10 Terpenes You Should Know

Posted by Jack O'Leary on

There are tens of thousands of terpenes found in nature. They're in cannabis, plants, bugs, trees... just about everywhere you look you can find and breathe terpenes! While there are many, many other important terpenes outside of the following ten, these are the most popular, the most prominent, and the most useful terpenes both inside and outside the cannabis world. The following terpenes have shown to improve heart health, brain function, boost creativity and short-term memory, and much much more. Terpenes are much more than the favoring agents behind the scenes in your favorite cannabis strains, and here are 10 which you should know by name.


#10 - Camphene 

Camphene’s potential contributions to the overall medicinal spectrum of cannabis make this terpene one to look for, especially in the treatment of skin ailments. The best way to describe the smell of camphene is fir needles, musky earth and damp woodlands. Camphene's aroma is often mistaken with myrcene, which is that trademark cannabis smell most of us know. From the medical point of view, camphene has great potential. When mixed with vitamin C, it becomes a powerful antioxidant. It is widely used in conventional medicine as a topical for skin issues like eczema and psoriasis, making it a great addition to body balms and lotions.

Its greatest potential lies in its ability to lower the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, further lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A study from March 2009 examined the antioxidant properties of camphene as a possible agent to battle pulmonary inflammation.  Camphene shows great promise for regulating cardiovascular health based on a 2011 study, which observed notable reductions in cholesterol and triglycerides.  In December 2012, camphene demonstrated potential as a powerful antioxidant, pain reliever, and anti-inflammatory.


#9 - Beta-Ocimene

β-Ocimene emits a sweet and herbal aroma with hints of citrus. Extracted from mangoes and herbs like basil, parsley, mint, oregano, ocimene is predominantly used in perfumes and fragrances. Ocimene is usually more prevalent in sativa-dominant cannabis strains and can produce an energetic effect after consumption. This monoterpene is known to be antiviral, antifungal, antiseptic, antibacterial and a decongestant.

Research shows that ocimene may be helpful in treating the symptoms of diabetes by inhibiting the spreading of key enzymes. In a 2013 study, gas-chromatography-mass spectroscopy analysis of the essential oils of black pepper seeds revealed ocimene as a key constituent of such inhibition. The oil was shown to have anti-oxidative properties as well as the ability to inhibit key enzymes connected to type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Ocimene is a terpene worth seeking out, especially if partaking in cannabis consumption, particularly because it provides an uplifting, energizing experience.



#8 - Humulene

Humulene, or alpha-humulene is found in abundance in hops, a principal ingredient of beer, especially IPA’s. In fact, its name is derived from the Latin name for brewing hops, Humulus Lupulus, and has a distinctive hoppy, woody and earthy aroma. It’s also found in sage, ginseng and ginger, and like many of the terpenes on this list, has proven anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, alpha-humulene is also an appetite suppressant which makes it useful as a weight loss aid, or simply fighting off the munchies. A common strain that contains a lot of this terpene is Jack Herer.

Humulene is a woody, earthy scented terpene found in hops, coriander, basil, and cloves. This forestry-smelling terpene is commonly found in cannabis and has been the subject of considerable biomedical research, including studies on black pepper, hops, and ginseng. Research has proven it to be an effective anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and appetite suppressant compound.

Humulene is another terpene thought to be an active mechanism in fighting tumors. A 2003 study evaluated balsam fir oil’s effectiveness against several solid tumor cell lines. All the compounds in the oil were inactive, except for alpha-humulene. Balsam fir oil and alpha-humulene induced a dose- and time-dependent decrease in cellular glutathione (GSH) content and an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. This anti-tumor characteristic of humulene makes it another terpene with incredible fundamental healing capabilities.


#7 - Terpinolene

Terpinolene is an interesting terpene as is possesses antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, but research so far has focused on extracts of plants where terpinolene was just one of the many active compounds - making it hard to draw conclusions without further research.

