By Ramsey Tamimi
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 flavorful bouquets.
Terpenes are what you smell, and knowing what they are will deepen your appreciation of cannabis.
What are cannabis terpenes?
Terpenes may play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains. Some terpenes might promote relaxation and stress-relief, while others potentially promote focus and acuity.
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 a 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 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 connoisseurship of cannabis. They may also add therapeutic value to cannabis, based on their unique medicinal 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 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
Also found in: Mango, lemongrass, thyme, hops
Leafly color: Yellow
Vaporizes at: 348ºF (176ºC)
Potential effects: Elevated mood, stress relief
Also found in: Fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, peppermint
Leafly color: Fuchsia
Aroma: Pepper, spicy, woody, cloves
Vaporizes at: 266ºF (130ºC)
Potential effects: Stress relief
Also found in: Black pepper, cloves, cinnamon
Leafly color: Orange
Aroma: Piney, floral, and herbal
Vaporizes at: 366ºF (186ºC)
Potential effects: Uplifting
Potential therapeutic value: Antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-cancer
Also found in: Nutmeg, tea tree, conifers, apples, cumin, and lilacs
Leafly color: Green
Vaporizes at: 311ºF (155ºC)
Potential effects: Alertness, memory retention, counteracts some THC effects
Also found in: Pine needles, rosemary, basil, parsley, dill
Leafly color: Light green
Aroma: Hops, woody, earthy
Vaporizes at: 222ºF (106ºC)
Potential therapeutic value: Anti-inflammatory
Also found in: Hops, coriander, cloves, basil
Leafly color: Bright red
Aroma: Sweet, herbal, and woody
Vaporizes at: 122ºF (50ºC)
Potential therapeutic value: Antiviral, anti-fungal, antiseptic, decongestant, antibacterial
Also found in: Mint, parsley, pepper, basil, mangoes, orchids, and kumquats
Leafly color: Purple
Vaporizes at: 388ºF (198ºC)
Potential effects: Mood enhancement, sedation
Also found in: Lavender