blue Dream and Granddaddy Purple.  Terpinolene is a commonly found in uplifting, active strains like Jack Herer and Ghost Train Haze.  

The effect profile of any given terpene may change in the presence of other compounds in a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.  More research is needed to understand each terpene’s effect when used in harmony with others.

Their differences can be subtle, but terpenes can add great depth to the horticultural art and connoisseur-ship of cannabis.  They may also add therapeutic value to cannabis, based on their unique medical properties.

Many cannabis analysis labs now test terpene content, so you may have a better idea of what effects a strain might produce.  With their unlimited combinations of potential synergistic effects, terpenes will certainly open up new scientific and medical terrains for cannabis research.

Exploring Cannabis Terpenes On Leafly:

Leafly’s Cannabis Guide provides a visual system for understanding terpenes in the context of each strain.  Using data from lab partners, Leafly can help you determine the average terpene profile of many popular cannabis strains-and our list is ever-growing.

Common cannabis terpenes are represented by different colors, which you can explore in this guide.  Some terpenes are more common than others, and some tend to appear in higher abundance on average. For example, most commercial cannabis strains are myrcene dominant, meaning the most abundant terpene in their chemical profile is myrcene.

You may also find strains that are dominant in caryophyllene, limonene, terpinolene, and-in rare instances-pinene.

 When browsing strains on Leafly, pay close attention to the colors of the strains you like and don’t like. 

If you prefer myrcene-dominant strains because they tend to help you relax, look for strains that contain the blue color.  And let’s say you’ve had negative experiences with caryophyllene-dominant strains like Original Glue and GSC; you’d want to avoid strains with the color fuchsia.

Most Common Cannabis Terpenes:



Leafly Color: Blue

Aroma: Cardamom, Cloves, Musky, Earthy, Herbal

Vaporizes at: 332ºF (167ºC)

Potential Effects: Sedating & Relaxing

Potential Therapeutic Value: Antioxidant; treatment of insomnia, pain, and inflammation

Also Found In: Mango, Lemongrass, Thyme, and Hops



Leafly Color: Yellow

Aroma: Citrus

Vaporizes at: 348ºF (176ºC)

Potential Effects: Elevated mood, stress relief

Potential Therapeutic Value: Treatment of anxiety, depression, inflammation, pain, and cancer 

Also found in: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint



Leafly Color: Fuchsia

Aroma:  Pepper, Spicy, Woody, and Cloves

Vaporizes at:  266ºF (130ºC)

Potential Effects: Stress Relief

Potential Therapeutic Value:  Treatment of pain, anxiety/depression, and ulcers

Also Found In: Black Pepper, Cloves, and Cinnamon



Leafly Color: Orange

Aroma: Piney, Floral, and Herbal

Vaporizes at: 366ºF (186ºC)

Potential Effects: Uplifting

Potential Therapeutic Value: Antioxidant, Antibacterial, Anti-fungal, and Anti-cancer

Also Found In: Nutmeg, Tea tree, Conifers, Apples, Cumin, and Lilacs



Leafly Color: Green

Aroma: Pine

Vaporizes at:  311ºF (155ºC)

Potential Effects: Alertness, Memory Retention, and Counteracts some THC effects

Potential Therapeutic Value:  Treatment of asthma, pain, inflammation, ulcers, anxiety, and cancer

Also Found In: Pine needles, Rosemary, Basil, Parsley, and Dill




Leafly color: Light green

Aroma: Hops, Woody, and Earthy

Vaporizes at: 222ºF (106ºC)

Potential therapeutic value: Anti-inflammatory

Also found in: Hops, Coriander, Cloves, and Basil




Leafly Color: Bright Red

Aroma: Sweet, Herbal, and Woody

Vaporizes at: 122ºF (50­ºC)

Potential Therapeutic Value: Antiviral, Anti-fungal, Antiseptic, Decongestant, and Antibacterial

Also Found In: Mint, Parsley, Pepper, Basil, Mangoes, Orchids, and Kumquats



Leafly Color: Purple

Aroma: Floral

Vaporizes at: 388ºF (198ºC)

Potential Effects: Mood Enhancement, and Sedation

Potential Therapeutic Value: Treatment of Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Pain, Inflammation, and Neurodegenerative Disease.

Also Found In: Lavender