Terpinolene was studied to show antioxidant properties, also exerting an action that could prevent low-density lipoprotein oxidation. LDL is commonly known as bad cholesterol, a major contributor to heart diseases. The potential prevention of oxidation damage to cells and other molecules showed by terpinolene goes together with the ability to inhibit cancer cell growth. A decrease of the cell proliferation in some forms of cancer is a meaningful result from recent research.

A few studies also mention the sedative properties of terpinolene, making it a candidate for a natural remedy against insomnia. Its mild yet effective depressant action on the central nervous system could also be applied to the reduction of psychological excitement and anxiety.

A terpinolene-heavy strain is Pineapple Kush, which has a sweet tropical fruit taste and smell. This is a relaxing strain that might help treat anxiety, migraines, and sleepless nights.


#6 - Geraniol

Geraniol is a monoterpenoid and an alcohol. Commonly extracted from roses, the compound also occurs in blueberries, coriander, lemons, nutmeg, and thyme, among other natural products. Due to its sweet, floral rose aroma, geraniol is used commonly in perfumes, cosmetics, and food flavorings. It is also the primary component of citronella oil, naturally repelling mosquitos.

As is the theme with these terpenes, geraniol has a diverse array of health benefits and a lot of potential. The compound is naturally anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and antifungal. A study done on hamsters found geraniol helps prevent atherosclerosis (plaque build-up inside arteries). Plaque buildup can lead to serious issues like heart disease (the #1 killer in the world), heart attack, stroke, and death. There are yet to be any studies which claim the compound has this effect on humans.

In a study done on rats, geraniol was shown to ameliorate hyperglycemia by “attenuating key enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.” That’s not all, the rose-extracted terpene has also exhibited anti-cancer properties. Experimental evidence supports the therapeutic or preventive effects of geraniol on different types of cancer, such as breast, lung, colon, prostate, pancreatic, and hepatic cancer, and has revealed the mechanistic basis for its pharmacological actions. According to the study:

“Geraniol controls a variety of signaling molecules and pathways that represent tumor hallmarks; these actions of geraniol constrain the ability of tumor cells to acquire adaptive resistance against anticancer drugs. In the present review, we emphasize that geraniol is a promising compound or chemical moiety for the development of a safe and effective multi-targeted anticancer agent. 


These inherent properties make geraniol incredibly valuable in the medical field as it makes tumor cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy drugs and less susceptible to acquiring a resistance. It might be worthwhile to share this information with your physician, but these studies are still preliminary. However, under no circumstances should anyone attempt to use this information as a substitute for traditional medical care.


#5 - Linalool

Linalool is the primary terpene found in lavender but is common to over 200 different plants. The compound has a soothing and clean floral aroma with a slight citrus impression.

A study found a correlation between the use of linalool aromas and a decrease in anxiety making the terpene a valuable instrument in managing anxiety in an ever increasingly anxious world. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of inhaled linalool on anxiety, aggressiveness and social interaction in mice. Additionally, investigated were the effects of inhaled linalool on

the acquisition phase of memory in mice. Inhaled linalool showed anxiolytic properties, increased social interaction and decreased aggressive behavior, 18 three effects from which any society would benefit from. These results strengthen the suggestion that inhaling linalool rich oils and vapors can be useful as a mean to attain relaxation and counteract anxiety. Linalool also has anticonvulsant properties and may be beneficial for those who suffer from seizure disorders.

Linalool is believed to modulate glutamate and the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain, which explains the physiological reasoning for its has such profound effects on anxiety. It is also proven to be a sedative in a rodent model. Animals tend to slow their movement and relax upon

inhalation. Some people sprinkle lavender in with their cannabis when smoking to feel these effects. However, I would not recommend doing so as the raw plant may be hazardous to smoke.

Perhaps the most exciting therapeutic use for linalool is its emerging potential for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and currently irreversible disease caused by the buildup of brain plaques and cellular tangles which lead to brain degeneration. This degeneration causes severe memory and cognitive impairment, to the point where the simplest tasks cannot be fulfilled, and the most fundamental knowledge cannot be recalled. There are currently no cures for Alzheimer’s disease and current treatment strategies are generally ineffective at recovering brain function.

