Terpenes 101

What are Cannabis Terpenes and What They Do?

By: Bailey Rahn     Febrary 12, 2014
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