A study published in 2016 demonstrates linalool as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment. In a genetic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, linalool reversed many of the behavioral and cognitive impairments associated with the disease. Furthermore, it reduced the number of brain plaques and cellular tangles which contribute to brain degeneration.

Linalool is prevalent in today’s society and the average person who does not smoke cannabis consumes two grams of it annually. As linalool and other terpenes rise in popularity, that figure will only continue to grow.


#4 - Beta-Caryophyllene

Beta-caryophyllene is a sesquiterpene and has a variety of natural aromas ranging from woody to spicy to a peppery scent. Beta-caryophyllene is another terpene which binds to the CBG2 receptor and provides anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and analgesic effects. This sesquiterpene is found abundantly in clove, rosemary, black pepper, and hops. An additional benefit of caryophyllene is its anti-addictive effect, making it extremely helpful for a patient with chronic pain who is trying to get off opioids, painkillers, and other prescription medicine.

β-Caryophyllene has the distinction of being the first known dietary terpene, as it received “GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status” and is approved by the FDA. Found in different plants, fragrances, flavoring agents, and additives, this sesquiterpene has an immense array of potential benefits upon ingestion. B-CP has been shown to modulate stress and prolong lifespan in worms. Studies have shown this terpene can reduce neuroinflammation (inflammation in the

brain), increase antioxidant levels in the brain, and decrease brain damage after a stroke. The terpene may also be able to prevent Alzheimer’s disease by activating CB2 receptors and regulating PPAR-gamma (a receptor in the brain). Beta-caryophyllene can reduce amyloid beta-plaques and immune-induced inflammation in the brain, thus mitigating cognitive dysfunction and preventing the horrible neurological disease which afflicts an estimated 5.7 million people.

The terpene is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, and is believed to have anti-cancer effects. According to a 2011 study, oxidized β-Caryophyllene can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and induce apoptosis (self- destruction of cancerous cells) by suppressing PI3K, AKT, mTOR (an intracellular signaling pathway important in regulating cell cycle), and S6K1 and increasing MAPK. 15 Miraculously, this sesquiterpene can even enhance the effects of anti-cancer drugs like paclitaxel and doxorubicin. 

Clearly, this drug has immense potential and additional exhaustive research is absolutely necessary for further determining beneficial applications of β-Caryophyllene in medicines and medical treatments.

Beta-caryophyllene, pinene and limonene are all super helpful when you’ve accidentally taken too big of a puff, too generous of a dab, or consumed too much of an edible. Beta-caryophyllene is particularly good for those times when you’re feeling anxious, paranoid, or a helpless passenger to your thoughts, after taking too much THC. The terpene interacts with the CB2 receptor, which is known to regulate anxiety and stress levels and can bring you back to a state of content. Smelling black pepper or eating a snack with black pepper is all you need to start feeling calmer. If you have black pepper oil, diffusing it is another way to find relief. Other foods and herbs which contain the anxiety-calming terpene are oregano, basil, cloves, lavender, true cinnamon, and ylang-ylang.


#3 - Limonene 

Limonene is a monoterpene found in the peels of many citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges. Limonene has a handful of potential applications as well as paramount potential if studied and researched exhaustingly. It is a powerful antidepressant and immunostimulant. It

adds a vibrancy and brightness which is very beneficial for those with mood disorders. A natural boost of zest and light can be greatly beneficial for everyone. 

Limonene is anti-inflammatory and is commonly used in dietary supplements as it promotes weight loss. Limonene is safe to be used in foods, beverages, and is often used as flavoring in chewing gum and candy for its potent and mouthwatering lemon flavor. In pharmaceuticals, limonene is added to help medicinal ointments and creams penetrate the skin. Studies have shown limonene has a permeation enhancement and essentially opens the door for other compounds to be able to seep through and enter the bloodstream more efficiently. 

Limonene also has a profound impact on those suffering from depression. Studies have demonstrated diffusing limonene, at low levels, into rooms with depressed patients and their depression levels are measured on what is called a Hamilton Depression Score. Almost universally, their scores lowered, showing an improvement in their ailment. Depression is reported as the largest health concern of the 21st Century, afflicting roughly 350 million people globally, and while the terpene will obviously not cure the disease, it can certainly ease the symptoms and provide momentary relief.  Limonene directly affects serotonin pathways and maybe used as a substitute for or in conjunction with antidepressant medication.

In manufacturing, limonene is used as a fragrance for its pleasing lemon smell. It is also used as a cleaner, for example, as a solvent in the removal of oil from machine parts. It is also a primary ingredient in water-free hand cleansers. Limonene is a safe and practical replacement for other cleaning products which may use synthetic chemicals.

Limonene has astounding potential in the medical industry. The monoterpene is anti-proliferative, meaning it inhibits cell growth in tumors. This lemon-terpene has been shown to block cancer-forming chemicals and kill cancer cells in rats. 8 More research is required on humans in order to know if this property translates. D-limonene is shown to build up in tumors of certain types of advanced cancer, when taken orally in 21-day cycles. The high levels of limonene in the tumors may slow down the progress of the cancer, but their effect on the patient’s survival is uncertain. It’s too early to recommend using the terpene in cancer treatment, but with continued research, we will see the potential future applications of this lemon-smelling monoterpene.


#2 - Alpha-Pinene 

Pinene has a distinctly refreshing aroma. The pine scent which it exudes feels clean, nourishing, and elevating. Pinene is found primarily in pine needles, basil, parsley, and rosemary. If you need a concentration boost coincided with anti-inflammatory and a feeling of alertness, I highly

suggest using pinene. One of the major drawbacks to cannabis use is the short-term memory loss associated with THC. However, feelings of focus and alertness are common in strains containing high levels of pinene.

Pinene’s cerebral boost is explained by its ability to act as an inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase: this results in extra protection for the molecules transmitting information. Many drugs used to treat dementia are cholinesterase inhibitors, like alpha-pinene. This feature could counteract short-term memory deficits induced by compound-related intoxication. Upon consuming the monoterpene, one feels more lucid, with a better memory and attention span. 

Through the monoterpene’s cerebral properties, creativity can be stimulated, and short-term memory retentionmay also be improved. Pinene is also useful when feelings of anxiety or paranoia arise, as the compound is known to provide a calming effect. This terpene is great to use when concentration and creative problem solving are needed, as THC boosts creativity while pinene supports concentration and short-term memory.

Alpha-pinene is an ideal terpene for those who medicate themselves with cannabis for chronic pain or for any other reason, but do not like the adverse effects cannabis has on short-term memory. It’s ideal for the person who suffers from an ailment or chronic pain and needs to medicate but also has to study or perform at the workplace.


#1 - Myrcene

Myrcene is potentially the most popular and important terpene. Also known as beta-myrcene, is an earthy-smelling monoterpene, the most common monoterpene found in cannabis. Myrcene is responsible for the effects of cannabis which many of its users use for - its relaxing and calming effect on the body and mind.

The terpene enhances the effects of GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid) at the GABA-A receptor, which is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. GABA limits nerve transmission, which prevents nervous activity and can greatly reduce anxiety. This terpene also creates the typical ‘couch-lock’ sedative feeling upon ingestion, making it a great ingredient in a late dinner or midnight snack on restless nights. Typically, strains with high myrcene levels are indica.

Myrcene has been shown (in mice) to provide pain relief by “inducing antinociception, probably mediated by alpha 2-adrenoceptor stimulated release of endogenous opioids”.  Myrcene also has been shown to prevent liver cancer from forming, which is interesting when compared to common pain-relieving over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen which has been proven to cause liver disease. While Tylenol and other over-the-counter acetaminophen pain-killing medicines harm the liver, myrcene protects it.

Myrcene leads the list of influential cannabis terpenes that interact with other terpenes and cannabinoids to impart the benefits of whole plant medicine. These effects of this potent cannabis terpene can be felt whether you smoke, vape, or ingest it. 

There are many other prominent terpenes in cannabis and being studied for pharmaceutical potential. These 10 exhibit incredible importance in cannabis as well as great potential in the pharmaceutical world. They also show prospect in fields of beauty, wellness, and alternatives in manufacturing and other products.

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